Goodbye, District 186
I started working in District 186 in 2005 as the Communications Assistant. In the nine years since, my role has expanded to include website design & development, graphic design, video and photography. I started and ran the Student Film Club for four years, I've worked with many teachers on projects large and small and have grown immensely, both personally and professionally.
Sadly, this will be my last month with the district.
My position was cut from next year's budget months ago. I fought the good fight, but in the end, it became clear that my position wasn't coming back, and I wasn't being retained. I have accepted an offer with another organization that will keep me close to technology in education, and I am very excited about the new opportunity.
But more on that later. This is a time to reflect on my time with the district and everything that I am leaving behind.
It's hard sometimes to remember where I was in my life nine years ago. Ethan was a newborn. I was working from home as a freelance graphic designer. I had yet to make my first narrative film. Humzoo wasn't even on the radar. The iPhone was years away from being announced. Nobody knew what YouTube was.
I was just looking for a full-time job that had insurance. It came down to District 186 and an advertising agency. I wanted the job with the agency. I ended up at 186.
Having no experience working in education, I didn't know what I was in for. My professional experience had been in the corporate world and in advertising. It was an eye-opening experience to work for an organization that didn't exist to make money. And I found that I slept better at night.
I was fortunate to work under leadership that provided me with opportunities to take on responsibilities that fit my skill set. We were in a position of needing a new website, and the district took a chance with me and let me make one. It was a gamble on their part, and it was a huge challenge for me.
Before my initial version of the district website launched on April 15, 2006, we had very few teachers with a website presence. Overnight, it blew up. Teachers could instantly create their own websites and add content without even having a conversation with us. The tools were easy. Maybe too easy.
The next few years were crazy. There were substantial growing pains as the tipping point came and passed. We got almost every single teacher online. The tools evolved with a feverish pace. Saving one teacher thirty seconds on a task resulted in hours saved across the whole district. I learned and grew with them as we continually redefined what it meant to have a classroom website.
Then came the students.
No other school district in the country (that I could find) allowed students to create websites (that's still the case today). Most didn't even have good tools for the teachers. So, naturally, I made tools to let students have their own websites. And we launched them. And it was... awesome.
With their own websites, students could post assignments online and send files to their teachers. Teachers slowly but surely started integrating the website tools into their every day instruction. And little by little, without even knowing it, students were building their digital portfolios. Teachers could simply browse a student's website to gain valuable insight into that student's past.
We are now getting close to a tipping point with student websites. The main challenges have been overcome. The platform exists, and the infrastructure is there.
But sadly, that is the end for me. I won't be able to launch the next version of the site, which was going to address so many areas of need. We might also lose a coworker who has largely been responsible for putting the pieces into action.
I'm going to miss the challenge. I'm going to miss the teachers that I worked to serve. I'm going to miss seeing the tangible benefits of the tools that I created every day. I'm going to miss being a part of Springfield's public school system - a system I believe can overcome the challenges it faces today and can regain the public's trust and support. I believe District 186 could once again be a leader in technology. I don't think technology is a luxury in the world that we live in. I don't think you can provide a valuable service to students unless you prepare them for the world beyond our schools.
To the teachers: keep fighting the good fight. You all inspire me so much. It's been a privilege working with you for the past nine years.