BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
With more and more advancements in technology, education is continually changing. Changes are made to help better engage students, but new technology can be used for more than student participation. Is it possible to mix new and innovative technology to bolster student education, while also serving the community? Emily Huckabey, EAST Facilitator at Cossatot River High School [CRHS] certainly thinks so, and she is engaging students with new technology, while encouraging students to make a difference in the community.
Emily grew up in Tulsa Okla. and graduated from Broken Arrow. After high school, she attended Missouri State in Springfield, where she earned her degree in Instrumental and Vocal Music.
Emily worked as a choir and band director for almost seven years in a couple of high schools before she and her husband moved to New York so that he could pursue his Master’s degree. “We moved to New York so my husband could attend NYU, where he had a scholarship. We packed two suitcases a piece and a one way ticket,” says Emily thinking back on the move. After her husband finished his degree, the couple both worked at Redwater High School in Texas before moving back to the area. Now, the couple both work at the Cossatot River School District. “It was a great move for us and our family. We wanted our daughter Cecilia to be a in a place that we would have community support.”
Upon moving to the area and starting at Cossatot River, Emily was named the EAST Facilitator. She was very excited about the opportunity to work with students in a new capacity, but also nervous because she had no previous experience with EAST. “I didn’t have any previous experience with EAST so I started doing research. EAST sounded really innovative and I felt like it would be something I would enjoy so I said ‘yes’,” recalls Emily. Three years after taking the position, not only is Emily enjoy the position, but the EAST program is growing leaps and bounds under her leadership.
Over the last year alone, Emily has guided the students in EAST at Cossatot River to exciting opportunities, including their most recent partnership with the Old State House Museum. While she is the EAST facilitator at Cossatot, Emily would quickly point out she is just that…a facilitator, “that’s what I love about EAST, I am a facilitator, meaning I help ‘guide’ students and give them guard rails so that they can succeed. So much of what is happening is because we have awesome students,” Emily says proudly.
The EAST initiative is a “non-profit supporting student-driven community service using teamwork and the latest in technology.” This is the driving principle behind EAST and this is what Emily loves about facilitating opportunities for students, “The basis of EAST is solving problems and this goes beyond bookwork to teaching them skills that will help in the real world. I really believe that our students are learning skills that will make a difference.”
Recently, the EAST students have been working with the Old State House Museum to print and replicate artifacts and busts to be used at the museum, an opportunity that Emily is extremely excited about, “The students that are involved with this project are learning how to use cutting edge technology and they get to be a part of an awesome project that will benefit countless people,” explains Emily.
While Emily gives a lot of recognition to her EAST students, and rightly so, anyone around Emily recognizes her enthusiasm for learning and teaching her students. “I love being where I am and doing what I am doing. I love the ‘aha’ moments when the light goes on and a student finally grasps the concept they have been wrestling with… that moment is so rewarding for me,” Emily says with a smile.
In the EAST classroom there is a little more flexibility with curriculum than there may be in other classes, which allows for Emily to teach kids in a variety of dynamic ways. One of the opportunities she uses for teaching are team building exercises for students. “This is a great way for our students to get to know each other. Many of the students may spend a whole semester working on a project with another and so it allows for them to get to know each other better, but it also can provide a break from the stressful moments.”
EAST provides not only opportunities for students to thrive, but is specifically designed to help the community thrive as well. “At its very core, EAST is designed to help communities solve problems through innovative technology. I love this… may be more than anything… that we have the opportunity to solve real problems that affect so many people.” There are many projects that are worth the time and effort of the students and Emily, but they try to focus on more sophisticated projects. “When I say ‘sophisticated,’ I mean projects that help solve tangible problems in the community.” This past year alone, students in EAST have helped designed a model for a new Wickes Elementary School playground, begin a partnership with Old State House Museum, and a few students partnered with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to roll out a potential emergency management app.
People have always said, “Do what you love and you will never ‘work’ another day in your life. Emily Huckaby loves her EAST students and Cossatot River High School family, making each day a new opportunity to serve the community. “Our staff and community are so supportive of what we are doing and I am thankful.”