Reflecting on 26+ Years

Tuesday marks my last day as an educator in Inglewood.

As a senior at UCLA, I still hadn’t figured out what I was going to do after graduation. I thought I might pursue something in communications or with the growing technology boom in Silicon Valley. One day, I saw an ad in the Daily Bruin that read something like this:

Do you like kids? Have you ever been a camp counselor or babysitter? Do you need a job next year?

Yes on all points. All my life, people asked if I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. After all, I’d been a ballet teacher, a babysitter, a tutor, a camp counselor. I always said, “NO WAY!” I did not want to teach. Despite this, I answered that ad and joined the credential program at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education. The concept was interesting. After a 20% pay increase at LAUSD resulting from strike action in 1989, teachers fled Inglewood Unified School District. IUSD and UCLA struck a deal where UCLA would train teacher candidates for three quarters (Winter, Spring, and Summer of senior year.) Then IUSD would hire them on emergency credentials, while UCLA conducted weekly seminars and a master teacher would support them with weekly observations.

I was placed at Beulah Payne Elementary School just north of Century Blvd and west of Hollywood Park. My classroom was an old, long, narrow temporary bungalow. Every sixty seconds, passing jets landing at LAX would rattle the thin walls, preventing me from hearing anything. I got over that after about two weeks, and from then on, I barely heard them at all.

I spent seven years teaching fifth grade, during which time, my students would go to the computer lab (ten Apple IIe computers) and learn to word process with a wonderful, patient instructor who embedded that skill in fun science and social studies lessons. I would spend occasional after school time in that lab, pecking away and learning what I could on the lunchbox Mac that was reserved for teacher use.

One day, I arrived in the lab and saw something that rocked my socks: a Macintosh LC ii, affectionately known as the pizza box with a color monitor. From that day, I was in Room 1 every day at lunch, after school, and probably caused Mrs. McBride to tire of me.

Something about this computer just spoke to me. 

After about six years, Payne School was pushed to apply for California Distinguished School status (which we earned- the first in Inglewood.) The principal at the time decided that a more modern computer lab with a certificated instructor would look great on the application. I was the natural choice to take that position (being the biggest nerd on campus), so I left the classroom and entered the world of educational technology full time.

The lab had 28 computers, Mac LC 500s (I think.) They were secured to the desks with metal enclosures and wired to a LAN running SuccessMaker software. I chafed at the CAI model, because even then I felt that students should be creating on computers rather than just using a digital workbook. I really didn’t even need to be there because administering the program was barely technical and not creative at all. In my spare time, I designed and coded Payne’s first website, complete with original graphics.

In 1999, I applied to Pepperdine University’s Online Masters in Educational Technology (OMAET). Joining a group of 22 like minded educators and administrators in a program completely changed my trajectory. I learned about constructivism, zones of proximal development, and Seymour Papert. I attended CUE and TCEA. I never knew that the edtech community was so huge. I learned more in the OMAET program than I had my entire undergraduate career.

Funding for my out-of-classroom position ended after seven years, and I went back into the classroom, this time second grade due to class size reduction. Once class size reduction ended, I returned to upper grades. Fortunate enough to have a shared rolling cart with 30 netbooks and wifi, my students were pretty connected. This cart was finicky, and I earned the title of netbook whisperer. Most of my colleagues didn’t want to bother with netbook wrangling, so I ended up with the lab pretty much full time.

My students did research online, wrote papers, made PowerPoint presentations, and served as a model classroom for technology integration. I continued to learn as much as I could about educational technologies.

There were rumblings at the district level that they were writing a position for out of classroom edtech. I knew that this would be the position for me. It took about two years before the position was flown. I applied for the job as instructional coach for technology in June of 2015 and started in August.

I was so fortunate to be paired with the amazing Isaiah Olsen as my partner. We created professional learning experiences, started a monthly Appy Hour event, even had #PubPD at Three Weavers Brewing Company. He pushes me to be my best at all times. I became a Google Certified Educator, Levels 1 & 2, and in February of this year, I was selected as a Google for Education Certified Trainer.

This summer, I found a listing on EdJoin for an itinerant technology TOSA in a nearby district and applied. It was about two weeks before I received an email for an interview, which was a couple of days later. My interview was a disaster! I was so nervous and tongue-tied, but the panel was incredibly kind, and by the end I was able to pretty much untie my tongue and show them that I was a competent technology presenter and advocate for edtech. The next day, I received an email offering me the position. The next week had some sleepless nights and not a few tears, debating whether I would be able to leave IUSD for a new adventure or stay. Staying would be easy, but I wanted a new challenge, so I accepted the position and signed my contract.

Thursday, September 7, starts my new adventure- technology TOSA with a single K-8 school. I’m beyond thrilled to be able to form deeper connections with students and teachers in a way that I just couldn’t working with 19 schools and 450 teachers. I’m nervous, and have prepared a quick presentation for staff meeting on Wednesday, giving a quick overview of who I am personally and professionally. My last slide:

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