What’s your background, and how did you get started in education?
In 2006, I received my bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders from Truman State University in Kirksville, MO. I went on to earn my master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Fontbonne University in St. Louis in 2008. Immediately after that, I entered the field as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), working in an outpatient pediatric clinic. I primarily provided Auditory Verbal Therapy to children with hearing loss that had received cochlear implants or hearing aids, and ultimately, I earned my Listening and Spoken Language Certification through the A.G. Bell Academy. In 2014, I began to dabble in teletherapy and fell in love with the service delivery model. Over the next few years, I transitioned to become a full-time teletherapist, providing school-based services to children kindergarten through 12th grade.
What’s your favorite memory from your time as an educator?
One of my favorite things to think back on isn’t necessarily a specific memory, but it’s the change in technology available for SLPs over the years. I think back to 2004, when I took a course in college on using computers in speech therapy. I loved the class, and it definitely sparked my interest in using computers in therapy. I remember learning simple therapy computer games (on CD-ROMs, of course) and language transcription software to analyze a language sample. But wow, how things have changed since then. In 2004, I would never have imaged that I’d be serving a caseload entirely through a teletherapy platform just 10 years later.
What’s a typical day like as a speech language pathologist?
While providing speech therapy virtually, I was serving schools across the country. Most often, I served schools that were in a different time zone, usually one or two hours behind me. So, first thing in the morning I’d tend to emails in my inbox, write IEPs or reports, and plan the sessions for the day. After a couple hours of therapy in the morning, I’d take a lunch break, then work with students for a few more hours in the afternoon. My sessions were often small group (usually 2 students) or individual, lasting anywhere from 20-45 minutes. Of course, there were staff and IEP meetings sprinkled throughout the week, and I’d finish each afternoon by ensuring I had documented all of my sessions for the day.
How did you first hear about Boom Cards?
My dear friend and co-worker Belinda Givens (BVG SLP) told me about Boom Cards in 2018. After hearing her talk about them several times, my interest was piqued. Belinda told me that Boom Cards were a great solution for helping SLPs make teletherapy more interactive and engaging. . .And she was right!
Before you started using Boom Cards, how did you think about online learning?
In 2014, I began providing teletherapy to students attending various virtual charter schools. As such, the students that I worked with received their academic instruction online. So, when I learned about Boom Cards, I had already done years of teletherapy. However, I now realize how limited I was in my activities. I was only using PDFs with annotation tools since there weren’t really any other options. It worked okay, but teletherapy activities have come so far since then!
How did Boom Learning change the way you were thinking about technology for your students?
Using Boom Cards completely transformed the level of interaction for my students. With PDF annotation, I was limited to what my students could draw or type. But with Boom Cards, they can engage so much more with an activity by clicking buttons, typing in boxes, and most of all–moving images around! The cards are so dynamic, allowing the stimuli to change in an instant. . .which keeps things exciting for me and the students!
When did you realize that you might be really good at designing curriculum with Boom Cards?
I felt like I knew what sort of activities I wanted and needed for teletherapy, and I knew that Boom Cards were engaging for my students. But, since Boom Learning was a new platform, those activities didn’t yet exist in this format. In working with my caseload, I had a pretty good idea of how I could teach skills and scaffold practice activities to meet the needs of individual students. As I used Boom Cards more and more, I realized what elements worked for keeping them engaged and started using the help center to figure out how to make Boom Card decks for the skills I needed.
Who is your audience when you design new decks?
I create decks for SLPs to use with a variety of pediatric age groups. My entire career as an SLP has been serving a wide range of ages and grade levels (first birth to 21 years and then kindergarten-12th grade when I transitioned to teletherapy). Having these experiences, when I design a new deck, I really try to make that deck functional and appropriate for more than just one age or grade level. Obviously, no deck can serve every child on a caseload, but I try to remain cognizant of other SLPs that also may benefit from using one activity for kids at slightly different levels, as I have over the years.
Can you describe the sequence of events that led to you becoming a successful publisher?
As I became familiar with creating activities in Boom Learning, the ideas just started flowing. And to be honest, they haven’t stopped! I have always created (and still do create) activities where I saw a need, whether it was an activity for a particular goal or theme, or an activity that can suit a variety of goals for SLPs working with their students in a group setting. I have also found success in creating activities with a “clean” appearance– I don’t add a lot of unnecessary elements to clutter the slide, and I keep the text simple and easy to read. This seems to work best for most special education students.
What was the biggest surprise you’ve had while making and selling Boom Cards?
The change in people’s understanding and use of Boom Cards that occurred in 2020 is something no one saw coming. In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic (and the difficult times that came along with it), I was so proud of the way that therapists and educators embraced a completely new platform to help serve their students. Technology can be intimidating, but so many school professionals conquered the challenge by utilizing platforms such as Boom Learning to continue to teach their students in a completely new way.
How has the pandemic changed the way you look at education technology?
While I was a pre-pandemic user of technology to provide therapy to students, I now see the value of using technology in all schools for so many other reasons. During school closures (whether it be due to an illness outbreak, weather, or something else) technology can help prevent the interruption of learning. Educational technology keeps students, parents, and teachers more connected. It also increases engagement and prepares children for using technology in post-secondary and job settings.
What are some opportunities you see for new publishers who are just getting started?
I encourage new publishers to find the area(s) in which they have specialized knowledge or training and create resources for that niche. As SLPs, we cannot possibly know how to effectively target every goal, nor do we have the time to learn! Creating new and innovative activities to help fellow professionals with a particular area seems like the best way to build a loyal audience. It’s hard not to look at what other publishers are doing, but staying true to oneself while bringing value to others seems like a great approach!
How do you balance selling and promoting your Boom Cards with your other work-related responsibilities?
Oh, it’s a seemingly never-ending balance! Even now, as a full-time business owner, there are a million things to do each day outside of resource-creation. I’m definitely still trying to figure out a rhythm to getting it all done efficiently, but I try and determine 2-3 “non-negotiable” tasks to complete each day. . .and write them down! I am always reminding myself that even just finishing one portion of a larger project is still progress and that taking the time to do things well will actually save me time down the road.
Are there any innovative technologies that you’re excited about in the world of SLP and AVT?
Bringing my two passions in the field (hearing loss and telepractice) together is one of the most exciting things to witness. People with limited access to speech and audiology services geographically are now more connected that ever through video conferencing. In fact, I hope to provide some AVT via telepractice in the near future!
Can you really make a living by selling Boom Cards?
Yes, I can say for a fact that you can! Four years ago, I never imagined it would be possible. But now, I am so grateful that I get to use my professional knowledge and creativity to help make the lives of other SLPs, Teachers of the Deaf, parents, and students a bit easier. In addition to selling Boom Cards and other digital resources for SLPs, creating webinars and blog posts are other ways that I support professionals and provide additional streams of income.
Have you always considered yourself to be an entrepreneur?
Definitely not. Being a full-time business owner was never on my radar at all. I was never business-minded or full of dreams to start a business. When I started creating resources, I didn’t even realize that people do make a living of this. What started out as my little “side hustle”, grew and evolved over the years. Even today, I still wonder what’s to come in the future for me and my business!
Any last words of wisdom?
Becoming a resource creator comes with many growing pains and learning curves. In fact, I still experience them too! While no one wants to have failures, they should be expected. No one is immune to them. But don’t give up! My best advice is to be purposeful and thoughtful about every resource, freebie, blog post, e-mail, and social media post that you put out into the world for your business. Connect with your customers and be authentic!
Check out some of Stacy’s recent decks in the Boom Store.