Jennifer Neville, Special to The Catholic Virginian

Due to her commitment to empower teachers and students with cutting-edge technology, Nancy Mulholland, director of technology at Catholic High School (CHS) in Virginia Beach, has been awarded the 2020 Lead. Learn. Proclaim. Award from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

“Nancy is dedicated to Catholic education, in particular Catholic education using technology in powerful ways to instruct and to create meaningful learning experiences and connecting our community,” said Kay Bisaillon, CHS instructional technologist, who nominated Mulholland. She worked with Mulholland at St. Gregory the Great School, Virginia Beach and now at CHS.

This year NCEA, which has 150,000 members, gave the award to 27 educators from across the country in recognition of their dedication, faith, knowledge and skills in fulfilling the mission of Catholic education, according to a NCEA press release. The winners were a mix of individual leaders, teachers, pastors and superintendents.

Mulholland, who has worked in Catholic schools for 25 years, became a part-time technology teacher in 1995 at St. Gregory the Great after a year of volunteering in the school’s computer lab. The school, which her two sons were attending, educates children from pre-K to eighth grade. 

That position led to a full-time teaching job and then a newly created technology coordinator position after she helped design two computer labs in a new wing that also housed the library. In 2014, she moved to CHS. She also served on the diocesan Master Curriculum Council, including serving as chairwoman multiple times.

Believing that relevant, challenging and technologically advanced education is an invaluable part of Catholic education, Mulholland equipped both schools with state-of-the art technology and continued to keep the equipment and software up to date, Bisaillon said. 

During her 19 years at St. Gregory, technology evolved from formatting a VCR to using smart boards and iPads. She taught teachers how to use email and the internet, both of which were in their early stages. At her suggestion, the school equipped each student in fifth through eighth grade with a Chromebook to be used in classes to enhance their lessons and develop more computer skills, she said. 

At both schools she built and maintained websites and embraced social media as it evolved. 

At CHS, Mulholland has reshaped computer labs multiple times to ensure they are “reflective of the technological learning of the time,” Bisaillon said, citing as examples the transformation of a lab into a flex space with green screens for video editing, mobile devices, and flexible seating and the creation of a  Makerspace in the library where students could learn to make items with 3D printers and robotics kits. The technology was a catalyst for developing computer science, cybersecurity and robotics classes, Bisaillon added.

Mulholland initiated a program at CHS in which students used Chromebooks for use in classes, cloud-based applications and limited remote learning. Her forward thinking eased student and teacher transition from physical classrooms to virtual ones where students are now learning due to COVID-19. 

Although faculty and students were familiar with the Chromebooks, she and Bisaillon worked closely with teachers and administrators before going online to ensure they had the “knowledge, skills and comfort level” needed to teach virtually, said CHS principal Peggy Boon.

Bisaillon credited Mulholland with fostering students’ love for learning through technology by using various programs and innovative approaches. For example, at St. Gregory Mulholland and Bisaillon coordinated an Oscar Night for eighth-grade students who learned video editing and produced movies about the periodic table, recycling and more. Before school closures, students at CHS gave the morning announcements in front of the green screens. 

Mulholland has offered professional development opportunities to help educators master technology, use it productively and efficiently and incorporate it into classes, colleagues said. 

Boon said Mulholland works tirelessly to support staff.

“She is really responsive and quick to jump in and help,” Boon said. “She is always very upbeat, positive and makes it a joy to work with her.”

Mulholland said she “loves being part of a faithful school community” as an educator.

“It gives me an opportunity to combine my faith with exceptional academics,” she said. “I want to use technology to the best of my ability in a moral and honest way and help the students to do so as well.” 

Former St. Gregory principal Patricia O’Donnell gave several examples as to how Mulholland integrated the Catholic faith: working with teachers and students on saints’ flyers and brochures, religion blogs and video blogs, helping with digital sacrament preparation and celebration, and highlighting the Church calendar and seasons.

Mulholland said she is excited about winning the award. 

“I am very honored, but really Catholic education is a joy in my life,” she said. “That makes it all the better.”