Every so often, we feature Easelly users whose infographic creation or advocacy caught our eye on social media.
We’re starting 2019 by putting the spotlight on Kristofer Orre, a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for the Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District. As a native Californian living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Kristofer’s currently on his eleventh year as an educator.
Let’s get to know him more and learn how one tiny cool thing can have a transformative impact on teachers and students alike!
Tell us about your background, Kristofer.
I majored in Ecology and Evolution and earned an MA in Education. Both were with UC Santa Cruz.
For five years I was at Gilroy High School in Gilroy CA, and for the last five years, I taught at Saratoga High School in Saratoga CA. I’ve taught Biology, AP Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, and even started a biotech career pathway at my previous school.
Currently, I’m in a new role as a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for my district. I now serve as an instructional coach for our two schools: Los Gatos and Saratoga High Schools.
What’s your typical day like as a TOSA educator?
My typical day is varied and different from the last. It’s a mix of one-on-one support for teachers, observations in classes, various meetings, and creating and organizing professional development for our teachers.
Tell us about the rewards and challenges of such role.
The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to help teachers become better teachers. I get to help them with what they need/want help with, and that ultimately helps them provide a better education for their students.
I became a teacher because I felt it was the one way I could make the most significant impact on the world. Now that I’m helping colleagues who are doing the same, I feel like my impact can be amplified.
The challenges have been learning to balance the immediate needs of staff and the school while creating a vision and systems in place for professional development. Our teachers are incredibly busy and work really hard.
While they may want to learn new instructional strategies and push their practice forward, there’s only so much time to learn and try new things. Inevitably, teachers end up devoting much of the personal time outside of work hours, and that’s hard to get buy-in.
I’ve been working on the creation of a model of professional development for our district called 1CoolThing.
Tell us more about it!
The inspiration behind #1Coolthing is based on the idea that we’ve all had those AHA! moments when we see something cool, decide to try it, and it ends up becoming transformative in our practice.
I’m trying to showcase as many cool things as possible, in bite-sized pieces, that appeal to the broadest audience, and I hope that these can spark more transformative AHA moments. These can be tech tools, instructional practices, social, emotional practices, and more.
I’m trying to differentiate the way I get this information to our staff through a mix of short videos I put on my YouTube channel, periodic emails to staff, mini sessions before/after school or at lunchtime, blog posts, sharing practices I see in the classroom on Twitter with the hashtag #1CoolThing, and a monthly newsletter.
You mentioned that you use infographics in newsletters. Do you have examples?
To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with newsletters. They are a lot of work to make, typically filled with lots of writing, and most people delete them before they even open the document. If I was going to do a newsletter, I wanted it to be innovative. I wanted it to be visually appealing, tell a story or organize information quickly, and be interactive.
Easelly was the only service I found where I could have hyperlinks built in that the user could click on. This made it much like a hyperdoc that many educators use, and in so doing I could make the infographic full of great content yet more engaging for the reader. I also like that you can download it as an image, embed on a website, and share easily.
I’m calling our newsletter as the Innovation Newsletter because I want readers to think about what it means to be innovative in their practice, learn tools and strategies that can make them more innovative, and thus provide a better education for our students. I’ve already gotten a lot of great feedback on this new approach.
Here’s our first infographic newsletter using Easelly:
I’m finishing up my second one now, it just needs a couple more links, but it’s pretty much done. This one is all about being innovative by focusing on strategies that foster a student-centered, rather than teacher-centered, classroom.
The tools and strategies linked throughout are organized into three categories: student discussion, content delivery, and check for understanding. It also features teacher shout-outs for those who are demonstrating a practice of being innovative.
I also want to recognize my colleague and part-time TOSA, Stephanie Rothstein, who has been contributing some great content to the newsletter and is an awesome thought partner through all of this.
What lead you to use Easelly? Did you take some infographic courses?
Several years ago, I started a project in my biology class where I would have students create an infographic that showcased the main concepts of our unit on genetics.
I let them choose between a variety of websites, and Easelly was one of them. It was a fun project and a good practice for my students.
Because an infographic requires you to distill content down to the most essential, and balance the text and graphics, it’s an effective method of pushing students to think deeper and apply their knowledge, rather than regurgitate what they were learning.
I’ve always thought infographics were cool. I’ve never taken a course on how to create them, and I don’t consider myself very good at graphic design. Instead, I’ve just searched online and found various websites that have templates for making them. The templates make anyone feel like they can create great-looking infographics.
Apart from teaching and your One Cool Thing project, what are your other hobbies and creative pursuits?
My family is a big part of who I am, and I spend a lot of time doing things with them. My wife and 2 (soon to be 3) daughters are everything to me.
On a personal level, I love being outside. Anything that gets me out makes me happy such as camping, hiking, mountain biking, and disc golf. I also like to do woodworking, and that’s my real creative outlet. I have a small wood shop that includes a wood lathe, and I enjoy turning little projects such as bowls, wine stoppers, lamps, and other fun things.
Having time to tinker and create in my shop relaxes me and helps me feel balanced. I don’t often get a lot of time to do it, but I value it when I get it.
Kristofer showcases a variety of instructional strategies and EdTech tools that educators can use in his blog. You can also hop over to his 1CoolThing channel on YouTube. We’d like to thank Kristofer for allowing us to share his Easelly story.
If you’d like to give Easelly a try in making newsletters like Kristofer, get started now.
Finally, if you have an Easelly story to share, we’re all eyes and ears. Comment below or send us an email at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing your story!