Questions and answers with the new director of technology, Jessica Iovinelli

Do you have a positive and negative thing you have about your job ? ( if not it’s fine just tell me two positives ) 

“It was very difficult to make the transition into a new job during COVID, especially one as pivotal as Director of Technology for schools.  One of the hardest parts is that there are a lot of decisions that need to be made that have no precedent or example. In order to make it through those tough decisions, you need a strong support system to help you through. One of the positives of my job is working with and learning from my technology team – Mr. Steve Appelhans, Mr. John Sartoris, Ms. Kelly Zura, Mr. Kyle Deland, Mr. Brian Rivera, Ms. Denise Carr, Mr Joseph Greco, Mr. Ken Zonsius, and Mr. Carlos Lopez. I would not have been able to make the transition so successfully without such a strong team. In technology, it is impossible to know everything, so you have to be able to admit when you need help and help when you are asked. Our District 127 technology team is made up of individuals with different strengths that are willing to help in whatever way they can to make sure the students succeed. They aren’t afraid to challenge ideas (respectfully, of course), provide support, ask for help, and most importantly, give their all for the students.“

What do you tell kids who aspire to be in your position when grown-up ?

“Sometimes, hands-on experiences, mistakes, and curiosity teach you more than studying from a book.  It is important to try new things without fear of failure or the unknown. Remember what it was like to be a child unafraid of anything and continue to try new things, fall and get back up, and find what makes you happy.  My family and friends sometimes poke fun at me for being a goofball, often calling me a ‘big kid who never grew up,’ but that to me is a big compliment. It doesn’t mean I am immature; it means that I can still enjoy the small things and be happy with what I have, dreaming big and knowing that every day is a fresh start. It is what allowed me to live through some pretty dark times and continue to persist instead of give up, to be the first in my extended family to graduate with an undergraduate degree and go on to achieve my doctorate degree, to continue to pave my own path instead of just following what is expected or typical. Be different, be fearless, and be yourself!”

How do you feel about COVID-19 and why? 

“COVID has taken a lot away from us, but has also challenged our thinking, philosophies, and daily lives.  It has caused economic and psychological upheavals that will have effects well past when COVID is over. It has caused fear, anxiety, and uncertainty resulting in people losing jobs, sleep, and health. It has caused complete reliance and even addiction to technology as the only way to communicate. It makes me angry because I did not get to celebrate the publishing of my dissertation, my new job, or my graduation with my doctoral degree with my friends and family. It makes me angry because I cannot spend time with my family and friends celebrating holidays, talking, and being together. But, it has helped me slow down a bit and value the time I can spend with people, reminding me of the importance of time to reflect and become more self-aware. It has forced me to think differently when it comes to how to accomplish tasks, stay healthy, and help others instead of deferring to the same way I have done things in the past. Most importantly, it has taught me the impact a global crisis can have on individuals and society as a whole and what it means to be a leader during that time.”

 What made you choose technology as your job at Grayslake North ?

“My job is the Director of Technology for Grayslake District 127. I chose this work because in an effort to continue to personalize learning experiences and prepare students and adults for the demands of the 21st century, we have to utilize technology as a way to improve student performance, teaching, and learning instead of treating technology as that check in the box one and done now we just maintain it type of effort. We also have to support the transition from using technology to deliver content to using technology to empower learners, and I want to be one of the people helping to drive that. District 127’s Portrait of a Graduate aligns with my philosophy and doing this work as they strive to ‘empower all learners to launch their futures through relevant, engaging, authentic learning’.”

How did you feel knowing we were going to have to do school work at home online? What were your feelings? Why? What’s the biggest challenge of e-learning in our current situation? 

“Remote learning makes it more difficult for many different groups of people for many different reasons. Prior to COVID-19, educators had very little, if any, experience with remote instruction, and given how quickly schools shut down, it didn’t give a lot of time to prepare. Educators are learners by nature, so they are making amazing progress, but it still isn’t perfect and it is harder for most to learn via video than in person. We can all think of our favorite teacher growing up, and that is because of the connection we felt with the teacher, the acceptance, the support. They built relationships not only through class, but by being present at events, saying hello while passing in the hallway, and knowing us in and out of school. That connection and those relationships are hard to convey and build through emails and screens, and I am particularly worried for our freshmen students that are not only new to the idea of high school, but have not met any of our amazing staff in person. It is that connection that no amount of money or advanced technology can replace. That is the true challenge in our current situation.”

When getting a million emails/ questions a day from struggling students maybe due to connection issues, do they stress you out? 

“Though a lot of tickets means there are issues which can be stressful, it also means that students really care about school and about trying to continue to learn. Our technology team works non-stop to help our students, and I know that they will jump in and do everything they can to make sure that students can return to learning. I have complete confidence in our ability as a team. So if I remember that, there is no need to stress.”

What’s the best part of working at GNHS ? Why?

“The best part of working for District 127 is the people and how we get to spend every day collaborating with students, staff, parents, and community members in order to make sure our District 127 students are ready for 21st century society. The 21st century has brought about different learners, ones who are not engaged by simply watching videos or viewing images in class, playing internet learning games, or writing on SMART Boards. These learners demand quick access to knowledge, are born as multitaskers, and are capable of engaging in learning at a whole new level which demands for re-envisioning the role of education as a whole.  To make sure our students are successful and to make the large changes necessary to do so, we have to work together. Everyone wants what is best for our kids and, because of that, people will do whatever is necessary.  Working with such dedicated people provides me with an opportunity to learn and grow as an administrator, educator, and human being.”

Are there new things you learn every day? 

“Many people think that learning for the sake of learning is something only for people in school. I believe that I have not had a productive day unless I have learned or tried something new. It doesn’t have to be major, just something that makes me more confident in myself, that helps me adapt to new situations, that inspires me to think creatively, or that makes me stop and think. You should never stop learning or narrow your definition of learning to something formal as learning is what makes us human and should be a lifelong practice.”

When GNHS students are e-learning and have a problem, what do you want them to know about before coming to you? Why? 

“I want all the students in District 127 to know that our technology team is going to do everything we possibly can to support you and that we will work with you to troubleshoot the issues as quickly as possible to get you back to learning because we all believe that is the most important part of our jobs.”