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It takes a teacher to inspire and be inspired

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Editor’s note: At Education on Air, Google’s free online conference tomorrow, December 3, we’ll be celebrating educators and exploring the future of education and technology.  During the event, Jennie Magiera will be moderating a live panel featuring educators who have pioneered technology at their schools, along with two students who have benefited from these teachers’ work. Register now to hear from the panelists live tomorrow, December 3.


Jennie Magiera

“Too often, teachers are the last people to sing their own praises, even though they’re constantly inspiring their students, their colleagues and their students’ parents, ” says Jennie Magiera, chief technology officer at Des Plaines School District 62. “We’ve all had at least one teacher who inspired us to become who we are today.”

Tomorrow, December 3, Jennie will be moderating a live panel during Education on Air featuring educators who have pioneered technology at their schools, along with two students who have benefited from these teachers’ work. The panel will include:

  • Kevin Brookhouser, teacher at York School
  • Maria, Kevin’s student
  • Rafranz Davis, executive director of professional and digital learning at Lufkin ISD
  • Andrew, Rafranz’s student

Jennie shared a few questions with our panelists to learn more about the teachers who helped shape them into who they are today. To hear from the panelists live, join us for Education on Air tomorrow, December 3.

Jennie: Our theme for this panel is “It takes a teacher.” When you were a student, who inspired you and how?

Kevin Brookhouser

Kevin: I took a video writing class in high school with Jim Talone, who is now retired.  For our final project he asked us to go into the community and find stories that we would then produce and distribute to a real-world audience. This was the first time a teacher gave me creative autonomy, allowing me to pursue what I thought was meaningful and share that project with a real audience. It motivated me to invest more time and work harder than I had ever worked. That experience has stuck with me.

Rafranz: I was inspired by Dr. Vanessa Huse, a professor of math education for pre-service teaching (education provided to student teachers). She was an important mentor to me and is still part of my life now. She was one of the only people who understood the struggles that I’d face as a teacher of color, even though she doesn’t come from the same background that I do. She made sure I had mentors who were veteran teachers — people I could learn from and collaborate with. She even introduced me to Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, the second African American woman to hold a degree in math. She invited Dr. Granville  to speak to our class and share her story. In many ways, Dr. Huse knew what I needed before I did.

Jennie: We couldn’t invite every teacher that inspires us to be on this panel, though I’m sure you would agree that we wish we could. If you could have brought along one colleague, who would you have picked?

Kevin: There are so many teachers I’d pick. The first colleague who comes to mind is our high school art teacher, Logan Parsons.  She has all of her students create self-portraits. She guides the students to think about how they want to portray themselves, whether in an abstract way or something more realistic. The results are unique and reflective of each individual. I’m inspired by how much students seem to get out of this project and from working with Logan.  

Rafranz Davis 

Rafranz: It’s so hard to pick one teacher! One of our first and second-grade teachers, Jamie Mayhan, stands out to me because she has such a passion for her students and really thinks outside of the box. She overcomes every challenge in her way. For example, she personally took on the cause of creating better access to technology for her students. She started a BYOD [bring your own device] program in her classroom, which required working with parents to get students devices. To make sure every student had access, she even gathered extra devices on her own by helping students to borrow devices from parents and coordinating device loans from digital learning department.

Jennie: We’ll be talking a lot about what it takes a teacher to do, but what does it take a student to do? How have your students inspired you?

Kevin: My students inspire me with their ability to take risks and try new things before they know whether they’ll succeed. Their willingness to experiment, learn new skills, and participate in new activities motivates me to do the same. That bravery is how real learning happens. I’m also inspired by my students who have a deep desire to help others. They request to work on projects that will  positively impact on other people. Their optimism and generosity gives me a lot of hope for the future.

Rafranz: We put a lot of emphasis on teaching kids grit and resilience to help them overcome adversity, but if we listen, we might be surprised to find out how much strength they already have. I’m inspired by our students who have come from difficult backgrounds — whether they were raised in poverty or affluence — and have been able to rise above challenges and pursue their dreams. Even though they may grow up with circumstances they can’t control, they show up to school and work hard, learn new things and think creatively.

To hear more from Jennie, Kevin and Rafranz live, join us for Education on Air tomorrow, December 3.

We invite you to join this movement by sharing what teachers mean to you with #ItTakesATeacher and seeing your own and others’ stories re-shared at

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