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My #EducatorFirst Volunteer Story: Joshua Anderson

My #EducatorFirst Volunteer Story: Joshua Anderson

As the creative manager for Edmentum, the opportunity to get into a classroom doesn’t happen much in my day-to-day work. I hear all the great stories of my colleagues volunteering in their local schools, but I do not get the opportunity to do so in my role, except when I capture students using our programs for videos or testimonials. When I do get the opportunity to volunteer, the visits instantly become a highlight of my year.

When I started with Edmentum in 2010, the company was called PLATO Learning. Ever since the PLATO system originated online learning on the campus of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the 1960s, the belief was that future technology will make our lives easier. Even with my degree and experience with computers, I had always believed the same but never thought it could be this effective.

My 4th grade daughter has always been involved in my work, giving me input on what she thinks my designs should look like. She’s been my creative director since she was five (and at that age, she wanted my designs to look “like Disney with more Elsa”). She has been around technology her whole life, like most kids her age. I was eager to get into her classroom and others to see how they use our technology in their lessons.  

Educator Appreciation Week was a few weeks ago, and I was able to help out my local elementary school through Edmentum’s Volunteer Time Off program. Before this, #EducatorFirst was a motto I supported, but the last time I was in a classroom for a class was when Cast Away was a box office hit (back in 2000). Seeing all the social media posts using this hashtag from colleagues and my experience at the school gave me a whole new perspective.

The school I visited was beyond amazing. I showed up, and they had my schedule all set for the day. I was a floating student for the day. Here is what my schedule looked like:

  • Hour 1: 4th/5th grade class blend: The students learned about current news topics and the proper use of apostrophes. I was amazed at how interactive the class could be, even though all the students were on devices. The teacher was able to use his mobile device and walk around helping students who were having trouble.
  • Hour 2: 4th grade class: The time I spent in this class was unique. Each student was paired up using a randomizer tool that is built into the program class is using for attendance. The teacher then sent an assignment to read. Using the same tool, students rotated to her desk for special instruction.
  • Hour 3: 3rd grade class: In this class, the students were putting a new spin on “pen pals.” Students learned about social topics and talked to other students using virtual inboxes across the world.
  • Hour 4: I ate lunch with the kids outside.
  • Hour 5: 2nd grade class: The students were just getting in from recess, so they were a little riled up. Using a blended learning model, students rotated from reading physical books to doing reading exercises on laptops.
  • Hour 6: 5th grade class: The students were wrapping up a project where they had to build a city using a list of parameters around geographic shapes. The teacher played music while I was a guest judge in grading their cities. I loved that this idea expanded geometry into a real-life application.

After a full day at school, I couldn’t stop thinking about my experience. To be honest, it’s 10 days later as I write this, and I am still very energized by what is going on in our industry.  It was such a great experience, and the teachers could not have been better. This experience has truly taught me what #EducatorFirst means and has given me an entirely new outlook on the work that I do.

Interested in how our other employees spend their volunteer days? Check out this #EducatorFirst story from Carrie Reineccius!