Meet the Geeks: Interview with Carrie Walsh

Marketer turned education leader Carrie Walsh is one of nine instructional coaches supporting Teach to One: Math partners across the country. While Carrie is currently based in Chicago, she supports the teacher training and development in a variety of regions from New Mexico to Chicago.

After many years as a school leader, Carrie joined New Classrooms with expertise in mentoring and developing staff. In her current role, she collaborates with teacher teams and school administrators to review data and make instructional changes as they roll out the TTO model. We met with Carrie to learn more about life as a remote employee and her experience supporting TTO in a variety of diverse settings.

Reimagining the Classroom

What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?

CW: Given that I’m from Chicago, it might be surprising for people to know that I once worked on a farm every day one summer in college for a research project. I wanted a job where I could work outside and be away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. I helped grow the viruses in petri dishes, spray the corn in the fields with the viruses, and record results.  I also learned how to drive a tractor! As a city girl, I had never imagined myself working on corn research for 8 hours a day. However, I found that working outside was incredibly peaceful.

Tell us about your transition to teaching

CW: I always loved writing and was a journalism major at the University of Illinois, which has a great communication program. Journalism led me into marketing and one of the projects I worked on was training teachers on how to use cell phones that we were refurbishing for high school students in Chicago. Some students worked as summer interns and I loved working with them and their teachers in the program. I was thinking of getting my MBA but the interaction with students made me want to go into education.

How did your perception of teaching change after you entered the classroom?

CW: I was not prepared for just how different and unique every child is. To meet their needs, teachers and educational leaders need to be consistent in their own expectations to create a classroom environment where we can meet with given students one-on-one when needed.

I was also pleasantly surprised about how much fun teaching was. I heard about all of the negative sides of teaching, but it was so exciting to watch kids learn and help them during the process.

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Describe your role in two words. Why?

CW: I guess I would say developing and flexibility.

Developing because I get to help math directors and teachers develop the TTO model within their school. I like that there are all of those components and I also interact with students and help develop their thinking.

Flexibility because my role means that I’m in new schools all the time. My day looks very different every day and there’s a lot of flexibility in how I structure my time.

In general, everything we do is toward ensuring students and teacher can access and use their Teach to One portals every day. Our work to preserve data and student historical records is essential to be able to determine which skill is best for each student every day.

Do you have any work tips for people who work remotely?

CW: I think it’s helpful to stay in touch with people constantly. I really make an effort to  connect with coaches working in other schools to hear about their experiences. I’d recommend that it not always be specifically about work stuff.

I like to do social things to stay connected—I’m in a book club with another coach and we’re reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Such a page turner!) Also, technology is key to staying connected and we use a ton of it at New Classrooms——my favorites are video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts because seeing my colleagues helps me feel more connected to them.

What surprised you most about implementing TTO in the schools you support?

CW: I think the most surprising thing is how quickly kids catch on with the model and the modalities and can work independently. This is my first year working with a brand new school and could not believe how quickly students are on board with all of the modalities and understanding the portal.

Students are always better technologically but they have been so responsive. They really enjoy learning in different modalities. They naturally want to learn something new and in a different way. Also, exit slips are a huge motivator – all of the kids really care about how they perform and the exit ticket helps them perform better in all modalities.

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