Northeast Tarrant

In Keller, students provide teachers with high-tech training

Tenth-grade teacher Teresa Nguyen, left, gets some help setting up her laptop computer from student Christian Shaw at the Keller ISD's Genius Bar.
Tenth-grade teacher Teresa Nguyen, left, gets some help setting up her laptop computer from student Christian Shaw at the Keller ISD's Genius Bar. Special to the Star-Telegram

In a new twist on summer school, a handful of high school students in the Keller district are training their teachers on how to set up and use their laptops.

The nine students, who are incoming juniors or seniors, are working this summer at the “Genius Bar” at the Keller ISD Education Center Annex.

Their students — more than 3,000 teachers, counselors, principals and other staff members — give their instructors passing marks and describe them “very thorough and knowledgeable,” “professional and courteous” and “extremely organized and very helpful.”

“I think it’s great,” said Olivia Moore, a work-based specialist at the new Keller Center for Advanced Learning. “This is what we want to provide for our students. That real world work experience.”

Moore had just completed her 10-minute training session with Kaylin Peters, an incoming senior at Central High School.

Peters showed Moore — a self-described Mac user — how to set up her new Dell PC, including accessing email, establishing a printer connection and showing her where to find tutorials on the Windows 10 operating system.

The students take appointments from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Teachers trading in their old laptops for new ones get 10-minute sessions, and new hires get 30 minutes so they can become familiar with the district’s software and processes.

Hiring students to provide one-on-one training came out of brainstorming sessions between Vicki Arrington, coordinator of professional development and mentoring services, and Shelley Shaw, learning coach.

Arrington and Shaw reviewed feedback on technical training from newly hired teachers in 2014 and noted that the teachers did not like sitting in big groups for their instruction. That’s when they came up with the idea for students to provide individual training.

Last summer they hired four students for the Genius Bar.

“We jumped a lot in customer satisfaction,” Arrington said. “They really liked getting the one-on-one help.”

This year — all instructional staffers received new laptops this year — the number was expanded to nine.

About 100 students applied

When Arrington and Shaw advertised the job opportunity on campuses, they got about 100 student applicants.

They conducted group interviews with 40, then narrowed it to 15. Arrington and Shaw checked with the students’ teachers to find out if the applicants were friendly and responsible and had more thorough interviews before choosing nine. They are paid $10.25 an hour.

They also hired a “lead genius,” Taylor Shaw, a 2015 Central graduate who attends Texas A&M University, to greet customers, manage schedules and track survey metrics.

A training room in the annex was furnished with tables, bar stools and a booth-style seating area.

This summer, the student/teachers have trained about 1,200 employees.

Each person is asked to complete a customer satisfaction survey after the visit, and about half have submitted responses. Arrington and Shaw track results on whiteboards in the office area behind the Genius Bar, and the students meet at the end of each day to discuss the survey results and any issues that arise.

This month, they found they were getting bogged down because some teachers arrived too early for appointments while others were late. Arrington said students came up with the idea of giving out raffle tickets to those who arrived within three minutes of their assigned time. Technology department officials will draw winners and hand out prizes at the back-to-school convocation.

‘Kids have a lot to offer’

Besides earning a paycheck, the student/teachers say they are learning valuable lessons.

“I’ve definitely gained communication skills,” said Landry Hart, an incoming senior at New Direction High School.

Peters said: “Even though I don’t plan on working with computers, I find I do enjoy working with people. I’m very thankful for that opportunity.”

Shaw said that when teachers come in for appointments some are a bit wary. “They say, ‘Wait, a kid’s going to help me?’ 

By the end of the process, they are impressed and amazed. Most are thrilled to get such great service from students.

“Our kids have a lot to offer back,” Shaw said. “Seeing how professional the kids are and how they rise to the occasion has been great.”

District officials are looking into expanding the Genius Bar to Central and Keller high schools next year.

Teachers and students could visit with the resident student geniuses for tech support, Shaw said.

Sandra J. Engelland: 817-390-7323, @SandraEngelland