Educator Spotlight: Andi McNair
Digital innovation specialist advocates for passion-based learning in Texas
This story is part of a weekly series that celebrates outstanding teachers in our Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.
Years ago, on a bright and sunny school day in good ol’ Waco, Texas, a fourth-grade student approached her teacher, the warm and enchanting Mrs. Andi McNair.
The student was writing a book about dolphins and pollution in the ocean, and she wanted to call SeaWorld.
Now, Andi was on a personal adventure at the time, literally in the middle of her own ocean converting her comforting and traditional elementary classroom into a new, innovative space of student-driven learning – a liberating environment with fewer worksheets and more projects, less reciting and more doing. More experience and opportunity. Just more.
So, of course, she had to say yes.
“Everything in me as a traditional teacher was like, ‘Yeah, she can’t really think about SeaWorld, that is just not going to work,’ ” says Andi, who taught elementary for over 15 years. “Instead, I found a random email address on the internet, emailed SeaWorld over my lunch hour, and they emailed me back. Two weeks later, that student was sitting in front of an old, junky teacher computer with a $20 webcam, and SeaWorld called us.”
Andi says they took their iPad out to the Dolphin Cove and not only answered any questions her student had but also had the dolphins do whatever they needed to do to answer her questions and make her smile. Not only did her student lean in and watch that day with complete joy and awe, Andi felt conviction in the meaningful classroom she was creating. And she hasn’t looked back since.
“I was a super traditional teacher for a really long time,” says Andi, who works as a digital innovation specialist for teachers in her district today. “My kids got good test scores, I had good relationships with them, and I played the game really well. But then one day, I looked out at the class, and they either had their heads down on their desk or they were talking to their neighbor. They had a compliant look in their eyes, and I decided right then and there I didn’t want to play the game anymore.
“I look back on those days and realize that, for me, if I were still in that place, I would have missed so many opportunities to see my learners for who they wanted to be. They used to just come in, sit down and play my game. Now, they drive the learning, and that has changed my mindset and absolutely everything for me.”