Cyber-bullying, copyright law and how to download music have become staples of the Edwin Forrest Elementary School curriculum thanks to Sharon Mora.
Mora - a computer-science teacher and the school's "data queen" - has helped transform the way technology is taught and used in classrooms at the Holmesburg school.
And innovations such as those were among the reasons Mora was named the school district's Teacher of the Year in a surprise announcement at the school yesterday morning.
"It's so humbling because I do what I do because I enjoy doing it," Mora said after she was presented with the Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Teacher of the Year Award and a $2,500 check. "I like helping kids and get them to a point where they are achieving to the highest level. I like to watch them and see where they are gifted based on their strength.
"I'm just a regular teacher. It's such an honor."
What sets Mora apart, said principal Patricia Epps, is that "she's very intelligent when it comes to helping students with the computer."
When Mora began at Forrest in 2001, electronic calculators were the only form of technology in classrooms. Now, all teachers own laptops, and interactive whiteboards form the centerpiece of the classroom.
"It's amazing how kids today react to that technology," said Mora, who previously worked for 14 years at St. Martin of Tours School. "When teaching interactively, they achieve so much more."
Mora visits different classes throughout the day and interacts with many of the school's 1,200 students, teaching them basics such as word processing and creating spreadsheets, but also how to create interactive stories and use programs such as Photo Booth to compile news reports.
As the school's technology leader, Mora helps other teachers incorporate technology into their curriculum. She also uses computers to help autistic students and runs Forrest's Saturday School Program.
Once a year, Mora visits NASA's Space Center in Greenbelt, Md., as part of the Pennsylvania partnership in math and science to learn from scientists who are working on space stations and NASA's mission control. Mora then transforms this knowledge into science lessons for students at Forrest.
Michael Silverman, who was on the school district committee that selected Mora among nine finalists, said he was wowed by her commitment to cultivating student's gifts.
"I was absolutely impressed by what an amazing educator she is and the impact she had made at her school," Silverman said. "It gives everyone something to look up to and aspire to."
Silverman added that the letters from Mora's students were memorable.
"One young man said, 'She teaches us things that we didn't even know we didn't know,' " Mora said. "That was touching."
Adriana Lucera, a fourth-grade student, also shed some light last night on why Mora was selected.