Teacher to Innovator

Julie Hembree

by | 05.16.17

Julie Hembree is a teacher librarian and Skype Master Teacher in Seattle, WA. Julie can be found on Twitter at @mrs_hembree.

In my 28 years as an educator, I’ve taught just about every grade there is to teach! But 12 years ago, I made my way into my dream job: teacher librarian. I’ve always loved how opening a book opens the world, and it just seems right that I landed here, in a place where I can help bring the world to my students, too.

I’m a Skype Master Teacher, and I absolutely love using Skype in the classroom. My 600 students and I have done everything from connecting with other classrooms around the world to going on far-away virtual field trips. We’ve laughed with other students in Nigeria and learned from an explorer in the Arctic.

We connected with one of my students’ favorite authors on Skype, and he shared a view into his writing experience that ended up being really meaningful to them. Because of their conversation, the students knew this author was struggling to name a character in his next book – and when that book came out, the students could barely wait to read it to see what name he chose. That kind of engagement and excitement around reading was truly magical to see.

The most common concern I hear from teachers is not having enough devices or a big enough budget, which is why I encourage you to give Skype a try in your classroom. It’s totally free, and all it takes is a device with a camera and a willingness to reach out. Sometimes forming those connections is intimidating, but my advice? Start small. Use the Teacher2Teacher community or your social media connections to reach out to a teacher you’ve interacted with already. Then, before you know it, you’ll be Skyping with teachers you’ve never met, tweeting at your students’ favorite authors to set up a Skype chat or even connecting with experts in space travel, medicine or robotics – whatever your students are excited about!

Exploring the world around us – a world so much bigger than us, but so full of people who really aren’t that different from us – is so important for students to be empathetic, empowered, critical thinkers. And as an educator, that’s everything I’d want them to be.

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