From the Heart: Powerful Stories from Passionate Educators
Tina Garrett, STEM Coordinator, Garland Independent School District, Texas
Some teachers are born into education; they come from a family of educators and never really could see themselves becoming anything but a teacher. Others are inspired into education; they had a teacher who was so inspirational and so excellent, it changed their lives. Becoming an educator was a way to pay that forward.
But Tina Garrett’s story is a little different. Garrett, the STEM coordinator for Garland (Texas) Independent School District, can still remember the names of teachers who she says were unpleasant and discouraged her from believing that she could succeed. The classes were unengaging as well.
“It was all lectures and drill and kill,” she said. “I’m a very social person. I need to be able to do it.”
So, after college, Garrett knew that she was going to become a teacher that inspired and excited students.
“I became a teacher to prove to everybody that they were doing it wrong,” she said. “Someone has to show kids that they care about them. You’re at school more than you’re at home.”
Her education career started in Louisiana, including stints as an elementary school teacher and a middle school math teacher in New Orleans. She then became a high school physics teacher in Mississippi, but it was something non-academic that made Tina realize she could do more in education.
While in Mississippi, Garrett served as a high school volleyball coach, and her team did very well, gaining recognition across the state.
“It showed me that I can engage a group and bring them together with a focus to do more than just have fun,” she said. “It was an a-ha moment. I was really good at this but I needed a bigger purpose than just volleyball.
“Someone has to show kids that they care about them. You’re at school more than you’re at home.” I needed to make a bigger impact in education.”
When she returned to Texas in 2008, she went back to college to get her master’s degree and soon became an instructional coach in elementary school science. She coached and motivated other teachers, helping them develop lesson plans that engaged students. She is now working in curriculum development, with an emphasis on STEM, helping teachers be their best in this critical part of education.
One area of focus for Garrett is helping teachers integrate technology into their lessons. She believes teachers recognize the power that technology has in the classroom, but the logistics can be overwhelming. That’s why it is important for any school or district to have a strong infrastructure in place and lots of professional development opportunities before deploying devices and other technology. She also said that teachers must recognize that technology shifts the balance of power in the classroom.
“A big challenge is releasing control and allowing students to be creative and authentic,” she said. “We’re never going to grow the thinkers we need unless we allow them to solve problems.”
That’s one of the reasons she likes the Science Techbook — it puts control in the hands of students.
“We’re teaching kids how to research effectively with a very strong reference bank from Techbook,” she said. “It’s student-centered which gives students power.”
Garrett is finishing her Ph. D. in curriculum development, with a focus on STEM. And even though she isn’t a classroom teacher anymore, she still works to make all students feel valued and important.
“Every child deserves a chance. Every child matters,” she said. “Every child deserves someone to say ‘I’m going to help you figure out your strengths and help you acquire the skills you need to be successful.“
What Tina loves most about Techbook is how it’s helping students become creators, not just consumers, and empowering them to own their learning.
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