Katie Hollins

From Dot-Matrix Printers to Promethean Boards: Retiring Technology Specialist Has Seen a Lot in 39 Years
Posted on 06/10/2024
Katie Hollins

Katie Hollins had never touched a computer when she started working for MNPS 39 years ago. The first printer she used was a dot-matrix model. Katie Hollins

But as she gets ready to retire, Hollins is a pro at advising principals on the interactive panels, whiteboards, and other state-of-the-art digital devices they need to support teaching and learning.

Hollins, a learning systems support specialist in the Department of Digital Strategy, was a parent and volunteer at Cora Howe when it was an elementary school in the 1980s. The principal encouraged her to apply for a position with MNPS. She got a job as a long-term substitute teacher at various schools and never looked back.

Her first full-time position with the district was at the old Highland Heights school in East Nashville, where she started working with the school’s main computer - “the brain,” she called it – to compile attendance reports and work with teachers to verify grades for students’ report cards.

While the technology, including floppy disks, was new to her, “I was determined not to let this thing beat me,” Hollins recalled with a smile.


Finding Joy In Helping Schools

Soon enough she was working in Career and Technical Education, teaching typing and software skills to adults at Maplewood High School and then the Community Career Center at Park Avenue Elementary while also helping other schools with their computers. Then she moved to the district’s IT department (now called Technology & Information Services) as a technical service specialist.

Hollins remembers working an entire weekend to get 500 computers imaged at the old Buena Vista Elementary north of downtown, with her husband bringing in meals so she could keep plugging away.

“We got it done,” she said.

She’s now worked out of the Martin Professional Development Center for the past 11 years. She serves as the vendor liaison for interactive panels and whiteboards, advises field support technicians on how to maintain the technology, and helps schools prepare purchase orders for all kinds of digital devices.

Hollins said she finds the greatest joy in helping principals understand the technology marketplace and see what will work for their schools’ instructional needs. Her supervisor, Christopher Tenbarge, said Hollins sits at the intersection of schools, vendors, installers, field support technicians, and learning technology specialists.

“It’s worked, Katie, because a lot of people trust you,” Tenbarge said as he sat with Hollins for an interview about her career. “They feel like you’re somebody who has their back.”

Tenbarge, who serves as manager of technology experience for the district, said his team follows what they call “the Katie rule,” which means pretending Hollins’ own children – Maplewood graduates who are now in their 40s, including one who was the salutatorian of her class – are in any classroom they’ll be serving. He said Hollins herself treats every interaction with great care.

“Every call that comes in, she’s giving it her best,” he said. “We’re going to miss that.”

With retirement on the near horizon at the end of June, Hollins said she’s looking forward to spending more time with her four grandchildren, one of whom just graduated from Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet High School, and cooking more. She said she greatly appreciates the education her family has received at MNPS.

And she looks back with a sense of awe on her time with the district.

“The advancement of technology,” she said, “and me being there through every step of it, that’s amazing.”
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