Technology Coordinator, Penn Alexander SchoolAs the Technology Coordinator for the Penn Alexander School in Philadelphia (which partners with the University of Pennsylvania), Nancy Matlack has moved through several teaching positions, growing and evolving together with the computer technology she currently manages. “I graduated from West Chester in 1973, taught third grade, sixth grade, and science, and then left to raise a family in 1980. When I came back to the Philadelphia School District in 1988, I applied to the RE-TECS program (retraining elementary teachers to become computer science teachers) at the beginning of the computer era, a program sponsored by Temple University and the National Science Foundation. So I went from being a third grade teacher to being a computer science teacher. In 1989 I was put in charge of the computer lab at 16th and Cumberland in North Philadelphia, at the M. Hall Stanton Elementary School. By the mid-nineties, the school was totally networked, which was unusual for a school at that time. Then I wrote a grant entitled “Widening Our World through Cyberspace” funded by AOL, which had just begun at that time, for a world map on the school playground. We created a grid on the playground, just like when artists create a grid to expand something. We then put down a white layer [of special paint for the asphalt] and outlined all the continents. For four Saturdays students and parents came by and we worked to paint this map. We filled in the oceans and the continents and the names. Then we would use it to teach geography and other things. We would visit sites on the Internet, when the Internet was in its infancy, and plot them on the map in the school yard. It was huge – about 35 by 50 feet.” “In 2001 the School District of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania decided to open the Penn Alexander School in West Philadelphia, and my principal at Stanton, Sheila A. Sydnor, was named the head of the new school. She asked me to apply for the computer position, and I became the Technology teacher at Penn Alexander. We are now a K-8 school and our first kindergarten class just moved on to high school last June. Nancy’s role has also evolved. With fewer of her own classes, she now assists her colleagues, and is able to incorporate art even more than before. “I would integrate computer classes with whatever students were learning in other classes. For example, if I was teaching PowerPoint and the third grades were learning about rocks, I would have them create a PowerPoint presentation including photos and facts about igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. We were constantly trying to make sure everything was integrated. “Even though, during the school year I come home at 7:00 and collapse, I do have other interests – I love to garden, paint, and travel. Mostly, those things happen during the summertime. Your life is suspended during the school year, when everything is school related. This year, however, I will have more time to assist teachers, especially in the middle school where a new state grant has allowed us to install Promethean boards and carts of laptops for students in several middle school classrooms. My focus will be to help them integrate technology.”
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