At TCEA, it’s fair to say all our members are innovators. We are thrilled that we get to support so many passionate educators on their journey to transforming teaching and learning with technology. And we love hearing the incredible things our members our accomplishing in their schools, districts, and communities. It’s particularly nice to see this hard work recognized as the Texas Association of School Administrators does with their Teacher of the Year awards. This year, not one but two TCEA members were nominated as finalists: Gary Strickland, a science teacher at Coleman High School in Coleman ISD and Tara Bordeaux, who teachers media arts at Lanier High School in Austin ISD.

We’re very excited to spread the exciting news that Tara Bordeaux was announced today as the 2018 Teacher of the Year! She will also represent the state as Texas Teacher of the Year in the National Teacher of the Year competition. I had a chance last week to ask Tara a few questions to learn a little about her background and her teaching philosophy, so I can share with you why she is such an exceptional educator.

A Less Traveled Path to Education

Teacher of the YearTara didn’t immediately start her career in education. Prior to beginning to teach media arts at Lanier in 2013, she spent 10 years working in television and film production in Los Angeles. When I asked Tara how she found the transition, she said it was definitely a change that “took a while to get used to.” In fact, five years later, Tara is still happily getting her bearings and enjoying the fact that teaching is a profession in which the learning never stops. As Tara describes: “Teaching is completely different. I had a lot more freedom in media production, and there are way more restrictions in teaching. Both fields are extremely rewarding, and require hard work, but they are very different environments.”

One asset of her previous work experience is that she can still use her industry know-how and connections to help her students. She has continued to work in the industry and stay up to date on current trends and changes. As she said, this “enables me to give my students real-world industry experiences.” Providing knowledge and connections outside of the book is just another way Tara is able to break down the walls of her classroom and create new opportunities for students.

Using Technology in the Classroom

Like most TCEA members, Tara embraces the use of technology every day in the classroom. As Tara describes: “From computers to cameras, phones, iPads, software, apps, you name it. I value the importance of technology, and I try to instill a love and respect for tech in my students as well. The most challenging aspect of teaching a technology-based class is trying to choose what type of tech to use with all of the amazing options out there.” And she doesn’t just use technology that is focused on media production and the content she teaches in class. She wants to help create a well-rounded digital literacy in her students. As she explains, in her classroom she is always looking for “new ways to present tech resources and material to students so they can continue to use them successfully in life after they leave my program.”

As for the tools she is most excited about? Tara is thrilled by options available in mobile filmmaking and “DIY affordable ways for students to make broadcast-quality content right in the palm of their hands.” She enjoys seeing students get invested in the tools and projects that they can create on their own. “There are so many innovative ways to create content, and what excites me is the power of the camera on the latest smartphones and iPads. Students become really excited as well when they learn just how many things they can do on their own devices.”

A Lifetime of Learning

Tara doesn’t just teach her students, but she is continually amazed at all that she can learn from them. “I also love learning from my students. Sometimes, I think I learn way more from them then they learn from me. They keep me on my feet, and I love that they aren’t afraid to call me out on my mistakes.” She goes on to say: “My favorite thing about teaching is having fun with my students. I love being able to teach a class that is not only innovative, but creative, and one that allows me to let students run with technology.”

In her interview with TASA, Tara spoke about her own past and how it inspires her teaching philosophy today: “I know first hand how hard life can be on a young heart, and I know how easy it is to give up. I know, because I did, and I dropped out of high school,” she said. “My hope is that as a teacher, I can inspire my students to persevere, and succeed in ways I never could. I believe that every student deserves the opportunity to learn from teachers who truly care about the impact they are making in a child’s life. I chose to become a teacher because I wanted to give students the chance to chase their dreams and learn how to believe in themselves, even if the world gives them reasons to stop believing.”

We want to congratulate Tara Bordeaux on the incredible honor of being TASA’s 2018 Secondary Teacher of the Year! We know this is only the beginning, and she has many other honors and accomplishments still to come. You can follow her on Twitter to see what other amazing things she is doing.