What’s your name and in which school and/or district do you work?

Brandi Augenstein, Santa Ana Unified School District

How long have you been working in education and what drove you to your profession?

Officially or Unofficially? Unofficially I started working in education when I was about 14, yes I understand child labor laws, but it was an experience that started my career in schools. My best friend’s mom was an elementary school principal and we’d go to work with every day during the summer to help around the school, play with the kids during recess, help in classrooms during the day, hang bulletin board paper for teachers, and  tutor and coach after school. We worked for clothing and other little things teenagers want and my friends mother paid us out of her own pocket.  When we were old enough to get work permits we worked as recreational aides arranging sports during recess and after school, helping with their environmental education program, and tutoring in the after school program with the YMCA. When I started college I scored a job as a Computer Aided Instructor, a.k.a, “Computer Lab Lady” that saw me through my senior year of college. In grad school I worked for the University of Redlands’s School of Education as a Fieldwork Coordinator placing new teachers into classrooms to gain experience. Education wasn’t my career goal in college. I thought I was going to be an attorney or conduct research in neurology. As soon as I realized that school counseling was my opportunity to use my talents, passion, and skills  to impact the lives of the little people I loved do dearly I embraced my career path in education. Ever heard of “Planned Happenstance?” It pretty much sums up my path to where I am today.

What are the top 5 (or so) apps or digital tools you use on a regular basis (on computer or mobile device) that help with the work you do.

Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides all of it! I work with many different groups within and outside of our school district. Google’s apps allow us to collaborate in real time or for team members to contribute when their schedule permits. By using Google apps I’m able to solicit input and feedback from our groups which in turn creates more buy in for the final product.

Remind – Why – Because I can’t remember to text everyone reminders of our meetings but remind can! I use it for my lead counselor groups. It’s a great way to provide gentle reminders about upcoming events or provide timely information that’s scheduled far in advance.  It’s also great when taking kids on field trips or campus tours. I make them subscribe to the group before getting off the bus. It’s a great way to help circle the wagons and regroup when needed.

Canva – Does this need a why? Canva makes me look like a graphic designer without the need for a Masters in Fine Arts! I use it to create social media content, professional development announcements, web page buttons, email headers, posters, cards- anything you can think of that could come off a printer, be emailed, or appear online Canva has me covered. I typically upload my own images but to use their stock images is only $1 each image!

Mail Chimp – Because no one likes long boring text heavy emails. I use Mail Chimp to create and analyze my newsletters to school counselors and administrators across our district. Using the graphics I create in Canva I limit the amount of pure text blocks to clickable images that subscribers can dive into for additional content should they so choose. I’m able to use the analytics to see how many links were clicked so I know the interest of my audience better and use it to inform my future plans.

 Snag it and Camtasia – A part of my current role is staff development. Snag It allows me to record a software or website demonstration on my desktop and share it with our staff. Camtasia helps make me look good and brand our professional development videos. They’ve been well received by our counselors and administrators- they’re able to watch the snag it/Camtasia videos on demand when its most relevant and convenient for them.

What do you feel is most important in building a positive school culture? 

Teamwork, but I’m sure everyone says that. Everyone has to understand that they have some role to play in building a positive school culture AND value and respect other team members’ contributions. From the front desk staff, to the custodian, to the classroom teacher, school counselor, parent advisory board, principal, and superintendent – everyone does their part. With a data driven common goal and clear communication of responsibilities schools can create wonderful learning environments.

What trend or technology excites you in the realm of education?  Do you think it could have the power to revolutionize education?

I’m kinda geeking out on project management software. Not something heavy duty like MS Project ( way too heavy for what I need) but things like Freecamp and Basecamp. It helps out site teams understand where the rest of their teammates are on a project or process and move more quickly and remain agile. I like taking a page out of the business world and applying it to schools. After all, we are a business and our students, parents, and community are our customers. I think if we want to revolutionize education we need to look outside of our expertise area and into other industries that have proven business practices and integrate them into 21st century teaching and learning. We have a lot to learn from the business and tech industries.

How do you most easily connect with other educators and other professionals?  Do you attend conferences? Go on Twitter or edchats?

Last year we started a county-wide school counselor leadership network that has helped us grow by leaps and bounds. We meet every other month in person and bounce ideas and get resources from each other via email. I’m also a social media junkie. I follow our California School Counselor organization, @MyCASC, our national organization @ASCA, and lots of other influential educational leaders and leaders of Ed Tech on Twitter. Several tweets have resulted in conversation on the phone or in person to learn about a new practice or provide feedback directly to some of our vendors. Twitter is a great way to gain access to people you otherwise might not interact with because of time or location constraints.

I also LOVE conferences. I’m like a little kid going to summer camp when I go to conferences. I’m always looking for familiar faces to catch up with or to make new connections to explore in the years to come.  I’ll spend an entire breakout session catching up with someone or learning about a new school district with a new found friend. Thank goodness for conferences with mixers and networking events!

I’ve presented several times at in-state conferences and I’ve established connections with counselors from across the country- it’ so helpful to learn what another district or state is doing if you’re exploring something new or looking for something fresh to bring into your district. They’re also a great troubleshooting resources and a way to safely bounce ideas off another professional.

Do you have a website or social media profile(s)?  Share with us! 

Twitter – @CounselorOC

Pinterest- https://www.pinterest.com/CounselorOC/

Paperli – http://paper.li/CounselorOC/1461691224#/