Bethel’s 2020 Young Alumnus an innovative educator

Newton Kansan
Todd Flory

Todd Flory, of Wichita, will receive Bethel College’s 2020 Young Alumnus Award Oct. 5 in a virtual presentation.

The annual award recognizes character and citizenship, achievement or service rendered, and honors and recognition received. The recipient must be 39 years of age or younger.

The Young Alumnus Award winner gives a presentation to students, faculty and staff, which will happen online this year.

The event will be viewable on Bethel’s YouTube channel, beginning at 11 a.m. Oct. 5, and thereafter.

Flory graduated from Bethel in 2004 with a B.A. in communication arts, intending to be a print journalist. He spent a year as a staff writer for the McPherson Sentinel and then two years with Brethren Volunteer Service in Washington, D.C., and Elgin, Ill.

He was an online reporter for the Salina Journal for a year, then went back to school and completed a B.S. in elementary education at McPherson College. After one year teaching 5th grade at Buhler, Flory moved in 2012 to his current position as a 4th grade teacher at Wheatland Elementary School in Andover.

He was a 2018 Kansas Master Teacher (one of seven chosen each year by Emporia State University) and the 2018 president of the Kansas Association of Teachers of Mathematics, and has earned considerable recognition for his use of technology in the classroom.

Flory was one of the first two dozen Skype in the Classroom Master Teachers in the world and also serves as a Skype in the Classroom Mentor Teacher. He was chosen as a “Teach U.N. Sustainable Development Goals” Ambassador; a PBS Digital Innovative Educator (Kansas lead, 2016); a Google Certified Educator Level 2; and a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. He regularly speaks and gives workshops at state and national education conferences on using Skype and other technology in the classroom to “widen the world” for students.

He co-developed a media literacy and news reliability education project that was featured in an NPR article, appeared on national Japanese news and is featured on the Microsoft Education website. He has written numerous education articles for EdSurge, Kidblog, PBS Education and the Microsoft Education blog (see In 2015, he was one of 20 U.S. educators selected to attend the Microsoft Global Educator Exchange conference in Redmond, Wash.

The title of Flory’s Bethel talk is “Developing Empathy Through Global Connections.”

Flory has been connecting his students with others around the country and the world using Skype since soon after he began teaching at Wheatland Elementary.

His students have talked with authors like Grace Lin, the Newbery Honor-winning author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and poet and essayist Kim Stafford (son of Kansas poet and 20th U.S. Poet Laureate William Stafford); with NASA astronauts in space; with an Indonesian interpreter for the State Department during the Obama administration; and with students or individuals on all seven continents (including Antarctica), in countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Greece, India, Japan, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Pakistan and Vietnam.

He’s developed a cooking cultural exchange with a teacher from Uruguay, where each class picks a recipe that represents their culture (for example, pumpkin pie for the United States), researches its history and significance, and then makes it to “share” via Skype.

In an interview for Bethel College’s alumni magazine in 2015, Flory said, “One of the unintended benefits [of Skype] is that it makes the world smaller.

“The smaller the world gets, the less things are unknown. The fewer things there are to fear, the more safe the world becomes.

“It’s beneficial to my students and it’s beneficial to the world as a whole. They’re building empathy and understanding.”

As part of his role as a UN Sustainable Development Goals Ambassador, Flory had his students research plastic – where it comes from and where it goes.

His class Skyped with staff at a sea turtle research sanctuary and “turtle hospital” in South Carolina. They did inventories of how much plastic was in their homes and used that to get an average for the school.

“[Through this kind of experiential learning], students learn they have the power to change the world,” Flory says.

“They can be involved in finding solutions to big problems like climate change. They learn how something like climate change affects them and the people they’re connecting with around the world. We are all in this together.”