I’m often asked how I came to be an Instructional Technology Specialist. In many parts of the state, it seems that this role is a relatively new one, so people are often curious about what exactly I do and how I got there.
Most often people decide to join the teaching profession for one of two reasons: they grew up knowing they wanted to be a teacher, or they had such a terrible teacher that they want to enter education to change the experiences of future students.
My journey in education didn’t start in the traditional way. I never wanted to be a teacher. Growing up, I thought I would be a princess. When that didn’t pan out, and I began to think about what I might major in when I went to college, I thought I would seek out a career in communication or public relations. Once I got to college and took a course in communications and really didn’t like it. At the same time I was taking a European History class, mostly because I had always had a love of history and wanted to learn more. In high school I was always the student that others wanted to study with because I knew a lot and took great notes! It was while sitting in that European History class my freshman year at Michigan State that I realized I wanted to study history.
After changing my major to history and taking a variety of history courses, I heard over and over – “What are you going to do with a history degree? Teach?” And my pat response was always, “I’m not sure what I want to do, but I know that I don’t want to teach.”
Not long after I graduated, my cousin – a Sergeant First Class in the Army at the time – came to visit my parents. We hadn’t seen him in many years as he joined the Army right out of high school and was several years older than me. He had been stationed in Germany for the past three years, was getting stationed in Hawaii, and then would be deployed within the year to Afghanistan. My cousin offered me an opportunity to house sit for him in Hawaii while he was gone to Afghanistan. It was an amazing chance to live in a part of the world that I always said I wanted to visit.
Once I moved to Oahu, I set about finding a job and ways to spend my time. My cousin was stationed at Schofield Barracks and got me a part time volunteering “job” at the local museum on post. There, I worked on data entry – digitizing records of visitors, events, and letters to and from Schofield Barracks. It was interesting work, and I got to work with the curator a bit on putting together exhibits. One of the guys who worked at the museum told me about the USS Missouri was hiring tour guides to give tours of the battleship and that I should apply. I knew NOTHING about ships, and had never thought about being a tour guide. In fact, I didn’t know that I could get in front of large groups of people and speak. But, I applied, headed down to my interview, and landed the job!
We went through a major training process where we learned all there was to know about the ship – her history, how she was built, the specs about the engine and horsepower, artillery, etc. It was awe-inspiring and overwhelming. I never knew that World War Two officially ended on the decks of the Battleship Missouri. The more I learned, the more passionate I became – both about the ship and about my job. Being able to share with so many people the history of an integral part of the larger history of the United States was an honor. Through my work on the Battleship Missouri, I was blessed to meet true heroes – men who fought and survived World War Two. I was able to spend time with several former captains of the ship, give a tour to the governor of Oklahoma, observe two interments off the stern of the Missouri, and watch from the bow of the Missouri the Missing Man Flyover in honor of the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
It was also how I came to decide to become a teacher. I knew that educating children would be very different from being a tour guide, but I also knew that I would feel a huge sense of pride and accomplishment in working with so many young people and guiding their learning. I wanted them to see that history could be interesting and fun, nuanced and complex. So I decided to return to Michigan after my cousin got back from Afghanistan and get my teaching degree.
After an amazing student-teaching experience in a 7th grade classroom at Williamston Middle School, I knew I wanted to work with middle school students, so that’s where I focused my search. I was lucky enough to be offered a job as a 7th and 8th grade Social Studies and ELA teacher at Pathfinder School in Pinckney shortly after graduating with my teaching certificate. I worked for three years with an amazing group of educators and for an excellent principal. I honed many of my classroom management skills and began to think much more about my role as a teacher and about education as a whole. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, I was laid off after three years. It was heartbreaking to leave a school where I felt like I had built a reputation, was taking on leadership roles, knew the staff and students, and where I wanted to make my career. By that time, I began to feel pretty jaded about education – not teaching, but education. Knee jerk policies, unfunded mandates, and the increased pressures on teachers to do more with less had made me feel very frustrated and defeated.
During my first three years of teaching, I worked on getting my Master’s Degree in Education Technology from Michigan State. The MAET program was an awesome way for me to combine my love of teaching with my passion for technology. I was able to learn a lot of new ideas and theories in my classes, and then implement them into my practice. Once I graduated with my Master’s Degree, I began seeking out opportunities to use it in a more explicit way.
While my journey has been somewhat convoluted and certainly not traditional, I firmly believe that it was the right path. Each step led me closer to this role, but I didn’t know that was where I was heading when I set out on it. Today, I am able to collaborate and share with many teachers from around the district, learn, plan, collaborate, and share with them, and interact with a variety of students. It’s an awesome way to share my expertise and learn from so many brilliant educators. It’s an amazing gift and I am so appreciative!
What’s your educational journey?
Are you where you thought you’d be?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments!