July/August 2021 Issue
June 14, 2021

TAs step up to provide tech help

Source: NYSUT United
Caption: North Syracuse Tech TA Annette Stein manages nearly 2,000 pieces of equipment and provides educational support for staff and students at the Roxboro elementary and middle school campus. Photo by Phil Cleary.

When computers crash, systems fail, or teachers, parents and students need a fast answer, who you gonna call? Tech TAs!

In the North Syracuse School District, a cadre of certified teaching assistants stepped up and took on a major role when schools suddenly shifted to remote learning. All were classroom TAs providing direct student support before becoming Tech TAs.

“They learned on the job and literally became a lifeline for teachers, families and students during the pandemic,” said Mindy Bristol, president of the teaching assistants unit of the North Syracuse Education Association. “Prior to COVID, members in this job title were primarily focused on hardware maintenance and supervision of computer labs, but all that’s changed in the last year. From remote-only to hybrid and everything in between, managing the technology for learning has become an ongoing challenge for all districts.”

When the pandemic suddenly shut down schools last spring, the NSEA Tech TAs helped manage thousands of Chromebooks, getting them into kids’ hands for learning at home.

They provided live support to troubleshoot issues, even helping some families figure out how to connect with their WiFi. They also helped install and maintain classroom teacher stations including computers, video streaming, smart boards, printers and software applications for approximately 850 teachers.

“They move quickly and quietly solving problems before they become major issues,” Bristol said. “They have become tremendous community ambassadors who add greatly to the reputation of our schools.”

As schools move forward to full-time in-person learning, the Tech TAs will continue managing the technology on a building-by-building basis.