Byte by Byte: Techie makes transition into the classroom


Computer seller. Computer fixer. Computer teacher. He’s done it all.

To say teacher Jay Cheatham knows a thing or two about computers would be an understatement.

Throughout his many careers, Jay has worked with computers in some way or another.

“They’ve had a dramatic impact on my life,” Jay said. “There’s probably nothing I do, even in my personal life and in my professional life, that doesn’t involve technology at some point.”

After getting his degree in marketing management from the University of North Texas, Jay sold computers to corporate accounts for almost 15 fifteen years.

“From when I was in sales, I always liked computers,” Jay said. “I thought if I’m going to sell something, I’m better off selling something that I like and that I’m interested in. I think that helped me at being successful in the sales side. Even now, I’m kind of the person that people come to when they have problems with things, either at school or in my home life with my family, all the time. So, I’m always doing stuff with technology.”

After leaving the corporate world Jay played “Mr. Mom” for five years before substituting around the district. In 2012, he became the on-campus technology technician.

“I was pretty good as a technician and I enjoyed it a lot,” Jay said. “It’s been a challenge to go from something you’re good at and you enjoy a lot to something you’re having to learn to do.”

Even though he is a teacher now, Jay is known as the “tech guy” around school, according to mentor teacher David Cone.

“He had a really smooth transition into the classroom,” Cone said. “I think part of the biggest issue for him has been that people still see him as the tech guy, which he enjoys doing, but people sometimes overuse his time even when that’s no longer his responsibility. He still enjoys helping them, but that’s not his primary responsibility.”

As a technician, Jay would assist teachers and students to solve any problem they had with technology. From fixing iPads, to fixing a SmartBoard to computer connection, Jay fixed everything. The problems he solves now are significantly different.

“Managing a class full of students is a lot different,” Jay said. “It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve done, honestly. It’s really hard to do if you want to do it well. And I like to do things well. It’s a challenge because from a teaching standpoint, students are not always motivated to do what they should, or what’s in their own best interest. There’s a certain level of frustration in teaching and you just have to work through that.”

Jay teaches the digital media class, (which deals with Adobe Suite,) the business information management class (which deals with the Microsoft Office Suite) and the web design class, (which deals with the basics of the Internet.) All of these classes are technology-based, with the majority of classwork done on the computer.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes in computers in education from a place where students would go to a computer lab and do a certain thing, to something we all now carry an iPad or a phone or even, a lot of times, a laptop,” Jay said. “It allows you to do  things creatively, like present ideas and just create things from a student’s standpoint.”

With a family of five, Jay has learned to be creative when it comes to family time. Despite admitting that they spend too much time on their technology, Jay emphasizes the importance of escaping the hold technology has.

“We try to get away, to go on mini family adventures when we are not on our phones or iPads,” Jay said. “We’ve adopted a saying from my niece that was to “Hang up and hang out” and we will challenge each other to do that. So we will go out to dinner and find some weird dessert place that I find on Twitter or online. Sometimes we play word games and some different things, but not as much as we should.”

Jay’s middle child, junior Nathan Cheatham, describes his father as creative, funny and intelligent and enjoys learning from him.

“Sometimes he shows us what his students do in his class, and then he’ll teach us, because they do a lot of picture altering, so he’ll teach us how to alter pictures,” Nathan said. “He’ll show us how to put beards on ourselves and stuff. We’re pretty close – I look up to how he gets along with everyone, and seems to like everyone.”

Because of technological immersion in the classroom, Jay has seen a dramatic shift in the way students can display their work, thriving on the creative aspect.

“My favorite thing is seeing the kids that students create,” Jay said. “I will challenge them and I will teach them a particular skill in photoshop and I let them go and find some picture on the internet that they want to go and do that same thing to and incorporate. It allows them to be really creative and I’m always just blown away by the things they do.”