New Cherry Tree principal to utilize low and hi-tech methods


By Terri Spilman

As Cherry Tree Elementary School celebrates its 25th anniversary, new principal Chris Atkinson will be leading the school into the next quarter century with his passion for technology and whole-hearted belief in teamwork.


Atkinson has come full circle as an educator in Carmel because he started his career a student teacher at Cherry Tree in 2003. After graduating from college, he taught various grade levels at Towne Meadow Elementary and served as tech coordinator.

He recently completed his fourth year as the assistant principal of College Wood Elementary prior to replacing Cherry Tree Principal Mary Jo Kinnaman, a long-time principal and educator with the district who retired in June.

“It feels great to be back at Cherry Tree. I am so excited to be serving the great students, staff and families that make up the Cherry Tree community,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson graduated from Taylor University and has a master’s degree from Ball State University. He holds various certifications and licensures including: Google Certified Teacher, Crisis Prevention Institute Certified Trainer, Discovery STAR Educator, Indiana RISE Evaluator, and Indiana School Safety Specialist as well as serving on various educational leadership groups, such as, Indiana Department of Education’s E-Learning Leadership Cadre, International Society for Technology in Education, Indiana Computer Educators, Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators, Indiana GT Conference, Purdue University, and Taylor University.

As one of only three Google Certified Teachers in Indiana, Atkinson is an avid technology advocate who uses social media to educate peers and communicate with parents. He has already launched a Cherry Tree blog and is planning a Google Hangout on July 31 which uses messaging, video calling and broadcasting – all in an online collaboration platform so the families can have the chance to get to know him from the comfort of their own homes.

“I am certainly an advocate for technology-use in learning, but am a firm believer that best practice pedagogy comes first. Technology can be a catalyst to deeper learning when best practices are in place and strongly functioning,” he said. “As educators we have a responsibility to meet students where they are at, and as the use of technology to learn grows we can’t stand idly by.”

Atkinson said staff, students and parents can expect a leader who creates a team atmosphere that is centered on learning. He describes himself as personable, visible, engaging, solution-focused and tech-enabled.

“My students have always referred to me as Mr. A and I hope to create many fun Mr. A-isms. As an assistant principal at College Wood I’ve been known to do many things to motivate students, including having to kiss a frog in front of the staff and students.”

And, for this techno-savvy principal, his greatest challenge may actually very low tech. “I like to try to get to know all of my students by name, so doing this in a short amount of time will certainly be a challenge, but a challenge I think is worth the time.”