When we think of a motivated educator, we often wonder what inspires them and how they do all that they do for their students. Those who focus on learning experiences, coupled with collaborating with others seemingly have the recipe for success. Linda St. Laurent of Cardinal Spellman High School is such an educator. As the Director of Spellman’s Learning Commons, Linda brings engaging and rich ideas to students every day. Her acumen for innovation, as well as her ability to support her fellow teachers in this regard are evidence of her passion for education in creating the best learning environment possible. When asked where she draws her inspiration from, Linda is quick to credit her fellow educators and her students. In addition to co-workers, Linda is inspired by other educators who share their journeys through social media and blogs. “My students also inspire me, especially when they identify their own needs and figure out how to fulfill those needs. I find this the most rewarding.” Linda believes that patience is key when working with those who may not be as comfortable using technology in the classroom. “My goal is to meet the learner where they are and to encourage them to step forward. I am not interested in using technology for technology’s sake, but rather in finding ways to use technology to extend learning.” As a school leader, Linda firmly believes she must model lifelong learning, be willing to share what she learns, and create a culture where excitement for learning and risk-taking is part of the journey. “Everyone Learns from Everyone”, quotes St. Laurent of Renee Hobbs, “and I try to incorporate that philosophy in my daily life.”
Linda admits it is challenging to keep up with emerging trends and practices in the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. “Finding the time to keep up is a both challenge and an opportunity. I read a lot of articles, blogs and books. Social Leadia by Jennifer Casa-Todd is a particular favorite of St. Laurent’s. Her social media favorites are Twitter and YouTube, which provides many demos for how to use new technology tools. To fulfill her need for face to face learning, Linda attends EdCamps whenever possible, as well as conferences such as MassCUE and MSLA. She also has some favorite podcasts, such as Matt Miller and Kasey Bell’s Google Teacher Tribe, which has helped her to support her school’s teachers as they expand their school-wide Google adoption.
Her role as Director of Learning Commons is a relatively new one that has presented her with the opportunity to grow in a different way. In this capacity, she has the chance to impact her school’s culture and help to foster innovation for students and teachers alike. “I am especially proud of the work in our Library Learning Commons where we have focused on creating opportunities in our MakerSpace through access to low tech resources such as paper and paint, digital creation tools, and acquisition of a set of Little Bits which was funded through the MassCUE Classroom Grant program.” MassCUE’s grant made this technology possible for Spellman and opened the door for STEM classes to integrate Little Bits for a design challenge project.
A key element Linda is quick to point out is the need to experiment and take risks. “In the current educational landscape, fostering a culture where teachers and students are free to experiment and innovate is super important. Educational technology is about so much more than providing a device or access to the internet. Skillful use of technology truly requires a sophisticated understanding of pedagogy and content area. If there are no learning goals for technology use, it is simply an expensive distraction.”
MassCUE is pleased to recognize Linda as January’s Featured Educator. Congratulations on a job well-done!