Educator Spotlight: Meet Natasha Rachell
Tech coach in Atlanta motivates learning community to achieve more
This story is part of a series that celebrates Teacher Appreciation Month. Each day, we will introduce to you an outstanding educator within the Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.
Nearly two decades ago, Natasha Rachell walked into a high school just down the street from her house as a substitute teacher.
She lasted maybe two weeks before she ended up in the principal’s office.
“They had a full-time science teacher position open up, so yeah, I applied for the job,” says Natasha, who actually had no intention of working in education but also used to play school with her stuffed animals as a child and would check out books to herself out of a makeshift library in the garage.
She was destined to be a teacher before she even knew it herself.
“At the end of the interview, the principal said to me, and I’ll never forget it, ‘I see something in you. I’m going to take a chance on you. You’re going to make me proud, and you’re going to be my star baby.’ She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and had it not been for her, none of this would have ever happened.”
Today, Natasha races tirelessly around the Atlanta Public School system, supporting teachers, advocating for kids and rising up district after district to do more.
As a digital learning specialist, she introduces technology into classrooms in a way that makes it impossible for anyone to say no. She advocates with hope in her eyes and fervor in her heart, and how fortunate for all of us that one day long ago, a principal saw a teacher amid the students, too.
“She pushed me and always put me in front of the right people and the right places to learn,” Natasha says. “Now, every time I think I know what I want to do, the universe surprises me and pushes me to do more and learn more and become more, so I’m going to keep going.”
Helping to Enhance the Classroom
Natasha continued to teach high school science for many years. She developed a warm rapport with her students that sustains in many ways today.
“I loved the relationships with my kids,” she says. “I would get them as freshman babies and then watch them mature and grow and become seniors. I’ve now been to many weddings and baby showers! Those relationships are priceless to me.”
Because she actually studied pre-med in college, she had to alternatively finish her teaching certification before then choosing to complete a master’s and doctoral program as well. She officially became Dr. Natasha Rachell as of this week.
“It’s been learning nonstop and teaching nonstop,” Natasha says, “but it’s been, by far, the best job ever.”
NATASHA WITH HER HUSBAND, MELVIN, AND TWO SONS, ELIJAH AND JACOB.
In 2010, she left the classroom for professional learning, where she continues to advocate in the instructional technology space today. She pops into classrooms around the city, helping to teach a lesson here or there and eager to show schools the latest tech to try.
“I’m always looking for the right tools that will enhance what the teachers are already doing, not overwhelm them,” she says. “But I also don’t want teachers to be scared to try new things, and I don’t want them to settle!”
Natasha admits she used to be apprehensive, too. She remembers when the big TV on the big cart in the corner was sufficient tech for the day.
NATASHA PRESENTED LAST YEAR AT FLIPGRID LIVE.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF NATASHA RACHELL.
“Being the new teacher, I just wanted to make it through the day, make it through the month, make it through the year,” she says. “Now, I’m the one pushing to teachers all this awesome technology. I’m not just getting through the day anymore. I’m looking ahead five, 10 years from now – what’s going to be out there? It’s so exciting to think about!”
With that same type of joy and energy, Natasha was one of the very first to discover Flipgrid in 2013. She remembers writing a blog post to her teachers, sending out her first grid to say ever so coolly like she does, “Just try it out! See what you think!”
As a teacher, as a technology coach, a presenter on global stages and now most recently a published author, Natasha continues to be that same kind of effervescent cheerleader every single day.
It seems she’s the principal in the interview now, looking to each of us, seeing something perhaps we don’t.
With educators like her by our side, we will.
“I want to encourage teachers to step outside of the four walls of their classroom and be introduced to new things, to go above and beyond and open up their world a little bit – and not just for themselves, but for their kids. We’re preparing them for their future, not ours, so we really need to find a way to give them access to everything we can! And I could not be more grateful or appreciative to help.”