If you've ever had the privilege of working with the media center specialist at Pinehurst Elementary School you know how fortunate the staff and students of PES are to have Cathy Wilkison as their librarian. I started my career in education as a fifth grade teacher at Pinehurst Elementary in 2008 and Cathy was someone I looked up to from day one. Not only because Cathy is extremely helpful and willing to go out of her way to support teachers in any way possible, but she is a leader in integrating technology in the land of the dolphins. She's a very busy lady. Cathy teaches Kindergarten through fifth grade classes all day, fixes any computer/iPad/SmartBoard/technology issue that she can, leads the Battle of the Books team, creates a weekly newscast called the "Hello Dolphin Show", and she always does remarkable job of integrating technology to enhance her instruction.
As a teacher, I always wanted to take a moment to sit down with Cathy and talk about how she's able to juggle all of her commitments to Pinehurst Elementary School while advocating for teachers and students to use more technology. I was able to do just this on Monday. Here's some of the interview I had with Cathy:
Question: How long have you been in the school system?
Answer: 25 years in the state. 21 in Moore County Schools. Westmoore for 5 years. I subbed for a bit, then I became the Media Center Specialist at Pinehurst Elementary.
Q: What were some of your earliest lessons that incorporated technology?
A: I remember introducing an IBM computer at Westmoore and teaching students/teachers what a mouse was. We used it as an online encyclopedia. There was no internet. It was a self-contained CD. It was amazing that it would talk to you. You could click on MLK and he would talk to you. Another year I did an after school keyboarding class.
Q: Where do you start when you’re planning a lesson?
A: Everything I do, I start with literature, but I make sure there is technology in every single lesson for every grade level. It could be a video that I share, or integrate the iPad. I don’t say this is a technology lesson. I use technology to help teach the content that I’m already teaching.
Q: What’s one of your favorite lessons that you really enjoy teaching? What makes it your favorite?
A: Because I have a class set of iPads, I try to make the best of that. So one of the lessons I really like to do is a qr code scavenger hunt. You could use that for any content. I have one on North Carolina authors for fourth grade. I have another one for the 50 states using the almanac. I pin them up around the room, then the students work in groups to use an almanac, an ipad, and scan the qr code to reveal the answers. The first group to get back with 10 answers correctly is the winner. When they’re participating in this activity they’re moving, working together, and they’re learning.
Q: What are some of the lessons where you’ve used the green screen?
A: One lesson that I’ve done recently is when I used the green screen for inventor’s day. We were practicing research skills with fifth grade. First, I had them do Cornell Notes. Then they had to do a sixty second recording of their five facts using the green screen. They had to back it with still shots or motion with the green screen. They used the app “DoInk” to create the videos. I published the videos on Twitter and then DoInk started to follow me.I followed them back and I’ve been getting some really good ideas for ways to use the green screen. I love how they post videos for examples. They even made some videos with pizza boxes. They had one video where a student put their face through green bulletin board paper and then talked about landforms. Then they used the app to put a mountain as the background so that it looked like it was a talking mountain. It was really cool.
Q: The Hello Dolphin Show is a staple at Pinehurst Elementary School. How did it start?
A: Long, long ago before I came to this school my predecessor Clarice West started an in house broadcast using VHS cameras that she got with a grant. I followed her example. Our equipment and the newscast has evolved into what it is now.
Q: You’re an inspiration to many people, including myself, what inspires you?
A: I am motivated by the children, it’s the truth. You can tell when they’re excited and you can also tell what makes them excited. It does take a lot of different kinds of interaction. To provide that you must use technology. Everybody gets excited when they use something new. Even if it doesn't work well.
Q: You’re involved in so many things at PES. Battle of the Books, Hello Dolphin Show, teaching classes all day, etc. How do you do it?A: You have to prioritize the day. Use your planning wisely. I think you have to provide choices and variety for your students. That way if they’re not engaged in one thing, maybe they’ll want to be a leader in something else.
Cathy is most definitely a leader in everything that she does. I was spoiled as a beginning teacher when I was lucky enough to work with her on a daily basis. She is always open to using new technology and she embraces new opportunities in digital learning. She understands the top priority in education: the kids. And she always does what's best for them. Cathy is an amazing media center specialist and Moore County Schools is lucky to have her.