Episode #80: Learning from Each Other to Inspire Others to Do the Same with Sarah Thomas, Ph.D.

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

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…