My Intown Magazine highlights Fernbank Elementary teacher
For one recently honored DeKalb County School District (DCSD) educator, one of the most important lessons a student can learn is that mistakes are part of the process.
“I don’t want kids to be scared of codes not running or PowerPoint slides not transitioning,” said Christina Heda of Fernbank Elementary. “We troubleshoot together when anyone has a problem.”
Heda, an information technology teacher, was recently named a top teacher in metro Atlanta by My Intown magazine. Heda, who also serves as the school’s professional learning liaison and International Baccalaureate co-coordinator, was one of five teachers selected in the publication’s annual list of top educators.
Heda has been a teacher for just over ten years, starting her career at Fernbank Elementary in 2007. Education, however, was not her initial profession.
“I always wanted to be a teacher since I was a very little girl. However, when I attended college, family expectations led me to the business world, more specifically, accounting,” Heda said. “While I attended my classes and continued an accounting internship, I still served as a volunteer teacher or tutor in various capacities during my free time. These were my happiest moments. When I started working full time, I continued volunteer teaching on the weekends.”
It wasn’t until her second year out of college that Heda decided to make a career change to teaching. After being handed the role of coaching interns at PriceWaterHouseCoopers, a prestigious accounting firm, Heda decided that people, not numbers, were her number one passion.
“I enjoyed this position so much that, at the conclusion of one season, that I made the decision to finally go back and get my Masters in Education,” Heda said.
Heda now teaches such subjects as word processing, typing, internet safety, coding, designing PowerPoint slides, creating digital charts and graphs, graphic arts, working with cloud technology, and working with applications. She enjoys witnessing a genuine excitement from students as they encounter new technology, and remains amazed with how quickly they grasp topics.
“Elementary students are forever curious and in constant awe of the technological world,” Heda said. “If I realize after the introduction to a lesson that they have a pretty decent understanding already, we very easily can take it up a notch and make the project more challenging.”
Heda admits that teaching technology to kindergarteners through fifth grade students comes with its own set of challenges. Beyond the usual frustrations that come with technology, Heda states elementary students are often set back by their own hygiene or lack thereof.
“Students cannot keep their hands out of their noses and ears!” Heda said. “It’s a constant challenge to keep the computer mice, touch screens, keyboards, and headphones booger bump free. We spend a day at the beginning of the year just showing how germs can easily spread on the computer equipment.”
Heda also wishes she could see her students more than once per week.
“I enjoy teaching my students new skills, but seeing me just once a week is challenging for the many students who do not have technology devices at home to practice what they learn,” Heda said. “My students hate coding once we introduce it, but as we work through strategies to use correct, efficient code, they really enjoy it. They want to practice at home, but access to technology is very limited for some of my kids.”
Cyber safety is one of Heda’s top priorities. She dedicates three weeks to internet safety, digital citizenship, and cyber bullying, but still wonders if it’s enough for students to completely absorb.
“I worry about the students who already know how to use technology for the wrong, or maybe not the wisest ways. I worry about their safety and I wonder if they remember or consider any of our warnings when they are online independently,” Heda said. “The news scares me every day. Stories about what students experience online and how parents may not even know what is happening to them worry me. I can’t imagine if my students ever encountered uncomfortable situations and they never told an adult.”
Regardless, Heda continues to make a difference in the lives of her students and her community. According to Stacy Moser, who honored Heda in My Intown, the need to honor Heda is obvious because of the attention given to her teaching subject matter.
“When you talk with teachers who are successful in their classrooms, the same concept comes up again and again. They speak about instilling a sense of confidence and pride in their students—and they’re passionate about the process,” Moser said. “Their strategies and techniques may differ but one common theme emerges: they view students as individuals who may struggle, and even fail at times, but all kids have the potential to achieve great things as long as they sense that their teacher believes in them.”