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Education: How a Holy Names Sister Became a ‘Mustard Seed’ at Apple

By Miriam Malone, SNJM

Some of the world’s most inspiring and innovative teachers get to work with each other and share their best ideas globally because of a program dreamed up by a Sister of the Holy Names.

The program started with the vision and leadership of Sister Martha Rolley, who invited a small group of people to form the first Apple Distinguished Educators cohort. Today, over 2,000 amazing educators worldwide have earned their place as Apple Distinguished Educators, inspiring and influencing countless other educators through their example.

The ADE program has created a prominent platform for exemplary educators who use Apple resources (hardware, software and content) to create engaging learning experiences that foster communication, collaboration and creativity for students from kindergarten through university. Educators selected for the program serve as ambassadors of innovation, sharing their expertise with other educators and policy makers and advising Apple on integrating technology into learning environments.

In 2014, when the Apple Distinguished Educators program marked its 20th anniversary, over 400 ADEs and 100 Apple employees gathered in San Diego for a week of collaborative and creative learning. The event began with a special tribute by ADE Manager Maxx Judd, who praised Martha for initiating the program and for her ongoing commitment to and impact on education worldwide.

Like many Holy Names Sisters, Martha has been involved in education her whole ministry life. She did her undergraduate work at Holy Names University in Oakland and received her Ed.D. from the University of San Francisco. Before her work at Apple, she served as an elementary school teacher and principal. Today her work as director of Professional Development at Apple enables her to support the creation and delivery of content that helps teachers use technology to transform their teaching and student learning.

Martha finds it gratifying to know that her work enables her to be in solidarity with those who "do the kinds of ministry I'm not called to do" through her unique opportunities to contribute, connect and consult in the field of educational technology.

A longtime colleague wrote her a public message that captures the feelings of countless colleagues and ADEs. "I am thrilled to learn about your recognition for putting a human face and spirit on computing technology for teachers and learners — all while supporting your Sisters. I deeply enjoyed working with you. Always inspirational. You are a mustard seed."