When Devi Engelstad walks the halls at Hankinson Public School, teachers and students come running.
Fifth grade teacher Joline O’Hara asked Engelstad to stop when she had time, then moments later a student was having trouble with a printer.
“I heard your voice. This Chromebook is locked up,” said teacher Christina Monilaws, who handed the tablet to Engelstad before turning back to her fourth grade class.
“This happens all the time,” Engelstad said, smiling. “This is why I am hardly in my office.”
Engelstad is busy, all day and every day at Hankinson Public School as the school’s technology coordinator — troubleshooting, teaching students and staff how to use equipment, teaching at the computer lab or overseeing the district’s hardware and software. One day she logged five miles roaming the school’s three levels. “I don’t help myself with what I wear. I like dressing up,” Engelstad said, showing off her heeled shoes with a grin. “At the end of the day, sometimes my feet hurt.”
Her drive to ensure the district is current with its technology earned Engelstad a Leader of the Year award at the small school level from the North Dakota Association of Technology Leaders. She was nominated by numerous teachers within the district and outside as well. Nomination letters laud her enthusiasm, being there for staff and improving the district’s curriculum. Her husband Seth, a high school principal at Milnor, also nominated her. Engelstad was quick to point out he is slightly biased.
Three years ago Hankinson was looking to hire someone beyond just ensuring the district’s technology was running, said Superintendent Chad Benson. Some hardware wasn’t being used to its full potential because staff didn’t know how to utilize, he said. Engelstad was tasked not only with monitoring servers, hardware and software in the building, but also to teach the teachers and expand the school’s social media footprint, he said.
“If you focus all your efforts on one piece of hardware or one software program, you are left swaying in the wind when it changes, which seems to happen every few years,” Benson said.
When Engelstad first started at Hankinson the school district had only 125 computers. Now there are 275 computers, including four carts that hold 20-25 Chromebooks.
Engelstad hopes to include a mobile lab in next year’s budget. She said desktop computer labs are fading away after many schools have gone 1-to-1, where each student has a computer, typically a Chromebook tablet, Engelstad said.
“I think people are noticing how much Hankinson has grown in technology over the past few years. I hear that from other principals. They say Hankinson has really moved up,” Engelstad said, who can be seen walking the school halls taking pictures for her newsletter “The Monthly byte,” talking tech with staff or checking cords on computers when she hears something isn’t working. Because, yes, sometimes it is as simple as wiggling cords at the back of a computer to see if one is loose.