Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Introducing the Help Desk Staff

Hi, dear readers! Thanks for stopping by the WIDA Blog. I’m Michelle and what’s on tap for this and some future blog entries is an introduction to the Help Desk at WIDA. The Help Desk addresses your concerns and questions, provides you with log in information, and talks you through testing procedures. If you’ve never contacted us, you’re missing out—we’re awesome!  A common misconception we hear is that we’re housed in a giant corporate office full of cubicles with dozens of people (picture the AT&T call center), but we’re really just six people who
share computers and phone lines in a sunny little room on the 12th floor of a 1970-style office building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When we’re not helping you, we work on projects, read up on new things from the website, and have snacks. It’s a pretty laid back environment. Even when you’re stressed, we try to keep our cool.

My role at the Help Desk is to supervise our great staff of graduate and undergraduate students: Sarah, Chelsy, Samantha, David and Elyse, who are here to help you.  Most of us are really invested in education; Sarah and I are both graduate students in the UW-Madison School of Education. She’s working on her masters and I’m about to take my qualifying exams for my Ph.D. The others are undergrads who are each invested in education, in their own way, be it just enough to graduate or pursue a career that will for some involve them working with schools and families. You’ll get to read all about them in their own vignettes.
Before moving to Madison to pursue a doctorate degree, I was a classroom teacher and department chair at a small school in Texas. I love teaching and desperately miss the classroom environment, and have seen many examples of testing used negatively, instead of focusing on the growth and learning that has taken place. What I love about WIDA is that the mission and goals along with the Can Do philosophy of WIDA are all so positive. The ACCESS for ELLs assessment is different—yes, there’s the responsibility of the teacher to do all that they can to support a student, to help guide them toward academic success, but there’s also the understanding that students, all students, can learn, perform, master, and be successful. I am all for assessing students along a continuum, seeing where they need support and where they’ve academically and linguistically knocked our socks off.  As someone who as a child was a language learner in a foreign country, I understand that teaching and learning content and language simultaneously is no small task.  

Studies: PhD in Curriculum Theory and Social Studies Education
From: San Antonio, Texas

WIDA State(s) Most Likely to Visit: I’m most interested in heading to the New England states—I love seafood and the early settlement history of our nation!

Likes: Pirate ships, coffee, chocolate, reading, Star Wars, and baking.
Dislikes: When people assume that I can’t do something because I’m a girl, and mushrooms.

Most Common Question: “Help, I can’t find my log in”. Sometimes it takes us a little while to hunt for it, too. I really love how patient you all are when calling or emailing; we’ve got a lot of information to look through to answer some of your questions and patience makes this a lot easier. 

In the next post, you'll meet the rest of the help desk staff.

Written by: Tammy King

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