Staff Perspective: Debbie Tawzer, LHS

Staff Perspective: Debbie Tawzer, Legend High School
Posted on 06/03/2020
Staff Perspective: Debbie Tawzer
Legend High School

Like many educators, Legend High School Internship Coordinator and Digital Design/Engineering Teacher Debbie Tawzer faced technological challenges when Douglas County School District (DCSD) switched to remote learning. Stacy Blaylock, DCSD Communications Coordinator, chatted with Tawzer on how she continued teaching classes that relied on specialized technology and in-person internship work.

First off, what classes do you teach?

I have a few engineering, architectural, and digital design classes. I’ve run into the biggest challenges with my Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) class and my Professional Internships class.

What kind of technology challenges did you encounter?

Well, the CAD class is a Concurrent Enrollment offering with Arapahoe Community College, and many students complete the SolidWorks certification exam at the end of the school year. All of their preparation and the exam itself is usually done in our lab at Legend High School. Doing the same thing online has come with a variety of unique technology challenges. For example, SolidWorks only works on Windows computers, and we had to rely on a pilot program with Amazon Web Services to make that work. The testing software, however, didn’t work at first with Amazon Web Services. We had a huge difficulty moving students to a third option. It’s just something we didn’t anticipate. DCSD Information Technology has been great in helping us find solutions.

How have the CAD certifications been affected?

We had a few students pass! But students who don’t have optimal computer set-ups are still facing challenges. We didn’t provide equipment to them because we thought Amazon Web Services would work. Technically, students don’t have to complete a certification, but many chose to because it gives them a significant advantage in college. They can get Teaching Assistant jobs and internships thanks to the certification. Those that really care about it, especially the seniors, are trying to find a way to complete the test. Underclassmen have said they would take it next year.

What was it like connecting students with technology during remote learning?

It was a lot of handling unknowns. It teaches flexibility. You just have to be flexible, and you have to ask for patience from students. I’d talk to them about what’s in my control and what’s out of my control. You have to let go of what’s not in your control and make the best with what you have. The kids have been incredibly resilient. They worked hard to keep their skills up on their own.

You also oversee a Professional Internships class that gives students real-world experience in a job setting. How did you continue teaching that class when DCSD switched to remote learning?

Well, we were given a directive that the students couldn’t go to their internship sites for that hands-on experience. So we spent time refining their resumes, and we talked a lot about professional emails where students wrote to their mentors. For some of them, it was a hard task because they disagreed with not being able to go to their internship because some of those places would have still allowed the students to come. It became a learning experience on how you do what you need to do when you disagree.

What’s something you were able to do during remote learning that wouldn’t get covered in a regular semester?

We dug more into interviews. I put the students in the role of being part of an interview team where they interviewed individual applicants. I got them to think about job skills from two different points of view, and being on an interview team changes your perspective about how you would fill out a job application and how you would interview. Many really reflected on it. This activity is not something we would have done normally because the students would have been at their own sites with their mentors.

I actually sat in an interview where we were interviewing someone via Zoom, and it was a lightbulb moment for me -- this is what I should be doing with students! I should let them practice this skill. They should prepare for this kind of interview because where else would you learn how to do a Zoom interview or a phone interview? Remote learning was a perfect time.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with me, Debbie!

No problem! Have a great summer.
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