Introduction: Teacher Spotlight: Not_Tasha

About: Aloha, I'm Jess! Equal parts teacher, dreamer, and maker of things. I'm super passionate about STEM & Maker Education and love all things art and DIY. :D

Featured Author Interviews are back and in full effect as Author Spotlights and Teacher Spotlights!

For this month's Teacher Interview, I had the opportunity to chat with Natasha Rausch, an inspiring High School educator who teaches English, Social Studies, and STEM at The Walden School at The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Natasha, also known as Not_Tasha, has been sharing projects with the Instructables community since 2013. With over 250 published projects, you have probably seen some of her crafty creations, delicious recipes, and cool classroom activities!

After meeting Natasha for an awesome video chat, I sent her some additional interview questions, and her responses are shared below.

Step 1: My Mom’s Classroom Was Bright and Engaging

Images from Dyeing Silk, Catnip Fortune Cookies, and Hand Sewing Hexagons

What inspired you to become a teacher?

Both of my parents are Deaf (like myself) and are Deaf educators. I spent a lot of time at their school and around their classrooms growing up. Watching my parents as I grew up and seeing the work they did to provide high-quality instruction to their students was very inspiring. Much of my classroom setup is a throwback to my mother, who always had walls lined with books and colorful decorations and bulletin boards. My mom’s classroom was bright and engaging, and you always wanted to look at everything to see what she had.

As I got older, I started realizing the importance of having highly qualified educators in the classroom that are also Deaf, like my parents. Deaf students having instructors who share their language (American Sign Language) and who have had experiences similar to theirs makes a huge difference. Whenever it was that I realized I was going to be a teacher, I knew I was going to work in a Deaf school and with Deaf students.

I love to learn and share what I know with others, and I'm passionate about creating experiences for my students that help them discover the talents, skills, and interests they may not have known they had.

Step 2: At One Point Almost All of the Students in My Building Were Walking Around in Instructables T-Shirts

Image from Recycled-Multi-Spool-Rack

How do you inspire inquiry and making in your classroom?

I bring a lot of small tech items (like LEDs, copper tape, etc.) into the classroom, things my students have never seen before, and that usually gets them interested in how things work and what you can do with them. Some students get really into it and move on to bigger things. I brought a 3D printer that I built from a kit into my classroom, and everyone wanted to know how it worked, how I built it myself, and how they can print things. It has really been a game-changer.

Instructables also plays a huge role in my classroom. The majority of prizes I win go straight to my class and students. At one point almost all of the students in my building were walking around in Instructables t-shirts. Showing the students my Instructables and how they can create their own and then enter contests to possibly win prizes has been a huge motivator to get students writing. Instructables provides a great authentic writing opportunity.

What's your favorite hands-on classroom project?

The ones that students either come up with on their own or take from an initial lesson/activity and develop into something completely new or different.

Step 3: “I Can Make That.”

Images from Boho Style Leather Wrap, Space Inspired Glass Pendants, Gluten Free MM Cookies, and Raspberry Pi DIY

When did you first start making things? What kinds of things were you interested in making and doing when you were a child?

Growing up, my mom taught me to cook, bake, and sew. She was always doing crafty things for her classroom as well as for my brother and I. My mom was also always buying me little art kits.

As I got older, I would look at items in stores that I thought were cool and think, “I can make that.” So, I would. I’d get whatever materials I needed to recreate the item in my own way. Usually, I was making jewelry or attempting to make or alter clothes. I didn’t realize that was making until decades later.

Step 4: My Students Needed to Learn About This!

Image from Hedgehog Mani-Pedis

When did you first discover Instructables and what inspired you to post your first project?

I started learning about Maker stuff around 2012 and quickly decided I needed to have a mini Makerspace in my classroom. My students needed to learn about this! I started ordering books, and one of them was this really old Instructables book. From there, I found the website, and it took me a few visits, but I eventually posted something related to my hedgehog. Instructables was easy, and I had everything I needed. Even though I didn’t fully understand what I was doing, my desire to win a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer kept me posting projects. Once I discovered all the contests, I thought entering projects would be a great way to get tech for my classroom and maybe even encourage my students to get involved.

Step 5: Gluten-Free Soft Pretzels

Image from Gluten-Free Soft Pretzels and DIY Soft Pretzels

You’ve published 258 projects! Which project are you most proud of, and why?

I’m probably most proud of the Gluten-Free Soft Pretzels because that’s the Instructable that finally won me that KitchenAid Stand Mixer in 2017.

Step 6: Instructables Isn’t Limited to the STEM/STEAM Classroom

Images from Homemade-Magnetic-Slime, Tech & Engineering Class Strawberry Towers, Owl Pellet Dissection, and Tinkercad Moon Phases

If you could give any advice to someone new to using Instructables in the classroom, what would it be?

Instructables isn’t limited to the STEM/STEAM classroom. I started off using it in my English classes and then applied it to my technology classes.

Instructables can be used in any classroom, and it’s an amazing motivator for students!

Do you have any new concepts you’re exploring or hands-on classroom projects you’re planning to turn into Instructables that we should be on the lookout for?

In the Fall I’ll be teaching Robotics, and I'm hoping to establish a robotics club at my school. I imagine a lot of robotics-related projects will be coming.

Step 7: Thank You!

A special Thank You to Natasha for taking time out of her summer break to chat with me, and for sharing her passion for teaching and making with the Instructables community!

If you'd like to connect with Natasha, you can give her a follow, reach out to her through direct message, or post a comment on any of her projects.

Until next time! Thanks for Reading!!!