No ‘Payne’ no gain: Instructional technologist finds solutions for students and staff

By night, decked in a sequined short jacket and black jeans, she played her flute during t

Instructional technology specialist Cynthia Payne plays a song for a benefit back when she was fifteen-years-old.
Instructional technology specialist Cynthia Payne plays a song for a benefit back when she was fifteen-years-old.

he interlude amid her band

Payne and her husband go scuba diving.
Payne and her husband go scuba diving.

Pegasus’s rock beat as the crowd, full of drunks and fans, shouted. By day, she sang Gregorian chants in cathedrals. Cynthia Payne toured Europe while in college, singing songs in every genre from opera to folk and performing at venues from small houses to large stadiums.

“That was actually how I paid most of my expenses in college,” Payne said. “I was on scholarships for voice and for theater.”

However, after becoming a teacher, her singing career became harder manage.

“It was exhausting because…I went to HCC to work for the early evening and did shows from 9 PM to 1 AM,” Payne said. “First we’d have to negotiate a deal, do demos, set up equipment, perform for about four hours, and then break [the equipment] up, go home and try to get some sleep.”

Even though Payne still sings from time to time, her nightly performances are more than 15 years past. Now as the campus instructional technology specialist, she helps teachers find suitable technology tools for their students.

“I think that most people have a misconception that my job is to just fix computers,” she said. “Actually, that’s a very small part of my job. My job is actually to try to help teachers to find the right technology…Sometimes that means looking for grants; sometimes that means doing pilot programs.”

Payne taught theater arts at Olle and the Alief Learning Center and became interested in technology when her students created multi-media projects. She then created and ran the Technology Academy at Holub. After her time at Holub, she moved to Kerr.

“My thought process on coming over here was that there were more opportunities,” she said. “The students over here are quick to catch onto things; they are more willing to try something new. The teachers are more flexible.”

Payne enjoys that her job is never routine.

“It’s different every day,” Payne said. “I get bored easily. I’ve been in the district for 25 years and a lot of times, I get opportunities because the district knows me.”

After a long day of sorting through hundreds of emails and technology grants and solving technology problems, Payne goes home to deal with an entirely different challenge: her husband Glen has Stage 4 colon cancer.

“He’s going through chemotherapy; he gets sick a lot from that,” she said. “Some days he has good days and some days he has bad days. But that’s the good thing about working at Kerr: I get a lot of support from the staff.”

In addition to her husband’s illness, Payne also deals with her own health issue: severe arthritis.

“I always use the elevator because the stairs don’t work for my hips and joints,” she said.

However, the Paynes makes the most out of their situation.

“I think that you have to realize that life is going to happen,” she said, “that you can’t stop everything in one area in your life. It is very difficult, but I am grateful because he has been given three to four months to live and it has been nearly three to four years.”

Living up to her word, the Paynes enjoy hobbies like scuba diving together: Glen Payne is a dive master.

“It is so awesome when you get down really deep underwater and there’s nothing but the fish…it’s really cool,” she said. “We dive whenever we can…that’s one thing he still wants to do; he wants to go back and play with the manatees in Florida. That’s something I want to try to make happen.”

Despite her busy schedule and multiple responsibilities, Payne looks forward to learning from her students every day.

“The day that I stop learning is the day that I need to get out of education,” she said. “You guys are the reason we’re here.”