Contributing Educators

Aileen Owens, Director of Technology and Innovation
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Aileen Owens is the Director of Technology and Innovation for South Fayette Township School District. Since joining the district in 2010, Aileen and her team have focused on building a vertically aligned and articulated computational thinking initiative K-12. Challenged and supported by the Grable Foundation to make innovation happen, and to support equity in education in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Aileen directs the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute. Recently awarded a PAsmart Advancing grant by PA Department of Education, Aileen and her team collaborate and support seven regional school districts as they co-create a unique vision for a CS/STEAM pathway and provide opportunities for all districts in the Commonwealth.

Aileen is the recipient of Education Week’s Leaders to Learn From Award 2018; Pennsylvania ASCD Outstanding Research and Publication Award 2018; the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Frank Withrow Outstanding CTO Award 2016;and the PAECT Chief Technology Officer of the Year 2015. She shares and collaborates with educators nationally, presenting at SXSW Interactive;ISTE; World Maker Faire NYC; Scratch@MIT; and the Digital Media and Learning Conference. Aileen is actively involved in the Pittsburgh Remake Learning Network.  


Aileen’s recent publications include chapters entitled:“Computational Thinking and Participatory Teaching as Pathways to Personalized Learning” with Eric Hamilton in the book Digital Technologies and Instructional Design for Personalized Learning, IGI Global, 2018 and 

“A Future-Focused Education -Designed to Create the Innovators of Tomorrow” in the book Emerging Research, Practice and Policy on Computational Thinking, March 2017, Springer Press.


Melissa Unger, K-2 STEAM Teacher

Melissa Unger teaches STEAM at South Fayette Elementary School. She teaches K-2 students the early beginnings of computer programming and helps them to design, build, and bring their ideas to life as they conduct experiments, create inventions, and use technology to animate their projects. A life-long maker, Melissa intertwines art and science to challenge her students. Melissa also provides STEAM professional development to educators through the South Fayette STEAM Summer Institute, and is an online coach for Project Zero’s online course, Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom through Harvard University.


Melissa has presented on cross-curricular STEAM projects at the World Maker Faire, Pittsburgh MakerFaire, ISTE, Scratch@MIT, and CSTA. Additionally, Melissa worked as a STEAM consultant for a 2017 Amazon Productions American Girl movie, and wrote Coding with Scratch and micro:bit publish by No Starch Press (2020 release).


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Shad Wachter, 3-5 Technology Literacy Teacher
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Shad Wachter is a 20-year veteran teacher with a background in music and technology. He received a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from West Virginia Wesleyan and a Masters of Education degree in the field of Educational Technology from Loyola College in Maryland. He started his teaching career as a music teacher and band director at Fallston Middle School in Harford County, Maryland.  In 2008, he and his family moved to Western PA. Shad has served in many roles at South Fayette School District, first as a technology assistant, then a technology literacy teacher, a STEAM teacher and a reprised role in tech lit. He continues to remain involved in the arts by co-sponsoring the Performing Arts Club. He also sponsors the media club, computer programming club, and the International Community for Collaborative Content Creation.  Shad serves as a mentor teacher and lead teacher for the elementary and intermediate special areas team.   

Shad enjoys working with students to develop technology skills that they will apply in their other classes and the real world. His students participate in project based learning experiences to become fluent in the use of technology. They practice keyboarding skills, learn basic programming concepts, and create multimedia presentations in a variety of formats. Additionally, Shad strives to instill in his students the importance of becoming good digital citizens.

Shad has delivered technology staff development to teachers in the region and around the world.  He presents annually at conferences such as ISTE, Scratch @MIT, Pennsylvania Educational Technology Exposition and Conference, Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference, and the South Fayette Summer STEAM Institute. Being a lifelong learner, he likes sharing experiences with educators and students.


Victoria Lojek, 3-5 STEAM Teacher

Victoria Lojek teaches grades 3-5 STEAM at South Fayette Intermediate School. In addition to her STEAM role, Victoria sponsors the Girls Who Code Club and the Robotics Club. Victoria also serves as the project coordinator for the PA Smart Grant.

Victoria holds a Master's Degree from Duquesne University in Instructional Technology. She is Pennsylvania certified in Early Childhood Prek-4, Special Education Prek-8, Middle Level 4-8 (all subjects 4-6 & mathematics 7-8), BCIT PK-12, Instructional Technology Specialist PK-12, and Online Instruction Program K-12. Victoria obtained her Bachelor's Degree from Washington & Jefferson College in Early Childhood Education. 


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Samantha Edkins, 3-5 STEAM Teacher
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Samantha Edkins teaches grades 3-5 STEAM at South Fayette Intermediate School. Prior to her arrival at South Fayette, Samantha taught a variety of grade levels and subjects in Virginia, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania.  She was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2016 for her innovative and collaborative lessons while teaching middle school English on Hilton Head Island.  


Samantha holds a Master's Degree from Marymount University in Elementary Education PreK-6. She is Pennsylvania certified in Early Childhood PreK-4, and Middle Level 4-8 (all subjects 4-6 & mathematics 7-8).  She is a Level 1 and Level 2 Google Certified Trainer.  Samantha obtained her Bachelor's Degree from Virginia Tech in Psychology and English. 


Samantha believes in "doing what you love and loving what you do" and is so happy to say that her role in education fulfils that!  As a lifelong learner, she continues to reflect on her experiences, methodologies, and projects as she collaborates with other passionate educators.  Her highest priority is to instill the true joy of learning in her students and colleagues.


AJ Mannarino, 6-8 Technology Education Teacher
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AJ Mannarino has been teaching Technology Education in Pennsylvania for six years. He received his bachelor’s degree in Technology Education and master’s degree in Integrative STEM Education from California University of Pennsylvania. AJ creates opportunities for students to utilize technology in the classroom to solve real world problems in robotics, app development, manufacturing, 2D/3D design, and entrepreneurism. Outside of the classroom, he sponsors South Fayette’s Robotics Club, the International Community for Collaborative Content Creation (IC4), as well as various other technology related opportunities for students. Additionally, AJ is the Varsity Diving Coach and Assistant Varsity Track Coach at South Fayette High School. 

AJ demonstrates his passion for learning with the use of technology by presenting annually at various local and international conferences, including the International Society for Technology in Education Conference (ISTE), Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference (TRETC), and the South Fayette Summer Institute. He also helped developed curriculum for Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy and has been a teacher leader for Pepperdine University’s International Community for Collaborative Content Creation (IC4) research project. He offered a professional development called Coding with Cops to teach Pittsburgh Police officers how to code for a community outreach program. AJ is an advocate for utilizing technology in the classroom and enjoys sharing his knowledge with others. 


Lynette Lortz, Middle & High School Computer Science

Lynette Lortz is a Computer Science Teacher at South Fayette High School and Middle School. She teaches 8th grade Python, AP CS Principles, High School Python I, Data Science and Cybersecurity courses for South Fayette. Lynette began her career in education in 2012 and joined South Fayette School District in August 2014. Lynette holds a Master’s of Library Science from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor’s of Arts from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is certified in Library Science (K-12) and Business Communications Information Technology (K-12). Lynette provides outreach and professional development for teachers at the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute and by presenting at briefings and conferences. 



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