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[ISTE 2015 Recap] A Dose of Education Motivation

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 -- Stephanie Abbott

At Edmentum, we’ve been spending a lot of time lately on the question of “why?” We carried this into our booth at ISTE 2015 by asking educators to answer the question of why they are passionate about education via social media and have received some great responses. Now, I want to dig deeper into some of the amazing things we saw at this year’s conference and what the answer to the question of “why” looks like for those of us whose role is to support educators.

For me, the ISTE conference is a chance to get real about what I do. As an implementation coach, my job is to assist educators in developing a deep understanding of the resources within Edmentum products so that they can use those resources effectively. However, my perception of an educator’s reality can be blurred because I’m not in the classroom anymore.

For those of us involved in education, the day-to-day realities can dull the commitment to a strong education for all when challenges seem overwhelming. So, we need doses of success, sometimes just tiny ones, to keep us motivated. At ISTE, I certainly got my much-needed doses. One was hearing a principal from Oklahoma explaining how she facilitated the use of Study Island in her school, saw a 25% increase in students’ reading scores, and wanted more tools. Another was finally getting to meet in person a district special education coordinator from Pennsylvania whom I have been talking to on the phone for years. Then, there was a technology coordinator who had some perplexing questions about one of our products, which implied that she hadn’t been pleased. After ten minutes of deep discussion, she had a new understanding of the product and left excited to renew their subscription and use it in the upcoming school year. That’s the magic of the face-to-face interactions that a conference like ISTE can provide.

Another element of the ISTE experience is visiting booths where innovative approaches have made an incredible impact on educating the neediest of students. Did you see the Super Bowl commercial about Estella's Brilliant Bus? I vividly recall sitting in my living room alone while my children were getting more snacks. Suddenly, I noticed this commercial and saw one of our Edmentum products, Reading Eggs. As I shouted, my children came running, asking which team scored. I was so proud to say that my company had gotten the touchdown by being one of Estella’s partners.

Now, months later, my Edmentum coworkers and I were strolling the ISTE expo hall when we saw Estella’s bus. Of course, we wanted to go inside! As I started up the steps, there was Estella, in person! Her warm, proud smile welcomed us on board. We then spent a delightful 20 minutes talking with her. This was my biggest ISTE moment, my inspiration and motivation to keep doing what I do despite the challenges my customers and company face.

I learned that Estella is simply amazing. While many retirees spend their days gardening or playing golf, her retirement lasted only two years. After a short re-entry as a teacher and guidance counselor, she resigned to pursue her vision of empowering underprivileged families searching for a pathway to success. As the daughter of a migrant worker who became a professional with advanced degrees herself, she personally knows the power of education for lifting whole families out of poverty and wants to provide that opportunity to as many learners as possible. With the help of technology, Estella’s Brilliant Bus supplies educational support not only for K–12 students but also for college students working on assignments and adults looking for jobs and housing.

This year, time at ISTE once again proved to be invaluable. I met and helped dedicated educators who believe Dr. Seuss’ wise words: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” Personally, I got a healthy dose of inspiration from Estella, who serves as a reminder of the uplifting power of one person’s vision to make things better.

We would love to have you join the conversation about what inspires passion for education! Check out this page to see responses we have received so far to our question of “why,” with instructions for posting your own motivational answer.