Thuan Nguyen, head of digital strategies for the Kent School District, has been named the 2015 Outstanding Technology Leader of the Year by the Northwest Council for Computer Education.
Thuan Nguyen remembers the first computers arriving to replace his school’s electric typewriters in the mid-1990s.
He spent a weekend with his teacher thumbing through instruction manuals and assembling the bulky machines. Nguyen, now chief information and digital strategy officer for the Kent School District, never stopped working with computers, and eventually became an early champion for using them daily in classrooms.
This month, the Northwest Council for Computer Education chose Nguyen as its Outstanding Technology Leader of the Year, citing his passion for using technology to help students learn.
Nguyen moved with his father and sister from Vietnam to a low-income housing project in Kent in 1989, when he was 9 years old. Before graduating from Kentlake High School in 1999, he worked as an intern in the district IT department, where he helped build one of the earliest online portals for teachers to access grades and for parents to access school calendars. Nguyen was hired full time in 2000, and has run the district’s IT department since 2007.
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Every middle- and high-school student in Kent now has a district-issued laptop. By 2019, Nguyen said, the district plans to give a laptop to every elementary student, too.
“It used to be a, ‘nice to have,’ ” Nguyen said of technology. “Now it’s something that’s critical and needs to be a part of every student’s education if we want them to be successful.”
Nguyen helped start an after-school club that has refurbished more than 7,800 old computers for families or nonprofit groups in Kent to use. Kent students — who together speak more than 130 languages — provide training to the families in their native languages. Under his watch, the school district also helped build wireless “kiosks” in three low-income housing facilities and several other community centers where they are used by students whose families can’t afford wireless Internet.
The award is an honor, Nguyen said, but it reflects the work of his entire team — not just his own.
“It’s under my name, but really the recognition and the credit goes to everyone involved here,” Nguyen said.
The Northwest Council for Computer Education is a nonprofit professional group spanning Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington that promotes using technology in all aspects of education.