Final Five

Q&A with Tekelia Kelly, education technology consultant, Chattanooga, Tennessee


Tekelia Kelly is an instructional designer and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) teaching artist with the Tennessee Arts Commission. She carries a variety of roles – entrepreneur, engineer, educator, editor and entertainer – but largely focuses on teaching children one-on-one and in groups using STEAM education. 

You’ve had a long career in industrial engineering. How much has the field changed over time?

Fundamentally, industrial engineering has not changed over my 35-year career span. Optimizing the quality and productivity of operating systems, processes and the workforce is still the general focus. Today, IEs can be found in the banking, transportation, hospital, insurance, information technology and security industries. All of these I have had the experience of pioneering and/or performing IE work at companies such as Federal Express, First Tennessee Bank, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and others.

How did your career shift toward education technology?

I have always enjoyed teaching, even when playing as a child. As society began to shift toward becoming a service-oriented and technology-driven culture, so did the need for increased education and training in the workforce, schools and community at large. I found myself gravitating toward opportunities to teach, train and use my technology skills. I started Tekelia Kelly’s For Your Information, Education and Information Technology Solutions in 1995 to help reach and teach across the learning gaps and digital divide between school and work for both children and adults.

Is there a difference in how you approach working on projects for children versus adults?

I’ve found that children’s ability to learn can be likened to a sponge or tape recorder. They can absorb, retain, recall and repeat initial information given drill and skill lessons and even with music. Adult learners bring with them the makings of prior knowledge, history and life experiences, which may take up memory space. But they can also help them relate and understand new concepts, processes, ideas and information. I use my IE and industrial design skills to help develop learning for both types of learners.

You have interests in music and performance. How do you apply your IE skills in that arena?

My IE skills have helped me successfully plan, coordinate and operate my STEAM teaching and artist integrated programs and services. I custom design performances, projects and productions using my IE operations analysis, problem-solving and methods engineering skills. This helps me optimize scheduling, estimate costs, manage time and other tasks. As a teaching artist and instructional design engineer, I use my IE skills to help solve problems and operate effectively, efficiently and economically

What advice do you have for young professionals who pursue passions beyond their IE work?

I would encourage young professionals with passions beyond IE to look for ways to transfer their passions to propagate knowledge and skills. Channel your passions in a way that can help you more effectively connect, communicate, relate to, understand and serve your clients when doing IE. Use the experiences from what you’re passionate about to help express who you are and what goals and objectives you are trying to meet when working with people and performing your IE duties. I believe that when people are enthusiastic or passionate about what they do, it can permeate and spill over into every area of their lives. Find ways to use your passion and make it a tool for doing your IE work even more effectively.