Questions and Answers:
Tell us a bit about you, your experience as an educator, and your role at McGraw Hill.
For most of my 25-year career, I taught Algebra and Advanced Algebra to 8th graders in Minnesota middle schools ranging from 450 to over 1200 students. My favorite parts of teaching were collaborating with wonderful math colleagues and continually improving curriculum and classroom practices to increase the learning of my students.
I’ve always thought I would enjoy working in the tech industry. Several summers ago, I taught myself enough Python to create an app to meet a need in my classroom. Between that success and all the uncertainties of COVID-19 last year, it seemed a good time for launching my second career. Equally excited and terrified, I completed a Coding Dojo boot camp and landed an internship at McGraw Hill. I have fallen in love with McGraw Hill and my team and am excited that I get to stay as a full-time Software Engineer. I write code for products that help increase the potential of teachers and students.
What transferable skills did you learn from your time as an educator and how have you applied them to your role at McGraw Hill?
I’ve been surprised by the number of skills that have transferred from teaching. As a teacher, I routinely broke large amounts of information (for example, an Algebra course) down into smaller and smaller chunks until it was accessible to my students. Then, I needed to sequence the learning so that it would fit together and make sense to them.
As a Software Engineer, I take a feature that needs to be coded and break the work down into pieces, sequencing them in a way that makes sense. In both teaching and coding, I continually assess and reflect upon whether my approach is working.
Other skills that have transferred from teaching to software engineering include time management, presentation, and problem-solving skills. Teachers develop impressive time management skills to accomplish their incredible amounts of daily work – lesson planning, grading work, responding to emails, updating student grades, making copies. I regularly demonstrate features to our stakeholders at monthly demos. I developed problem-solving skills for investigating, researching, experimenting, and evaluating actions in my classroom to help my students succeed. I use those same skills now as a Software Engineer when investigating the code base, researching ideas online, experimenting to see what works, and evaluating the quality of my code.
What impact are you able to make on education in your role, even though you are no longer in the classroom?
I love that I will still be contributing to student learning as a Software Engineer at McGraw Hill. The products and features I work on will make teaching easier, freeing teachers to do more of what computers cannot do for their students. This technology also increasingly personalizes the delivery of concepts and practice that students need to maximize their learning. It’s an exciting time to be a software engineer in EdTech!