Natasha Watts earns doctoral degree

Natasha Watts of Hazard Community and Technical College has earned a doctorate in educational technology from Morehead State University.

Natasha began working on the degree in the summer of 2014. She always knew she wanted to earn a doctoral degree; however, it was not until she began teaching in a K-12 setting around 2009 that she chose a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree over a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. The Ed.D. is more practice-based, whereas the Ph.D. places a greater emphasis on theory and research. "The program at Morehead was wonderful. I was able to build strong relationships with the faculty and my classmates, which ultimately helped me get through the program," she said.

Natasha's doctoral work focused on visual learners, place-based learning, and classroom ownership. Her final project was a playbook that addressed image-first learning through short activities. The book was designed much like a playbook that a coach would use, giving steps, actions, outcomes, and rubrics to understand the benchmarks for great plays. Natasha believes that students in our region are prone to be visual learners and that gaining ownership in the classroom is a vital part of having successful outcomes. Natasha wants to continue researching and creating products that help support educators in the region. “I would love to see place-based learning become a new standard in education,” she added.

Several of her required courses focused on instructional design. This completely changed the way she addressed building courses and teaching her students, especially in an online environment. "While the doctoral program was practitioner-based, we spent a lot of time conducting research specific to our fields. This broadened my understanding of what, how, and who I taught. I began directly seeing the correlation between students, my curriculum, and how well they were able to perform the assignments," she said.

"I am a technology-driven educator; I believe in the use of tech-tools to build a strong curriculum that will help students grasp technical concepts. Preparing students for jobs and equipping them to work within environments that require many tasks is important. My degree benefits my students via course design, assessments, curriculum design, and the use of multimedia tools in the classroom. I truly believe I have become a better educator and practitioner. For me, learning is perpetual and should always be in motion, even for the teacher,” Dr. Watts explained.    

On May 18, she presented activities and lessons from her capstone project “The Visual Literacy Playbookat the EKU Pedagogicon Conference 2018. Link to the conference: http://studio.eku.edu/pedagogicon

Dr. Watts earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Kentucky University.

Prior to becoming a faculty member at HCTC, she worked at Hospice of the Bluegrass as a Provider Liaison; was an adjunct instructor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College; served as Director, Educator, and Lead Media Trainer at the Appalachian Media Institute, a project of Appalshop Incorporated; worked at Lotts Creek Community School and Cordia High School as Art and Media instructor; served as Coordinator of the Appalachian Minute at EKU, where she coordinated radio programs for WEKU, an NPR affiliate which covered issues that Eastern Kentucky communities face; and briefly worked at EKU as a Media Assistant in the Training Resource Center.

Watts is also a grant recipient for the film Dirt, a documentary about a 92-year-old retired teacher and gardener in Whitesburg. She was also a Woodrow Wilson Public Scholarship student for documenting the making of Thoughts in the Presence of Fear, which is Herb E. Smith's film adaptation of Wendell Berry's essay of the same title. 

Watts grew up in Blackey along Highway 7 in Letcher County. She and her husband, Bruce, have worked hard to make careers in the region while providing for their two children: Finn, age 6, and Vivi, age 3.