Thad Keener

District: Fairbanks North Star Borough School District (AK)
School: Arctic Light Elementary School, Fairbanks, Alaska
Grade: School Principal
Demographics: Arctic Light is the only school located on Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska and serves K-8 students of enlisted military families living on the base. While it is not a Department of Defense school, 100% of its students are children of Army personnel.

Thad Keener


The District provided funding for a three-year personalized learning initiative and Keener engaged LINC as part of this work at his school.

Fun Fact:

“Having the state ‘Teacher of the Year’ as my wife keeps me honest. Nothing escapes her. If one of my ideas isn’t going to work, she will let me know.”

My Innovation in Action Helped Me:

  • Discover how I could reallocate Federal Title I funds towards more innovative professional development and data review days with my staff
  • Deepen my understanding of how students enjoy learning in both project and blended learning models such as small group instruction and electives and how these models increased student engagement, resulting in improvement in student mastery of content
  • Encourage teachers to do less “stand and deliver” instruction and more small group practices, allowing them more opportunities to build relationships with their students

The Most Important Lesson I Learned:

We realized we needed to make significant shifts in the structure of our school and our instructional practices to foster more student agency and choice. And in order to make this happen, I needed to find partners to help me lead our educators through a mindset shift with wisdom and an attitude of kindness and respect. I found that essential partner in Tiffany Wycoff, initially through her Blended Learning in Action book. It was also important to understand that change takes time and it is important to support educators as they try new instructional practices, allowing them opportunities to take risks. Through the slow and hard work of bringing my team along, we were able to transform our school and increase the student achievement outcomes significantly in a school educating many under-served students.

My Coach Reflects:

Thad and the Arctic Light leadership team prioritized meeting faculty professional development (PD) needs when implementing blended learning. This meant it had to be differentiated for teachers and model best practices. We had fun creating a blended model that combined in-person workshops, virtual cloud coaching, and access to LINCspring. The internal support and leadership commitment ensured that innovative PD really did become innovation in action. (Tyffany Wycoff, LINC co-founder)

Resource to Share: – Personalized Learning requires educators to not only have new structural skill sets, but it also requires us to embrace a healthy learning environment. Meditation, in its broadest definition, has proven quite important for both staff and students.