When Debra Housel started her career in education 30 years ago, computers were only used in programming classes. Programmers would keypunch their instructions on paper cards and submit them, in correct order, to the central processing center that held room-sized computers! She couldn’t foresee that she would one day be writing interactive K-2 math content for StarrMatica because there was no such thing. However, she did know that she was meant to spend her life as an educator.
Debra spent 15 years as a reading teacher, working with students in classrooms that ranged from elementary school to community college. In creating materials for her students, she discovered her unique ability to take the complex and make it clear. So, when she stayed home with her three children, she launched an educational writing career. When it came time to consider returning to a classroom, she realized that she could make a difference in 25 students’ lives each year . . . or she could affect the learning of tens of thousands through her educational materials. She chose the road less traveled.
Writing the K-2 math storyboards for StarrMatica has been a new and exciting challenge. She says, “Creating storyboards is essentially the same as writing picture books. Instead of pages that turn, the student or computer changes the screen.” The best part has been coming up with a story that can teach the concepts to be covered. The story is all-important since it draws the viewers in and keeps them interested. They actually learn math and math terminology without necessarily realizing it. Debra states, “StarrMatica is light years beyond the boring math textbooks of my own childhood. The child’s interaction with the content makes learning fun and holds the attention of the “video-game generation.”
In the past 14 years, Debra has written more than 100 titles. Nine of those have won the prestigious Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) Distinguished Achievement Award. Here’s her advice to those who want to work in the field of creating educational content: “Don’t limit yourself to doing one thing. When I started working for StarrMatica, I’d never done storyboards before. I did it by following my motto: Excellence is the only option.”