Dr. Sarah Thomas is a Regional Technology Coordinator in Prince Georges County, MD, and Affiliate Faculty at Loyola University. Sarah’s passion has also expanded to helping educators connect globally that led the EduMatch project that she founded in September 2014.
EduMatch has grown to include Voxer, guest blogging, a weekly Twitter chat/podcast, and a publishing arm. I’m so honored to know Sarah and to be part of the EduMatch community. Enjoy our conversation!
About where you grew up
I was born and raised in Alexandria, VA and stayed there for 26 years. I moved to Woodbridge which is not that far from my mom and dad so I see them almost every day on my way to and from work. I went to Fairfax County Public Schools and then to Howard University for undergrad and grad school. Then I went to George Mason for my doctorate.
What it was like for you as a student
I was an early reader and elementary school was a lot of fun. When I got to middle school, it wasn’t as much fun. Everything was separated into tracks. I was the only student in my track that looked like me. The experience was at times difficult navigating my identity, how I fit in the space and it was a little rocky for a while. Academically, when I wanted to get my work done, I buckled down. Whenever I had positive interactions, that would consume me and not do homework. I would stay on AOL and chat messenger for however long and tie up the phone lines. In my junior and senior years, when it was time to start looking at colleges, I got it together. That’s what It was like for me as a student: the best of time and the worst of times.
Your journey as an educator
It’s funny that I would always come back to becoming an educator. I just looked at my first-grade writing book I kept that the teacher put together with cardboard and wallpaper and saw that I wrote that I wanted to teach first grade. Lo and behold almost 20 years to that date, I taught first grade. I was thinking of going to law school or into TV production which ended up being my undergrad major, but my mom started teaching middle school at that same time. I went to help her in the classroom, and when I saw her with the kids, I just knew this was where I wanted to be even though I had done most of my coursework.
I saw a flyer for alternative certification through Howard University, so I applied. They took me and here I am. That was a challenging time and did a lot of learning on the job. I was immature for my age at 22 and making rookie mistakes. I wasn’t in climates that were conducive to making mistakes so I was in four different schools in five years. I want to say that the third school was a good experience but the fourth school was a French immersion school. That was a fantastic experience and stayed there for seven years. I always wanted to work at that school because my family is from Haiti. I started speaking French with my parents to prepare myself. There was a sense of community with great relationships with my colleagues, parents, families, and the principal who was like a working mom to me. I stayed there as a technology liaison until the principal left. I fell in love with the fifth school but only stayed there a short while.
Sarah Thomas on Being a Learner and Building a Personal Learning Family
My next step was teaching technology education at the high school and then where I am now one of the Regional Technology Coordinators in Prince Georges County. We have 208 schools with help schools support to integrate technology. This is my dream job.
Building my #PLN
I remember I was at Common Ground Maryland 2013 and they had a hashtag. I had a twitter handle but I wanted people to take me seriously. So I typed in the first thing that came into my mind since I was knee-deep into my dissertation on English Language Learners. So I spelled out my name phonetically so out came “sarah da teechur” and that’s how I got my handle @sarahdateechur and it stuck.
I also teach at Loyola and was talking about using different tools. I was tweeting out Buffer and had put on an impromptu twitter chat. I went on my phone and it said that my Twitter account was locked. I was able to unlock it but everyone I followed was wiped out. It was finally restored but that was crazy. I love to use Twitter, Voxer, and all the tools.
EduMatch-Connecting the Dots: Learning with your PLN
This was almost five years ago now. I was on Voxer with a good friend of mine, Rafranz Davis, and were talking about math and gamification. She started mentioned different people to talk to and asked her if there was a program that would match person A to person B to person C. So I had this idea and tweeted out saying what I wanted to do about building a place to connect. Mark Gates in Australia was the first person who responded and I got information about him and added him to a list and tweeted him out. At that point, I set up a site with a Google form and people joined and brought their ideas. From there, we went to Voxer, Tweet and Talk, and a bunch of other things. It’s growing more than I ever would have thought.
The mission of EduMatch® is to connect educators
around the world with similar topics of interest.
It’s all about the teamwork aspect where people are bringing part of themselves and investing time and energy helping to grow exponentially.
You sign with the Google form that was the very first form we started with. We had Person of the Day and now what we do is send people to search our Awesome Table of previous EduMatchers to connect with other educators around the world with similar interests.
Publishing started in 2016 and got really active a little over a year ago. Somebody asked in the Voxer group what was on your educator bucket list. A lot of people said they wanted to publish someday and write their own book. So this is obviously something that a lot of people want to do so let’s try it. There was a group of about 20 of us the first year. Everybody submitted a chapter and we put out EduMatch Snapshot in Education. That was such a great experience that we made it an annual thing. Last year, we started solo projects. We’ve put out 10 solo books so far and a couple more crowdsourced books in addition to EduMatch Snapshot 2018, Makers in Schools, To Whom It May Concern. We also have Dr. Will with the EduPreneurs as our very first documentary. We’re just trying to grow from there. We’re in talks with someone who does curriculum. Very excited! Check out the EduMatch Books.
EduMatch Podcast Network
We have a site that Brian Costello is heading up. He’s kind of growing that out. So we’re going to get that rolling pretty soon where we have a group of folks supporting one another and come up with initiatives together. View our Podcast calendar, and sign up to be a panelist.
Edcamp Voice is entirely through Voxer.
Your passion, purpose and what’s next
I super excited and on cloud 9 to do what I love in multiple aspects of my life. The one thing I am pretty excited about is the non-profit that provides grassroots grants for educators and students. The website http://edumatchfoundation.org
Dr. Sarah Thomas is a Regional Technology Coordinator in Prince Georges County, MD, Affiliate Faculty at Loyola University, and recently graduated with a Ph.D. in International Education in December 2017.
While Sarah is still passionate about best practices, such as flipped/blended learning and gamification, her passion has also expanded to helping educators connect globally. This is the rationale behind the EduMatch project, which she founded in September 2014. The project belongs to all EduMatchers, and together it has grown it to include Voxer, guest blogging, and a weekly Twitter chat/podcast. Her newest developments are:
- the publishing arm of EduMatch.
- a nonprofit arm: EduMatch Foundation
Sarah loves to connect with other educators because she strongly believes that we are all experts at something, and can learn so much from each other!
- Website: https://www.sarahjanethomas.com/
- Blog: www.medium.com/@sarahdateechur
- Twitter: @sarahdateechur
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: sarahdateechur
- Voxer: sarahdateechur
Official Twitter handles are @edu_match and @edumatchbooks
For all of the Conversations on Learning podcasts with Barbara Bray, click on the podcast tab at the top, the logo below or go to https://barbarabray.net/podcasts/