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Graduate Q&A with Trezcher Austin-Johnson: School Leadership During Crisis

Trezcher Austin-Johnson TCU

Trezcher Austin-Johnson earned her B.A. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2010. Though TCU Commencement has been delayed from May to August, she will earn her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, part of Cohort VI in the TCU Principal Fellows Program. She is an Assistant Principal Intern at Wedgewood 6th Grade in Fort Worth ISD and answered questions about what it’s like to be a school leader and TCU graduate student during the coronavirus global pandemic.

What has it been like to be a school leader during the coronavirus global pandemic?

“Before spring break, Fort Worth ISD did not have access to our computers or email due to a malware attack. Everyone is dealing with this huge learning curve. Along with the teachers, I’m trying to learn and navigate all the online resources so when teachers ask questions, I have the answers. We’re in new territory, but with my TCU classes I’ve had the opportunity to be in Zoom trainings before. So when we started using Zoom at work, it wasn’t something foreign to me.”

What additional duties have you taken on in your job?

“Before, I only met with one of our departments for daily PLC’s. Now I meet with additional departments. We’ve been asked to sign up for the district’s Meals to Go distribution, so I’ve been helping at Southwest High School twice a week. Everyone is careful. We wear gloves and I’ve been wearing a mask and staying six feet from other workers. I’ve been able to see some of my students, but we’ve learned it’s pretty difficult to take a group selfie from six feet away!

We share information with parents about other resources to get food and supplies. Staying in touch with parents is one of the things I love. Some parents contact me already at least once a week anyway and we are encouraged to contact our students to make sure they have the appropriate technology access and resources. It’s really good to see how the community and the district are coming together to help families with non-academic issues.”

How have your TCU classes and cohort helped you lead in this time?

“Many things we’ve been doing during the cohort helped prepare me for this quarantine. Since our school’s teachers are working from home, there have been more digital meetings, group texts and phone calls. This is the norm with my classmates, so it wasn’t difficult to get accustomed to it with my co-workers. Also, because we are now doing our classes online for TCU, I have an appreciation for what our students are going through. I have a kind of empathy for how they probably feel right now. This experience has taught me to be more flexible and upfront with people. Dr. McGhee is always telling us we don’t have to know all of the answers and she’s right. We’re all learning right now.”

“One of the best things about being in constant communication with my classmates and my co-workers are the times we spend picking each other up and encouraging each other. This isn’t easy for everyone, but it’s nice to know there are people who can be supportive and helpful, even from a distance.”

How are you feeling with commencement ceremonies delayed to August?

“My son is a high school senior and all year we’ve been looking forward to graduating together in May. His graduation will probably take place in July. It’s bittersweet, but at the end of the day, at least we’ll still have the opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments. It’s great because TCU will still be giving the cohort the chance to celebrate each other because we’ve walked down this road together.”

How has this experience changed how you will lead going forward?

“This has forced all of us in education to revisit how we go about our business. Moving forward, I’ll encourage teachers to use Google Classroom and Google Hangouts as much as possible. Those programs replace physical paperwork and give students and teachers the means to stay in communication with each other. This also means I’ll need to provide training opportunities for my teachers to ensure we are all technologically savvy. In some places, what the local schools are doing to get through this quarantine is already their norm. Education is transitioning to a ‘distance learning’ model. I want my teachers to be ready should this become our norm as well.”