This summer I was honored to serve my #KTIfamily as a Lead Learner that the 2016 Annual Keystone Technology Innovators Summit, AKA #KTI2016. I have had an amazing time working with some of the best of the best of PA educators who are leading the charge to change the way we teach today’s learners and tomorrow’s leaders. This crew of educators are movers and shakers. Sharing my experiences and learning along side of them was one of the most rewarding experiences of my 18 year career.
I was selected as a Keystone Star in 2015, after being nominated in 2010 and not being selected as a star. I was on cloud 9! I absolutely loved being a learner and I cannot tell you how much that single week changed me as an educator. Despite the fact that I had previously served as a tech integration coach, taught grad classes for Eduspire, and had been teaching for over 16 years, it enabled me to advocate and share my expertise with many educators, inside my district and out.
More than anything, this anxiety ridden person who trembles EVERY time she needs to speak in front of a room of adults… began to spread her wings and present more and in a wider variety of venues. I traveled to Bloomsburg University to present at the #NCPAECT Minikeys and then I joined my local #SCPAECT board. In short, #KTI2015 changed me.
However, and most importantly, #KTI2015 reignited my passion for teaching. It taught me that failure is acceptable when you are willing to try something new. I know that sounds really bad. Who in the world is excited about learning to fail?!!? I was. Until #kti2015, I felt limited by my fears and often stood back and let others lead, accepted decisions without adding my opinions, and certainly never felt empowered to ask for the things I now know my students need and deserve. I had become a “yes man” doing what I had to do, loving my students, teaching the curriculum, but not feeling the spark and passion that I had when I was a young kid running out of college ready to take on the world.
After that summit, I felt like I was 21 again. Bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to beat down the walls to make things happen for my students. To heck with a spark, I was on fire! During the conference I was texting my administrator every day sharing tools or activities I wanted to try. My energy was contagious because we met and had a working lunch to share all of my learning and ideas over a slice, or two, of pizza. The food was quickly forgotten, but the conversation was constant and encouraging. I wanted things that the district didn’t have money for, but I wasn’t told no. Instead I was told to find a way, and I did. No money for robots, great! I found multiple grants to purchase them and 5 iPods for my students.
I wanted to bring makerspace and STEAM into my classroom. Again no money for supplies. I decided to explore and use what I had learned from lead learners in 2015 during our STEAM train event and resolved to make a space, or find another way to allow my students to create. After digging through the internet, scavenging through my closets, basement, and the local Dollar Stores and Five Below, I became a teacher on a mission to bring something new to my students. I scrounged up old plastic bin and then each week for 30 minutes a day 3rd graders were given a task to complete and 30 minutes a day to complete the task. The kids rocked it and I was on fire! I loved those 30 minutes in my classroom when I stepped back, gave the reigns to their learning over to my students, and served as a guide on the side asking clarifying questions.
Now in the 2016-2017 school year I am off on a new adventure. I really walked out of my comfort zone and into an alternate reality. I left behind my elementary colleagues, whom I love and miss dearly, and began serving as a middle school technology integration coach. This was probably the scariest decision of my entire career aside from my first day of teaching. A month in and my leap of faith is a sound one. I have extended my school family to include a whole new building of educators and administration. I am lucky that I allowed myself to live outside of my comfort zone and take a chance on something new.
I challenge all of my readers to embrace change, try something new, wiggle around a little and push just outside of your comfort zone at work and in life. Outside of your comfort zone is where great things happen. We get too comfortable inside our tiny boxes. Take a stretch, dip your toes in, and feel a change coming on!