From typist to Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert – MaryJo Slater, USA

Without a doubt, technology changes quickly. Just ask MaryJo Slater, who first took the technology plunge in 1989 and has never looked back.

“The Community College of Beaver County (CCBC) asked me to join them for a short term because the catalog was going to desktop publishing and the college needed the entire college catalog typed over using Word,” Slater tells us. “I agreed, and showed up to the campus. There was a computer on the desk. I asked what it was. The gentlemen told me that it was the equipment that I would be typing on. I laughed out loud – I had no idea how to use it.”

After a short lesson in turning on the computer and using the mouse, Slater began to learn Microsoft Word. “I typed the catalog and asked for a manual to read, because I was determined to not let this computer win,” she says.

CCBC offered her a part-time job, where she taught others how to use the computer.  “At that time, my husband and I decided if I was going to stay in education, I need to go get my bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” she adds. “So I did.”

As she was working on her bachelor’s degree, Slater taught a Windows 3.0 class in adult education. “A four-hour evening class, it was either sink or swim for me,” she says. “I loved every minute. I came home and said, ‘I finally know what I want to be when I grow up.’”

Now a Microsoft Innovative Education (MIE) Expert, Microsoft Office Specialist Master, and an Authorized IC3 Instructor – amongst many other accolades and awards – her students named a star after her.

“When I look back on my career, I am very proud,” says Slater. “It all started with that big computer on the desk, and has moved on to a mobile device held in my hand, and talking across the world with Skype…and now, I even have a star!”

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Mary Jo Slater.

What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?

Knowing that 15 years ago, I wrote the curriculum for a new program that has impacted so many lives with technology makes me proud.

I recently met one of my first students and she thanked me for teaching her Microsoft Office and having the belief in her when she did not think she could be successful. She is now an executive assistant in a company in Pittsburgh.

I relayed her story to my students today, and reminded them that everyone can learn. I also let them know about my story, when I first entered the office to see a computer for the first time, and it changed my profession. To share all of what I learned, and to learn from the students, is a great feeling and accomplishment. It is like being in Disney World every day. If I could create a learning environment like the Disney environment, then I will have made it in education and technology.

I had a student who worked in a medical facility, and when he learned about OneNote, he said, “I don’t have to carry those heavy three-ring binders around? Wow.” He then shared the information with his facility, and three ring binders were no more.

I recently had a student who explained OneDrive to her supervisor. He was blown away that they could all collaborate together in the same document, at the same time. She received a raise.

The ability to change someone’s life is exciting but scary sometimes, and it is what keeps me motivated as an educator.

Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?

I feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom because it is part of the real world. Technology is everywhere, so why not have the students prepared as much as possible for the real world?

Additionally, here’s a short story I’d like to share with you. It all started with a letter:

I have a student who works in the Washington, D.C. area and flies down at least three times a week for an after-school program. In the Fall 2016 semester, what she was learning in my Office Technology program she was taking back to her students and teaching them. Some students are from a gang neighborhood, and others are from average neighborhood. Six of the students became interested in computers.

One student from the gang area lost his mother in a shooting. He was placed in a foster home and has since been adopted. At the official adoption in court, he asked the judge for two more items to be placed on his adoption form – first, the afterschool teacher is now his Godmother, and I am now his Educator Mom. The judge agreed.

I was sending notes and content via email to the students and reminding them how important it is to learn Microsoft Office. I wrote one day about Walt Disney and how it took him many tries before Mickey Mouse was a success with Steamboat Willie and how Walt did not give up.  I said, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are.” The students didn’t know Walt Disney or Steamboat Willie. I then shared additional information, and they had a Disney night to watch movies and we also had the students search the information.

During this time, these students turned their lives around. The group grew to twelve students and kept growing.

Twelve students will be graduating, and because of learning Microsoft Office they have completed research papers, college applications and are ready for the real world. One of the students has taken his Microsoft Certification exams and now is a MOS Master, with a goal to learn computers, be a teacher and change other students’ lives. The students are going to Oxford, Harvard, and a local community college, and I am so pleased to know that I touched twelve more lives through Microsoft Office.

The kids named a star for me. I cried my eyes out.  My student presented me with the official documentation and a card from the D.C. students.  The all graduated and will be moving on and wanted to thank me for everything they learned and now with the star they can look up at the sky and see the “Professor MaryJo Slater” star and know I am looking down on them. This happened because students wanted to learn Microsoft.

What’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?

My biggest day-to-day challenge is keeping up with technology and learning it well enough to be able to share with my students.

The biggest obstacle is budget, not only having up-to-date technology, but also having the budget to attend as many conferences as I can.

The other obstacle I would like to overcome is for my students to have internet access at home, to continue to learn outside the classroom. The Office technology classroom is open all day for students to learn and collaborate, but some students have family or work obligations and must be home without a computer or internet.

In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?

I want my students to not be afraid of making mistakes, and to learn from their mistakes. It is OK to ask questions.

I am very excited about potential innovation for the future – being more mobile, new collaborations with Skype, the collaboration of medicine and technology. I am always sharing real-world videos with students to show them what is out there when they leave CCBC.

MaryJo Slater
Professor, Office Technology

Community College of Beaver County

 Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, USA


  • Blog URL:
  • Birthplace: Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Educational background: Masters in Business Education from the Robert Morris University in 1994 and a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management from the Geneva College in 1992, Associate Degree in Accounting (1990) and Associate Degree in Executive Secretarial (1976) from Community College of Beaver County
  • Website I check every day:com
  • Favorite childhood memory: My parents driving across country with four children to see the United States and final stop – Disneyland — I was 12. What an experience.
  • Favorite book: I do not have a favorite book, but anything about Walt Disney.
  • Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Surface Pro (the lightweight and inking capability), OneDrive to share and collaborate.
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? Everyone can learn!
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2 Responses to From typist to Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert – MaryJo Slater, USA

  1. Cheryl says:

    What a great article! So proud of you cousin!
    Cheryl Ann

  2. SERI NWAC says:

    We should always be ready to learn in our life. Learning is the only way to be updated and to be with the world in every stage. I would say that today’s student is so much fascinated towards technology and this is the only way to drag their interest towards education.

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