Experience and Opportunity: Tina Davis and the Practical Applications of Technology
By: Sunnie Dawn Smith
Technology and innovation are inherently creative, and there is no better example of this than in the work of Tina Davis. Davis had previously made her mark in Ada as a photographer who was also heavily involved with the theater community. She never would have dreamed that her path would lead her to be an instructor at Pontotoc Technology Center (PTC). She owned her own photography business, but then a global pandemic happened. Nobody was sitting for portraits or family photos anymore, and, like many, she needed to adjust quickly. She received a call from a friend asking her to apply to teach the Information Technology classes at PTC and, after some careful consideration, she applied. Since that time, she has thrived in the classroom, combining her creative approach and technical skills to working with students.
Davis says, “I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be a teacher.” However, she is just the teacher that these students need. In her classroom she oversees five different majors: Desktop Publisher Graphic Design, Desktop Support Technician, PC Support Technician, Multimedia CADD, and Multimedia Photo and Video. Some of her students are in high school while others are adults. One of the distinctive things about her classroom, though, is that many of the different classes happen at the same time. On one side of the room someone might be studying how to work on computers and on the other side someone might be learning how to edit videos. Other students might be working in the video production studio or the sound booth. This allows for unique collaboration between the different disciplines. The students can help each other think about their problems in different ways and bring a new perspective to help find new solutions.
Davis brings a wealth of outside knowledge to her classroom, though it is far from what one might expect in a typical information technology program. Her own experiences help her have an overarching vision for her programs that include providing her students with opportunities they might not otherwise have. Davis is passionate about this and loves giving her students the chance to apply their skills in a real-world environment. This not only gives them experience but also the confidence to pursue their own dreams, goals, and business ventures.
For instance, if a teacher at PTC has an IT issue, Davis has asked the IT department to let her students try to solve it first. Davis says, “90% of the time they are successful. It is solving the problem, but it is also teaching them how to talk to someone about the problem and figure out what is going on.” She also takes every opportunity she can find to set her students up with internships in the community. Her students are aware of these possibilities, but they also know that she only sends the best, so it is a good motivation for her students to excel in her classes and be the best that they can be.
While these are a few of the opportunities present for the students focusing on the more technical skills, she has also created opportunities for her photo and video students as well. In one example, her students filmed a virtual tour of the Globe Manufacturing facility for a career awareness event called “Manufacturing Day” at PTC. The resulting quality was highly professional and provided her students with an opportunity to demonstrate their skill while supporting other efforts in the community.
One of the projects that Davis is most proud of, though, is a recent video they made for Veterans’ Day. Over the years she had noticed a group of veterans who would gather together regularly at the Aldridge for breakfast. For years, she had thought about asking if she could film them, but she never did. Finally, though, the time was right, and they were very receptive to the idea. She took some of her students and they interviewed the veterans in the Aldridge, where they would always gather. The video was premiered at the PTC Veterans’ Day celebration.
While her classes can help prepare her students to get good jobs after they finish, it can also lead to entrepreneurship. Davis says, “There are tons of mom-and-pop businesses that could pop right out of my classroom. Logos. Graphic design. 3D modeling. People who could start their own IT businesses. They just have to be self-motivated.” Davis’s unique life experiences situate her well to help her students follow their passions for entrepreneurship. As a business owner herself, she can guide and encourage her students. But, also, with the possibility of competitive internships and the way she allows her students to go at their own pace, working ahead if they have the desire, she is teaching her students to have the self-motivation that would be needed in order to start their own ventures in the future.
Tina Davis doesn’t just teach information technology. She acts as a mentor for her students, pushing them to do hard things, and giving them the opportunities to be successful. Whether it is encouraging her students to have real world experience through internships or giving them a chance to be a part of a creative project, Davis is ultimately teaching her students how to use the practical applications of the technology they learn in her classes. Through opening their minds to the multiple uses of their digital skilling, Davis’s students are well positioned to think of technology in a creative way and leave her class with plentiful possibilities for the future.
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