It is a definition that tells the story of our teacher spotlight this week. Tobye Ertelt, Digital Teacher Librarian at Oberon Middle School embodies the definition of flexible: "characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements". It is the combination of adaptation, innovation and flexible exploration that led Tobye to be the spotlight of today’s blog post. Over the past year, Tobye was motivated to explore innovation after meeting retired lawyer Reshma Saujani, who took a chance to pursue a passion and as a result, inspired thousands of young ladies around the world. Additionally, Tobye found herself moved by the story of Logan Smalley, a TED Fellow, who is the brains behind TED-Ed (TED's youth and education initiative). These two inspiring stories incited a passion for exploration and innovation leading to new opportunities for Oberon students today.
In the spring of 2016, after a visit to a TED-Ed conference, Tobye filled out a feedback form and applied to become a TED-Ed Innovator. The questions posed in that feedback form opened a door to share a topic that has been core to Ms. Ertelt's heart, "What is ethical behavior in the 21st century?" She inherently believes that we, as educators and adults, have done a great disservice to our students separating digital behavior from everyday behavior. And so it is with this essential question that a new door opened for Tobye, leading her to become 1 of 30 educators from 11 different countries selected for the honor of joining the third cohort of TED-Ed Innovative Educators. Our own Tobye Ertelt is one out of an initial group of over 1100 educators who took a chance to challenge each other to collaboratively find solutions to questions and issues facing today's students.
Tobye's TED-Ed adventure has included a wide array of experiences. The process has evolved from the initial stages of video conferencing with an array of outstanding educators to defining, refining, and brainstorming solutions. This led to the culmination of presenting those completed projects on the TED stage in New York City. As Tobye expressed, it has been humbling and energizing work. Collaborating with such an extraordinarily diverse group of educators with a passion for innovation has allowed differing perspectives and ideas to grow one another's initial concepts. This synergistic energy led to the creation of Oberon's TED-Ed Club for students. It is a weekly opportunity for students to creatively explore ideas and interests of their own, following that same model of collaborative problem solving that inspired the club's creation.
At the TED-Ed Conference, Tobye attended a session on coding that captivated her - Girls Who Code. She met with the founder Reshma Saujani and after hearing her passionate story and desire to even the playing field in technology for girls. Tobye was immediately inspired to begin a Girls Who Code club at Oberon. Knowing her middle school audience, Tobye was well aware that the boys would want to have the same opportunity. She modified her original pursuit of a GirlsWho Code club to create Oberon's own Guys & Girls Coding club (G2 Coding Club). Students meet once a week with Ms. Ertelt & fellow teacher Mr. Waalkes during their lunch period to engage in various levels of coding: creating apps, games, programs, and exploring with robotics.
Leading by example, Ms. Ertelt has not only modeled the struggle and discomfort that comes from challenging oneself and trying new things, she carries that passion forward to inspire students to take on that process themselves. Tobye shared with the TED-Ed community her reason for teaching, "I was born to be an educator. I love watching people find value and inspiration in learning, and I love being a part of that experience. I think it is very satisfying when you are a part of the productive struggle to create a new learning, experience or product.” Not only is Tobye a positive component of that intellectual struggle for students, but she has fostered supportive pathways for each to engage and grow themselves.
Albert Schweitzer said it best when he said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Great job Tobye, setting that example and providing opportunites for students to engage in the thinking and learning.