In effort to grow our community, we want to introduce you to interesting Philadelphians you might not know. Each week, we’ll speak to someone new and have that person introduce us to someone else we should know. Normally, we have a previous subject recommend a future interview subject, but we’ll shake it up every month in order to make sure we’re reaching every part of the local tech community. Last week: Nathan Egan, cofounder of Center City firm PeopleLinx. This week: Mary Beth Hertz, technology teacher at Alliance for Progress Charter School.
In Mary Beth Hertz‘s North Philadelphia classroom, elementary and middle schoolers learn how to research scientific or global issues online, how to protect their private information online and how to program using Scratch.
Hertz is a technology teacher at Alliance for Progress Charter School who also helps organize the Philadelphia EdTech Meetup. Read on to find out about her weirdest job before she became a teacher, why she thinks it’s hard for teachers to incorporate technology in the classroom and what her classroom looks like.
- A/S/L? 32/f/South Philly
- How long have you lived in Philly and what brought you here? I have lived in Philly for over 10 years. I used to visit friends of mine who attended the Art Institute while I was in college [at St. Joe’s] and fell in love with the city. I moved here right after college and never left.
- Best/worst/weirdest job before your current gig? Working in a toy store/waiting tables at Marathon Grill/cleanliness coordinator of the 3rd floor in my co-op in college–I had to get college kids to scrub toilets!
- What does an average day at work look like for you? 7:15am: arrive at work, 7:15-8:10am: prepare lessons for the day, 8:10-8:35am: admission duties, 9:00am-2:55pm: teach like my pants are on fire and hopefully shove some food in my face at some point, 3:10-3:30pm: dismissal duty, 3:30-5:00pm get ready for the next day and mentor technology club two days a week.
- Show us your classroom, please!
- Any local tech events you’re looking forward to? I am very excited for the upcoming panel being hosted by the Philly EdTech Meetup Group on February 12th [Ed. Note: That’s today!] and I am really looking forward to attending TechCamp. [Full Disclosure: Technically Philly is organizing TechCamp.]
- Tell us about a workplace tradition. A tradition we have is the annual countdown to the last day of school!
- What’s an important lesson you’ve learned at your current position (or at a past job)? Essentially, bestow us with a little wisdom. I learned early on in teaching the importance of treating every day as a new day. Every day is a new adventure, and not every day is win. It’s important to be able to maintain a positive attitude, even when the going gets tough.
- What’s the most common struggle you see when it comes to getting teachers to adopt technology in the classroom? Sometimes, it is simply an issue of access [to technology]. For most Philly educators, this is the number one barrier to using technology in the classroom. Another hurdle is the learning curve involved in bringing new technologies into the classroom both for teachers and students. People often assume that, since students have smartphones and post to Facebook all of the time, that they have the necessary technical skills to create videos, type up essays, manage their files or use online tools for learning. However, many Philly students do not have access to a computer at home, so extra time must be spent on teaching basic computing skills. In addition, when teachers bring technology into their classrooms, they must also shift their approach to teaching. If a student has the Internet at his or her fingertips, then the teacher’s role must shift from delivering content toward guiding students as they create knowledge for themselves. Teachers require ongoing training and support in their classrooms to feel successful when integrating technology. Shrinking budgets have made access to this kind of support limited.
- Can you introduce us to someone in the broad local tech scene who you think doesn’t get enough attention? I’m pretty sure that Chris Alfano and Christian Kunkel are already getting attention, but I love the work they are doing with Code for Philly and the work they do with students at Science Leadership Academy.