In the United States, it’s often said that the South moves at a slower pace. The educational technology industry, however, sure does not, and the same goes for Nelann Taylor, New Orleans, Louisiana Spanish teacher and technology facilitator of 14 years.
On paper, the award-winning educator has enough credentials to cover three resumes, but it’s her in-person enthusiasm for teaching and learning that really shows why Nelann is so successful in her classroom and beyond.
Born in California but raised in Washington state, Nelann never considered teaching as a possible profession while she was younger. Her parents’ careers — with her mother as a learning center educator and her father as an electronics engineer — seemingly rubbed off on her, but not until much later down the road.
Before teaching, Nelann attended college at Clark Atlanta University, double majoring in Spanish and Journalism. “I wanted to figure out how I could use my love of language,” Nelann said, and so she worked as an editor for bilingual newspapers, as a bilingual receptionist for an airline, and as a bilingual dispatcher for the sheriff’s office. Working multiple jobs for which she felt overqualified, Nelann was looking for a change, so she took her brother’s advice and moved to New Orleans, where he was located for his service in the Navy.
“Once I got there, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet, so I decided to substitute teach,” Nelann explained. “In the school, it was beautiful because I had Spanish speakers, French speakers, a lot of new students coming in, there was a lot of diversity. One of the students said to me, “We need a Spanish teacher.” Even though I thought it was funny that a student was ‘recruiting me’ for her school, I took her advice and I spoke with the principal. She was overjoyed that I was already connecting with students that way, and that was basically when my career in education began.”
Quizizz spoke with Nelann to learn more about her teaching journey, how she advocates for technology in the classroom, and promotes skills for lifelong learning.
What motivates you to work in education?
I’m motivated by trying to make a difference and an impact in the community. My former principal actually crowned me “The Technology Queen” because I just love to jump in on new tech tools, new anything. If there’s something that I believe is going to impact our learners, whether that’s adult or student learners, I just jump in head first, and I don’t have to know the ins and outs of it yet. And I think the thing that kind of separates me from the rest or maybe allows me to build greater relationships with my students is that we jump in together.
Sometimes with technology, I don’t know what I’m doing, and that’s ok, and I’m ok with saying that, it’s good to be vulnerable, and I allow students to feel the same way. I’ll show them new tools and tell them we’re going to learn this together, and a lot of times, they walk me through it too. I don’t feel like I’m a know-it-all or a guru, because I love learning just like everybody else. With my colleagues and with other students, I want them to have the attitude and the desire to learn together and to help each other. The more you know, the more you grow. That’s what I love about education.
No matter what I’m doing, I want to make sure that wherever I am, it’s not just for me. I’m always excited, and I want to be in a place where people want to grow together, and where we want to utilize tools that are going to propel all of us forward.
What did it mean for you to be named ‘Teacher of the Year’?
In this field, I don’t think we don’t look for immediate validation, but to be able to see that what you did worked, or to be able to see people really attach or hold on to what you give them, and that they take away something from it, that’s really what I enjoy. When I was named Teacher of the Year, I was able to see my hard work, I was able to see all those things come to pass, and it was a beautiful thing.
*Nelann was recognized as West St. John High School’s 2017–2018 Teacher of the Year as well as Region 3’s Secondary Teacher of the Year.
What have been some of the technology turning points in your classroom over the years?
In 2016, I realized that we were a Microsoft district and we were on the rise as far as technology goes, and so I remember going to our IT department and our instructional technology coach and telling them I wanted to learn more. Like I said before, I like to jump in on new things. They directed me to a meeting about how to become Microsoft certified, and then I signed up for the courses where I learned how to do OneNote, among other things, and I brought those new skills back to my school.
One of my students told me, “Ms. Taylor, this is a game-changer!” And I thought, well that’s it! If a student tells me using a digital notebook is a game-changer, I am sold! I was so excited, I just took it, and ran with it even more. Now I’m certified as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, and I represent Cohort 7, which includes Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas.
Being part of something that’s bigger is what I enjoy. I try to tell the students all the time, the world is so much more than just this town. If you can’t find something you want in your school or in your state, there are 50 states, and then, with these technology tools, this is global, it reaches everybody, and they have an opportunity to be a part of that. And I love to be a part of that, too. Through technology, I’ve learned how to do so many new things. I’ve brought those things back to my students, back to my colleagues, and now, all of June and July, I have the opportunity to give presentations, see people, talk, and share. I’m excited, it’s a blessing.
*Nelann is also very active with Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators (LACUE).
How and why do you use Quizizz in your practice?
I learned a while ago that gamification, and making things game-like is what students want. I like to laugh and I like for people to have fun, and I want that in my classroom. I don’t even remember how I found out about Quizizz, but I remember jumping in to use it, and when we did that, it was fun, it was easy, and you could hear the learning happening. There was the buzz of students engaged.
The real-time feedback, the scores, the ranking, Quizizz just offered so much. In my Spanish classes, I use Quizizz for listening quizzes, in-person and asynchronous learning, vocabulary, grammar checks, blended learning station work, small group remediation or enrichment, and so much more. It also helps when I have to substitute for other teacher’s classes because there’s so much in the Quizizz library.
You’ve inspired so many teachers, so who are some educators and EduCreators who inspire you?
- Amanda Sandoval has 25K+ Twitter followers, so it’s no surprise that she has tons of tech tips and more to offer teachers.
- Andy Knueven is a multi-certified digital tech coach who shares ways to make learning innovative and fun.
- Mary Villaume is an English teacher whose content helps educators increase their classroom’s magic and engagement.
If you’d like to nominate someone to be a future Quizizz Featured Educator, DM Quizizz on Twitter.