Author Page – Cathie Dunklee-Donnell

I’m Cathie Dunkee-Donnell, owner of Ducktoes Computer Services.

I started out in my career as a grade two teacher at Hansen Elementary School in Hansen, Idaho.  I loved that job, it was so rewarding to teach and to turn kids on to learning and reading.  I loved the community of wonderful people which were the townsfolk, ranchers, and farmers of Hansen and the surrounding area.  I was passionate about teaching there and the students.  I read to them constantly, made learning fun with lots of hands-on activities and games.  We’d act out how to be a fraction or new vocabulary words.  We had a puppet called Math Cat who needed a lot of help figuring out problems…he needed the kids to explain.  Lol.  He traveled and sent postcards too.  I started a volunteer group for parents which was innovative at the time.  We made kites, looked at planets with telescopes, did tons of science activities, and acted out plays.  I had a reading corner with tons of books and magazines, and a sofa and chairs.  We had a pet snake.  Everyday we had a problem-solving session where discussed getting along and behaving well, using our brains and words to solve problems and not our hands or fists.  I visited every family with a home visit. I had a ton of freedom in teaching back then and I excelled at it.  I fell in love with the community and especially some of the farming and ranching families who made me feel so welcome. Here it is on the map.

However after taking some time off to move to Canada and start a family, I found it difficult to get back into the profession.  I substitute taught which I didn’t like since it’s difficult to form relationships with other teachers and the students when you change schools everyday.  I found myself dreading going to work.  I also worked a private school which I did enjoy a lot but it wasn’t the same as working for a public school.  So I went back to school myself and became a computer specialist.  I went to SAIT and took a fast-paced program and became Internet and Network Specialist.

We learned Web Design, Oracle, Novell, Windows NT, Unix, Linux, Java, Javascript, Project Management, Networking, Apache Server.  I really had to stretch and struggle with some of the programming but ended up with an Honours on my certificate.

Then I got recruited to work for the Clark County School District as an ECS, educational computer strategist. They made me teach grade two again for the first year before I could jump into the ECS role.  I worked at Paradise Professional Development School.  Again I loved it and the kids.  But teaching had changed.  Now paperwork was piled on top of classwork.  Where before I spent an hour or two planning for the next week, I now had to spend five or six hours.  You were supposed to have long-term plans and short-term plans and had to write extensive day to day lessons plans.  You had to have wonderful looking bulletin boards, not my forte. On top of that was marking and record keeping.  At least at Clark County School District you get a free period to do some of your work.  Yet my weekends and evenings were also taken with preparations and grading.  It is really too much for one human being at modest wages, but the administration was only following the requirements set for them by state and federal government.  I think they did a good job.

I always go overboard however, and that year was no exception.  I bought five used computers with my own money and set them up in the classroom for the students with all kinds of educational software on them.  I had special activity days with tons of hands-on activities which the kids rotated through…they and I loved it. I also got so much training from CCSD it was fantastic.  We learned how to be excellent teachers with the most advanced techniques.  They gave me tons of training on the best reading, math, and science methods.  I took my class to Red Rock Canyon and learned about it’s history and the plants and animals.  (Gorgeous place to hike, by the way.)  I love to learn and to teach.

After that year I became an ECS at Swainston Middle School.  That was my dream job but not at first. There had been renovations the summer before and all computers were off the network as were the switches.  I had to go around and put everything back on the network.  Plus we were switching from an AppleTalk which my very competent predecessor had installed to a  Novell network and I was reluctant to remove his networking.   I think I kept both for quite awhile.

Again CCSD provided great training.  They were very supportive of their ECSs.  We got training on Novell networks and on imaging and on integration of computers into the curriculum.  At first I had to work so many hours a day I contemplated setting up a cot to nap on late at night.  Slowly I got all computers and switches back into place and working.  I had two great teachers in my department who helped a lot.  Some other ECS’s volunteered to help too.

The computer department, myself and the two teachers, really was keen and motivated.  We excelled at what we did.  We ate together and worked together. The administration was amazingly supportive.  The work was overwhelming however, so I started a Tech Team and trained a bunch of interested teachers in technology and then things really got exciting.

The Tech Team was one of the best and most fun things I’ve ever done. I trained teachers in technology and then they helped the teachers in classrooms near them in how to use their computers and how to fix minor problems. Larger or more difficult problems were sent to me. It was so exciting to see teachers start to use technology in their classrooms. The Tech Team teachers were so keen that we put on several professional days for the school and the each of the Tech Team teachers taught a workshop session about the electronic gradebook, powerpoint, Word, computer hardware, and technology integration into different curriculum areas. It was really exciting and fun. All the members of the Tech Team got a shirt and a jacket.

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