While I (Paul Verstraete) was a classroom teacher, I took a class on database development. It was an introductory SQL class that introduced me to how data can be stored, retrieved, and manipulated. I like learning new things, and it was part of a certificate in Internet Application Development. It was like a religious experience. I never saw the world the same way again. Everything was data and data could be used to make better decisions.
As a teacher, I wrote my own classroom management program. I programmed it to record student attendance, absences and days tardy, behavior, both good and bad, and it became my grade book. I used this program to track my students on what I would later learn were their early warning indicators (EWIs). By keeping an eye on these three simple things, attendance, behavior, and course performance, I learned that I could predict who would and would not succeed after they left my 9th grade class.
Now I work for one of the foremost research institutions on EWIs, Johns Hopkins University, and for one of EWIs groundbreaking researchers, Dr. Robert Balfanz. It was while working as a school turnaround facilitator at a middle school in Detroit, that I did what I did as a teacher. I wrote a program to track the students I was working with. I wrote it to make my job easier. It has since become an official product of Johns Hopkins and is being used in more than 20 schools across the country.
To see my full professional portfolio, you can visit my website at EduNerd.org.