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Making the (Edu)Magic Happen

I am Dr. Samantha (Sam) Fecich, an Assistant Professor at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.

  • Volume: 1
  • Issue: 3
Samantha Fecich | @sfecich
March 11,  2020
InterACT Online

I am Dr. Samantha (Sam) Fecich, an Assistant Professor at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania. I teach courses related to educational technology and special education. In my work in the Technology of Instruction course, preservice teachers take a deep dive into the Danielson Framework for Teaching and infuse technology into each domain. Students work closely with a virtual cooperating teacher (a teacher from around the world in their major area) to create technology tools for use in their classroom – giving meaning to their work. By the end of the course, students leave with a digital portfolio and professional digital presence through Twitter. My passion in life is teaching preservice teachers and professionals about special education and educational technology. I take great pride in leading our next cohort of special education teachers to learn, grow, and thrive in their future careers.

Prior to teaching at Grove City College I earned a Ph.D in learning design and technology from Penn State University. I also received a Master’s degree in special education and instructional technology, also from Penn State University. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in special education and elementary education from California University of Pennsylvania. Pursuing higher education wasn’t always easy. In the summer of 2009, I had just completed my instructional technology online certification. I was so excited to have this certification and to really flex my muscles as an instructional technology coach at my school. I loved learning, and I still do! I wanted to keep growing and learning so I took a huge step: I applied for my Ph.D in special education. I sent in my application feeling all the feels. I waited for what seemed like forever to receive a response. Then one day, it came. I remember that day, sitting in my kitchen and I was so nervous opening that letter. I was rejected. I didn’t get in. I was in disbelief and shock. Surely, something had to be wrong.

Reaching out and building a professional learning network (PLN) provides resources, tools, encouragement, and support for future teachers.

I started to doubt everything – I thought to myself, I am not good enough, I couldn’t get in, I couldn’t hack it. It wasn’t meant to be. I will never teach future teachers about the joys of working with students with special needs. I felt embarrassed, dumb, and naive that I put myself out there, just to get rejected.  So I did the most logical step and I called my parents. I expected them to say things like, “Oh, it’s ok. Try again next year.” Or “Why don’t you apply to another school, honey?” But they didn’t. Instead, my dad said, “Sammie, this isn’t new. You’ve been knocked down before. You got up. Get up, rub some dirt on it, and dust yourself off.” My mom was a bit more tactful, but you know what? They were right!

I started to reflect; what did I enjoy about special education? Well, I liked seeing the students in the multiple disability class touch their picture on the SMART board and watch a clip of their favorite show. I liked working with the students in the learning support room, using a backchannel to ask and reply to questions during a video. I enjoyed watching the students get brain breaks using Nintendo Wii video games.

As I was thinking about these experiences, they all have one thing in common – huzzah! Educational technology. I loved seeing how it made students excited, engaged, and independent learners. In some cases, it made the impossible, possible. I applied to the Instructional Systems Ph.D program and got in. My research focused on how students with special needs can utilize augmented reality books for vocabulary word acquisition.

The EduMagic Podcast is a show specifically designed for preservice educators that highlights best practices, strategies, tech tools, and more for future teachers to use in their fieldwork, practicum, and student teaching.

Currently, I am a professor, author, and podcast host. Let’s break down each of those areas. First, I am a professor of education at a liberal arts college in western Pennsylvania, USA. I work with future teachers each day in the areas of educational technology and special education. I also have the honor of supervising some of our student teachers. It is a fantastic experience to observe and be a part of a teacher’s story as they are learning and growing to become educators of excellence. To be able to see them grow from freshman year all the way through student teaching – there is nothing like it. I tell the students in my Technology of Instruction class they will leave with tools that they might use in their classrooms. I want them to leave with confidence using technology. Often I have students who come to class saying that they are not very good with technology. Throughout the course, I work with them to try to turn that mindset around.

In fact, I actually had a former student who claimed she was terrible with technology but after the class, she wanted to pursue her instructional technology certification because she saw the benefit of using it and understood that technology is to be used with purpose and meaning. It is not one more thing to add in a lesson or an event. It needs to be added in a way that is going to add to the lesson to engage learners in the content.  But more importantly, I want them to develop a growth mindset and become a lifelong learner. Never stop learning, get out of the classroom, and attend a conference or workshop every now and again, get outside your comfort zone and try something new – you never know what it may lead to!

My love for educational technology and special education started to shine through when I was a teacher in a special education classroom for students with multiple disabilities. One day, I pulled the smartboard out of the closet and used it with my students to do a morning meeting, and from there, I was hooked. I found that technology can really make the impossible possible for students with special needs. I pursued advanced degrees in special education and educational technology ultimately leading me to a Ph.D. in learning, design, and technology. These learning experiences have allowed me to reach and teach students in a new way. Working with future teachers fuels my passion and love for teaching.

I have a new book EduMagic: A Guide for New Teachers, which was co-written by myself and three former students, Hanna Sansom, Katy Gibson, and Hannah Turk.

I am also an author of a book design just for future teachers, EduMagic: A Guide for Preservice Teachers. This book is divided into eight sections showing how future teachers can be educators of excellence during their college careers with a little bit of EduMagic. I was so excited when it came together as an acronym. I believe I was sitting in Starbucks with my husband when it happened. It really was like a light bulb moment. Edumagic stands for:

  • E – Educate and Engage – Working through your coursework with purpose. Don’t just check off the boxes, instead engage with courses, assignments, and projects. Be present in the experience.
  • D – Digital Presence – Keep the professional content positive and public! Keep your personal posts private. Creating teacher accounts on Instagram and Twitter are great places to start. Also, work through creating a digital portfolio to showcase all your edu-awesomeness.  It is YOUR digital presence, and you need to own it. Future teachers need to present themselves is a positive, professional manner using social media that they are comfortable with. Post with confidence and consistency and the followers will come! I encourage you to check out my site and read through my blog to get ideas flowin’.
  • U – Unite your PLN – Reaching out and building a professional learning network (PLN) provides resources, tools, encouragement, and support for future teachers. The teacher communities in these spaces are ready to help and raise up the next generation of educators. I recommend starting with Instagram and Twitter. You can use social media to shine a light on a lesson, strategy, tool, bulletin board, technology tool, classroom decor, classroom arrangement, you get the point. Showcase what you are doing in the classroom; we want to see it. Teachers can balance refining lesson delivery and megapixels by reflection. After reflecting on a lesson, think about and truly ask how could this lesson have gone better? Was there something that didn’t go as smoothly as originally thought? Just make small tweaks to the lesson as you go. Don’t scrap a lesson but refine it, massage it, make it sparkle. Some key reflection questions to ask yourself after every lesson:
    • If I were to repeat this lesson, what would I keep?
    • Did my students meet the objective?
    • Were my instructions clear?
    • Were students engaged?
    • What are some areas in which I can improve upon?
    • How was my pacing/timing?
  • M – Megapixels – These are the sprinkles that you can add to a lesson or learning experience to make it just a little extra. This is not a unit of resolution for a picture, but instead a term my dad uses to refer to sprinkles. Take those ordinary lessons and sprinkle some magical pixie dust on them. For example, make them memorable through episodic learning, take students on a virtual field trip, go beyond the rubric of the assignment, and connect with educators from around the world to get feedback and insights.
  • A – Always Be – This section shows the importance of being grateful. The need to be an advocate for your students, and be grateful, and mindful in your learning and beyond.
  • G – Get Out – One of my favorite chapters to write. Get out of the classroom, meaning go beyond the four walls of your college classroom and invest in yourself professionally. Find professional development that speaks to you as a professional such as edcamps, webinars, and workshops.
  • I – Inconceivable – Technology can make the impossible, possible. By using technology in meaningful and authentic ways, it can create unique learning experiences for students.
  • C – Cooperative Teaching Gone Virtual – Learn how preservice teachers can use the power of a PLN to connect with educators from around the world as a virtual mentorship.

EduMagic is unique in the sense that it was inspired by future teachers. From the title to the cover, a future teacher had a hand in its development. Future teachers share their stories in each of the EduMagic areas. My inspiration for writing this book are all the future teachers out there getting their degrees. You are valued, you have a voice, and you are an educator. If you are looking for a book with tangible advice to showcase how you can be an educator of excellence during your college career, then this is a must-read!

Lastly, I am also the host of the EduMagic Podcast, a show specifically designed for preservice educators. On the show, I share best practices, strategies, tech tools, and more for future teachers to use in their fieldwork, practicum, and student teaching. Guests of the show share their teaching stories, inspirations, and advice for the next generation of educators. This podcast has been a great learning and sharing experience for me. It has influenced my practice and work each day. Give it a listen at and subscribe to it wherever you listen to podcasts.

Taking the time to set up your classroom can help teachers take ownership of the space and also make it inviting for students.

I have a new book hitting the bookshelves near you in November. EduMagic: A Guide for New Teachers which was co-written by myself and three former students, Hannah Sansom, Katy Gibson, and Hannah Turk. It was written to encourage and support the new educator, to show them that they are not alone on this journey. It too is broken down into eight parts, let’s check them out:

  • E – expectations – During this section, we give you a little dose of reality about expectations for yourself, your learners, and your classroom. We begin with a prompt for readers to reflect upon about how college shaped their expectations as a teacher, leader, and learner.
  • D – Dealing with disappointments – Maybe that’s a word you don’t want to think about as you are starting the “honeymoon” phase of a new job. But we want to be real and honest and, like with anything, disappointments will come. This chapter is simply a “survival guide” per se, not something that we intend to intimidate you or cause worry. Throughout this chapter we discuss some pit stops that you may encounter along the journey of your first year of teaching. Remember, these are pit stops; we don’t stay; we just make a quick stop and keep moving forward.
  • U – unstoppable – There will be days in teaching that bring you such tremendous joy that your face will hurt from smiling so much. Days when a child “gets it,” and you can see that lightbulb moment happen. Days where you get a hand-drawn picture, card, or gift for no other reason than just because. This chapter was the most difficult to write and work through and deals with some heavy topics, but we want to be able to share our experiences with you even when they are hard so that you can know that you are not alone.
  • M – Making it work – We’ve done some thoughtful reflection of some hard truths of teaching. There is a lot to think about leading up to and living out that first year: expectations, planning, routines, management, and having a life outside of school. Time to think about all those components of teaching and how they come together. We will do a crash course on making it all work: from classroom management to your own sanity.
  • A – All In This Together – Building Collaboration – Our students come to school with so many needs and goals. It is up to us to work with our colleagues towards the main goal of educating students the best that we can, keeping students at the forefront. Collaboration is key in order to provide the best student-centered education. This can happen through partnerships, co-teachers, administration, and families.
  • G – Getting ready – One of the biggest ideas new teachers look forward to completing is…drum roll please…setting up your OWN classroom! You finally have that set of keys and space to make your own. This section has checklists upon checklists to help you get ready for that first day of school and beyond!
  • I – inspiration – We know that teaching can be hard — no one said it would be easy. It has been a long road to even get to your own classroom, and now it’s not exactly a walk in the park either. But keeping your inspiration, your “why” in the front of your mind will help you get through the days that feel long. Inspiration is like a fountain; while you are there and you are drinking from it, it seems like you will never be thirsty again! We share ways to inspire yourself, inspiring students, and drawing inspiration from others.
  • C – Check yo’self – We leave you with a few more tips, specifically on how to be the best possible version of yourself. Living and learning the teaching experience is very rewarding, but will also sometimes come with unfilled expectations, disappointments, and a long to-do list. Friends, those are all part of life.

This book is laid out differently than EduMagic: A Guide for Preservice Teachers as it has spaces to reflect and journal. But there are some similarities between the two books as they both share real accounts and stories from first-year teachers in their own words. They share advice and tangible tips and resources that you can get your hands on right away and implement them into your classroom today. In addition, throughout the book, we have little sections for making the magic happen, where we share a quick tip for each section of EduMagic.

There you have it! I hope that this article inspired, encouraged, and supported you. Teachers, you got this; you have the EduMagic in you!

Hi! I am Dr. Sam Fecich, I am a professor of education at Grove City College. I work with future teachers in areas related to special education and educational technology. I am also the author of EduMAgic: A Guide for Preservice Teachers and a podcast designed just for future teachers, called EduMagic. I am a huge fan of pumpkin spice lattes (PSL) and binging Netflix shows like The Office. I look forward to connecting with you!


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