daveheinzel.com  Since 2000
by Dave Heinzel, June 5, 2014

Goodbye, District 186

I started working in District 186 in 2005 as the Communications Assistant. In the nine years since, my role has expanded to include website design & development, graphic design, video and photography. I started and ran the Student Film Club for four years, I've worked with many teachers on projects large and small and have grown immensely, both personally and professionally.

Sadly, this will be my last month with the district.

My position was cut from next year's budget months ago. I fought the good fight, but in the end, it became clear that my position wasn't coming back, and I wasn't being retained. I have accepted an offer with another organization that will keep me close to technology in education, and I am very excited about the new opportunity.

But more on that later. This is a time to reflect on my time with the district and everything that I am leaving behind.

It's hard sometimes to remember where I was in my life nine years ago. Ethan was a newborn. I was working from home as a freelance graphic designer. I had yet to make my first narrative film. Humzoo wasn't even on the radar. The iPhone was years away from being announced. Nobody knew what YouTube was.

I was just looking for a full-time job that had insurance. It came down to District 186 and an advertising agency. I wanted the job with the agency. I ended up at 186.

Having no experience working in education, I didn't know what I was in for. My professional experience had been in the corporate world and in advertising. It was an eye-opening experience to work for an organization that didn't exist to make money. And I found that I slept better at night.

I was fortunate to work under leadership that provided me with opportunities to take on responsibilities that fit my skill set. We were in a position of needing a new website, and the district took a chance with me and let me make one. It was a gamble on their part, and it was a huge challenge for me.

the original District 186 website (left), my first version (center) and the current version

Before my initial version of the district website launched on April 15, 2006, we had very few teachers with a website presence. Overnight, it blew up. Teachers could instantly create their own websites and add content without even having a conversation with us. The tools were easy. Maybe too easy.

The next few years were crazy. There were substantial growing pains as the tipping point came and passed. We got almost every single teacher online. The tools evolved with a feverish pace. Saving one teacher thirty seconds on a task resulted in hours saved across the whole district. I learned and grew with them as we continually redefined what it meant to have a classroom website.

Then came the students.

No other school district in the country (that I could find) allowed students to create websites (that's still the case today). Most didn't even have good tools for the teachers. So, naturally, I made tools to let students have their own websites. And we launched them. And it was... awesome.

With their own websites, students could post assignments online and send files to their teachers. Teachers slowly but surely started integrating the website tools into their every day instruction. And little by little, without even knowing it, students were building their digital portfolios. Teachers could simply browse a student's website to gain valuable insight into that student's past.

We are now getting close to a tipping point with student websites. The main challenges have been overcome. The platform exists, and the infrastructure is there.

But sadly, that is the end for me. I won't be able to launch the next version of the site, which was going to address so many areas of need. We might also lose a coworker who has largely been responsible for putting the pieces into action.

I'm going to miss the challenge. I'm going to miss the teachers that I worked to serve. I'm going to miss seeing the tangible benefits of the tools that I created every day. I'm going to miss being a part of Springfield's public school system - a system I believe can overcome the challenges it faces today and can regain the public's trust and support. I believe District 186 could once again be a leader in technology. I don't think technology is a luxury in the world that we live in. I don't think you can provide a valuable service to students unless you prepare them for the world beyond our schools.

To the teachers: keep fighting the good fight. You all inspire me so much. It's been a privilege working with you for the past nine years.


Thank you, Dave for all of your help in making our district look great in a digital world! You have left an imprint on many lives and I know you will continue to do so in your new position. I wish you much happiness, success, and love in your exciting future. Just remember, some of us knew you when!

Theresa Greco
Jun 9, 2014, 5:44 P.M.

Atta, boy, Dave! I hope you send this in a letter to the district—just to remind them what they'll be missing. The best to you and your new endeavors! Your new employer will be getting a gem!

Marni Baker
Jun 9, 2014, 5:57 P.M.

What a great reflection, Dave. The district is greatly indebted to you, your creativity, perseverance, compassion, and passion. I'm glad I was there to be a part of your launch. Looking forward to future collaboration. You will contribute greatly wherever you work!

Diane Rutledge
Jun 9, 2014, 7:55 P.M.

You are an amazing artist, teacher and friend to so many, Dave. I remember when you showed up at SHS to enter your work into Scholastics when you were in high school. Your passion and talent showed clearly even at such a young age. Who knew you would grow into the man you are today that you would have touched so many lives in your journey…myself included! I am proud to call you my friend and you will be missed greatly.

Cindy Huffman
Jun 9, 2014, 8:02 P.M.

Dave your creativity shines through whatever you do. Congrats on the new gig! Can't wait to see/hear what is next.

Jun 9, 2014, 8:29 P.M.

Dave, you were a Godsend so many times for me for my website and blog and Gogreen and so many other things! A big thank you to you for everything you have done. And for having me in your movie too! Can't forget that!

Phil Snow
Jun 9, 2014, 8:47 P.M.

Oh, I had forgotten those colorful circles! I was so proud of them. :) You can't see it, but you should know that I'm cheering and maybe crying (ok, definitely tearing up) and giving you the biggest virtual standing ovation right now. Bravo, sir!

Jun 9, 2014, 9:27 P.M.

Dave, you do inspiring things and like the pied piper you joyfully brought students and adults along with you while you invented and created new projects. What is great about you is that you are creative with a heart for helping others achieve more than they could have done on their own. We can't change the current conditions (and I tried) but we can take a moment to acknowledge that you have left this district's technology presence so much better than you found it. You have left the people who have interacted with you, such as in Film Club, with an indelible mark through your influence with them. But most importantly, we have had the privledge of sharing these successes with you and hopefully, we have showed you, in return, a small portion of our gratitude as well.

Jun 9, 2014, 10:36 P.M.

Dave, You were a joy to work with every day. Your creativity, insight, skills and personality were a perfect fit for our little corner of the world. If only every district out there had a Dave, the communication possibilities would be endless. I wish you luck on your new journey. I hope they know how lucky they are to have you!

Jun 10, 2014, 6:41 A.M.

I don't think I have ever been more proud than now to be your mom. I am so proud of the work you have accomplished at District 186, the differences you have made to the teachers and students, the joy you have brought, the videos you have made, the computer advancements you have imagined and then created. When you work, you work not only with your brain but also with your heart and soul and imagination to create things that nobody has even thought of before. I always thought you were indispensable....and I still do. I grieve for the teachers and students who won't have your innovative attitude about technology anymore to give them the best websites and tools possible. I think one of the most important sentences in your blog was "I don't think technology is a luxury in the world that we live in." Too bad that District 186 doesn't have that insight also.

Nancy H.
Jun 10, 2014, 11:46 A.M.

As part of a tech team at a private school, I can testify to your work being referenced with things such as "Why can't we do that?" My only reply was, "We don't have Dave." Your work was a massive benefit for the public schools and the community as a whole. Your cut and the other technology related cuts that I've read about are really a sad trend. Sorry to see you as a casualty, but glad to hear you'll still be making an impact in education. Good luck!

Jun 11, 2014, 12:33 A.M.