TCEA members are many things. They’re resourceful, innovative, and creative, to name just a few. And today we want to shine the spotlight on one of our members who exemplifies all of these and more. Twyla Felty is a Technology Instructional Specialist for Eustace Middle School. She’s also an advocate for STEAM learning and a great source of advice on technology implementation and supporting educators. In this interview, she shares her recommendations, her go-to resources, and the cool project she’s most excited about.
Taking the Tech Road
Twyla has worn many hats in her 18 years with Eustace ISD. She has taught everything from kindergarten to fifth grade science and math to middle school. But her career took a tech turn in 2008. She was working on a master’s degree and planning to take the leap into administration when she attended an ISTE conference in San Antonio.
As Twyla remembers, “My district sent teachers to attend, and, after the conference, our Superintendent, Dr. Coy Holcombe, decided to create new positions on each campus to facilitate and support the use of technology in the classroom. I was picked for the job on my primary campus!”
Full STEAM Ahead
For Twyla, every day is different. From troubleshooting technology concerns and supporting online testing to managing social media and planning technology professional development, her day is never dull. She also loves the creative aspect of her job. She has particularly gotten to flex her creative muscles in Eustace’s new STEAM Studio. “This year, the STEAM Studio gave me the opportunity to create a learning space that allows students to freely explore materials and learn on their own. It’s exciting to be a part of that process, and I am constantly looking for new ideas or activities to provoke interest and challenge our students. Working with teachers provides a different type of creativity as we work together to pair curriculum with appropriate tech tools to craft entirely new approaches and plans for classroom instruction.”
So what is the STEAM Studio like? It’s a creativity springboard. Twyla painted a wall to act as a green screen. Another was transformed into a LEGO wall. There’s even a “learning glass” for video production. The space is populated by bots aplenty, including EV3 kits, Ozobots, Spheros, Bloxels, Makey-Makeys, and Snap Circuits. Most importantly, the STEAM Studio is always advancing. As Twyla explains, “Each month, I try to add something new to the space and curate more materials for our creative corner through donations of items such as duct tape, cardboard, tubes, paper goods, plastic cups, ribbon, string….you name it!”
The studio can be booked by teachers for projects. However, it is also open two days a week for teachers to come “play” and learn about the capabilities of the space. Twyla is even running a morning robotics group out of the STEAM Studio and hopes to compete in a future TCEA State Robotics Contest. In addition to being an invaluable resource for the students and teachers at Eustace Middle School, the STEAM Studio has been rewarding for Twyla herself. “I have missed being in the classroom, and this STEAM Studio has restored my passion and energy for teaching!”
TCEA, All the Way
Twyla is a huge champion of TCEA. In the interest of humility, we’ll let her share what she loves about the organization in her own words:
“I would not be able to do my job without the support of TCEA! I have attended the TCEA Convention & Exposition for the past ten years, and each year I walk away with so many resources and materials that it takes me several months to slowly go through them to process and evaluate for use. I also attend the TCEA Area 7 conference each June in White Oak, which provides me with professional networking and support closer to home. When I can, I love to attend the other conferences offered right at TCEA headquarters. Last year, I was able to attend the Innovative Learning Strategies Conference, and the summer robotics week of training is on my bucket list!”
Twyla has helped to support TCEA by getting more involved too. She is a Convention super volunteer, brilliant presenter, member of TEC-SIG, and officer of CAMP-SIG. By giving back, Twyla explains she’s been able to benefit, too. “In becoming more involved, I have been able to meet other digital coaches all over the nation!”
Tips from Twyla
Twyla has some great advice for other technology instructional specialists about creating a positive environment for learning and encouraging teacher buy-in:
- Scaffold for teachers as you would for students. They are just little learners in bigger bodies.
- Be patient! Technology changes quickly, but schools do not. However, small changes will add up over time.
- You won’t win over everyone, so work with those who are willing.
- Find joy in each day and keep alive the “teacher” part of your heart. It is, after all, why we got into this business of education in the first place.
And finally, we couldn’t interview Twyla without asking her favorite tech tool. It’s Google Suite for Education. “Google has created an easy to use ‘one-stop-shop’ of tech tools for teachers. Once teachers become hooked on the ease, convenience, and fun of running a Google Classroom and creating with technology, it makes it that much easier to move along to all the other great tools available online!”
To sum up: Twyla is an ed tech dynamo, and we’re so glad to have her involvement and continued support in TCEA. To learn about other innovative educators transforming education, you can read some of our previous member spotlight posts here, here, and here. Do you know a TCEA member who needs to be in the spotlight? You can always email me your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.