Trey Wright talks with Eddins Elementary first-graders Owen Bucl (left), Shiloh Wetwiski (middle) and Aria Alleman (right) who are playing an Osmo coding game on iPads in Carrie Nyland's class.
Trey Wright cares about kids. That’s what it really boils down to.
He’s a gifted leader and collaborator who has made great strides in helping teachers integrate technology into the classrooms of Eddins Elementary where he has served as assistant principal (AP) for the past four years.
And, those strides are moving purposefully and steadfastly in one direction—success for students.
When Wright’s colleagues talk about his passion for technology and his willingness to share ideas, his drive to be a better educator and to help his colleagues succeed, they are speaking of qualities and behaviors that, ultimately, benefit our kids.
So, to those who know him, it’s no surprise that Wright has been chosen as one of three state finalists in the 2016-2017 Texas Computer Educators Association (TCEA) Administrator of the Year program.
According to the TCEA website, the award is presented to a district or campus administrator who recognizes the importance of technology in the teaching and learning process and actively promotes the use of technology on the campus or throughout the district. TCEA will announce the winner on Feb. 7, 2017 at the state conference in Austin.
“Trey has raised the bar for administrators being leaders in technology across the district,” said Suzy Woodard, McKinney ISD assistant superintendent of elementary student support. “Technology is changing things so quickly, and we need to be able to up our game. I would say that Trey has helped our administrators—especially our AP group—to up their game.”
One notable accomplishment in Wright’s game was the implementation of a Coding Club at Eddins last year which now boasts some 51 regular participants and includes high school mentors who drop by each week to help out. Perhaps inspired by Wright’s lead, half the elementary schools in the district have since introduced similar endeavors.
Wright has also helped bring coding to kids as young as Eddins’ kindergarteners through the use of iPads and Osmo education modules. When you walk into a classroom at Eddins, at any given moment, you are likely to find students using a laptop or some other form of technology to collaborate and expand their learning.
“Our kids live in a digital world,” said Wright. “Technology is everywhere. I mean, half of my kids have smartphones. They have tablets at home. So, I think it’s engaging them in something that they’re interested in already. It’s almost as if we’re tricking them into, ‘I want you to learn this…,’ he says with a smile. “And, if I approach it through technology, a lot more of them are willing to do what I want them to do.”
As far as coding is concerned, Wright has worked hard to break down some common misperceptions amongst his students and help them understand the increasingly prominent role of coding in the job market.
“Coding is one of my passions because there are going to be more jobs out there than coders, and so exposing kids to it early will help them have a propensity to go into coding,” said Wright. “And, I think it’s going to be guaranteed employment in any state that they want to live in and any job that they want to do.
“When you talk about coding, kids think, ‘Oh, it’s just a bunch of hackers in the basement of someone’s house,’ he continued. “We’ve brought in some guest speakers to talk about coding and coding careers. One of the dads came in and did a great job explaining that it’s not just a guy by himself in the dark typing away at code. There are a plethora of jobs where coding is just one piece of the puzzle.”
For 4th grader, Logan Schwab, coding was already on his radar, but the Coding Club provided the platform and opportunity for him to really take off with it. “I really like [the Coding Club], and it definitely helps me learn a lot because when I started I could barely do anything, and now I can just spend one hour making something really complicated.”
Logan collaborated with his older brother to create a baseball simulation game that allows users to play a 128 game season. It’s still a work in progress, and there are some coding challenges to sort out, but even as a 4th grader, Logan understands the value of learning these lessons now.
“Well, when [we] grow up, it’s a great career because all of the coders usually end up being really successful in life, and when you just know how to code, it adds a lot of stuff if you’re doing a job interview.”
Eddins Principal Sharon Havard recognizes the crucial influence Wright has had on their students. “When you talk to Trey, you know that he is passionate about teaching kids to think beyond using technology as just another resource, as a show piece for a project,” she said. “It’s really about getting kids to understand that this is a way of life and that there are changes that are happening. Once they get out of school, every career is going to involve technology, so he’s very passionate about coding and getting kids to understand that this is part of their future.”
As much as he loves facilitating learning for the students on his campus, Wright is just as passionate about learning opportunities for himself and his colleagues. “He is an out-of-the-box thinker, and he is so willing to share,” said Woodard.
“He is the kind of person who really wants everybody to get better. So, he is always looking for ways to learn and grow, but also, he just wants to share so that our whole team is stronger. And, I just see that over and over again in what he does and what he’s willing to share,” she said.
Wright recently collaborated with Lawson Early Childhood School Assistant Principals Nancy Alvarez and Heidi Veal to organize an Edcamp conference that brought some 600 teachers together in Plano to share and learn from one another. On a smaller scale, he helped create a district-wide “AP User’s Manual” for assistant principals to trade ideas.
“He spoke at one of our assistant principal meetings earlier this year and shared some information about the Hour of Code and got us all involved in that,” said Woodard. One hundred percent of MISD schools participated in the event.
With his involvement in all of these areas, awards and accolades aren’t really on Wright’s radar.
“It’s crazy to think that, out of all the state of Texas that they would pick me as one of the three,” he said. “When I got the phone call that I was a finalist, it was almost like, ‘Who is this? I need a call back number to make sure. Who’s pranking me?’ But, it’s really cool to think that what we’re doing here is worthy of such an honor.”
An honor indeed. And, whether or not, in the final tally, Wright is chosen to bear the title of TCEA Administrator of the Year, it seems clear that the real winners in this are the students of Eddins Elementary.