Over the past year, senior education major Susan Jachymiak’s professional network has topped 2,000. That’s the number of Twitter followers the aspiring middle-level teacher has cultivated by engaging with fellow educators through the social media tool.

Her connections are international, and she regularly collaborates with new individuals and groups by hosting and contributing to Twitter #edchats.

“I decided that there was value in growing my professional social media presence because I knew that obtaining those connections would help me down the road,” she said.

Jachymiak came up with the #ISU_CMLA hashtag for her most recent chat, which was designed for veteran educators to provide advice to her and her fellow middle level student teachers at Illinois State. Participants discussed classroom management strategies, rewards/challenges of teaching, and what advice could help new teachers.

Jachymiak’s network has given her more than just some tips and tricks. The experience has helped her to become more confident in her ability to serve her future students.

“As a pre-service teacher, I did not feel like I had a lot to contribute, but Twitter shifted my mindset and gave me the utmost confidence,” she said.

Relationships take time. The future middle-level teacher intentionally connects with educators and even former ISU alumni through the chats. The approach has been conducive for growing her following.

Among her supporters and new colleagues is Rae Hughart, the College of Education’s 2017 Outstanding Young Alumni Award winner. Jachymiak said the fellow middle level educator has inspired and encouraged her to grow her personal learning network.

In addition to Hughart, Illinois State professors have aided the aspiring teacher along the way.

“My professors have been instrumental in this process. I had Dr. (Gary) Weilbacher as a professor last semester. I approached him about my idea, and he was very supportive. Really, all of the middle level professors have been supportive and have embraced my passion for teaching.”

Joining the Twitter community has opened up several doors for Jachymiak. She recently led a successful #MasteryChat, with educators participating from all around the world, and will present at #MADpd, an international virtual conference in May. Jachymiak has also received a wide range of teaching resources from her connections on the social media outlet.

Identifying as an introvert, Jachymiak took a leap of faith to share her experiences with others in the field. Every new connection she makes further cements that it was the right decision. Her followers seem to agree.

Her advice to fellow #EdBirds and other teacher candidates is to “jump into” the professional world of Twitter with both feet.

By stepping outside of her comfort zone, Jachymiak found new resources and opportunities. She also gained new friends and supporters that have enriched her journey. She credits this to the Redbird community that has encouraged her to further stretch her creative muscles and hone her craft through Twitter.