Light morning drizzle and grey skies could not stop 230 dedicated educators from attending “Teaching for Impact: Innovative Practices for Today’s Standards,” the third annual conference for local educators hosted by UC San Diego’s Department of Education Studies (EDS) and the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE).
Held at Pepper Canyon Hall at UC San Diego on Saturday April 30, the daylong event featured 20 learning sessions led by 54 teachers and education leaders from San Diego County schools and school districts.
“A variety of many powerful sessions created opportunities for learning, exploration, and interaction – from smart use of technology in the classroom to infusing literacy in science; computer science and beach science for middle school; to fairy tale curriculum for early childhood,” said Alan Daly, professor and chair of EDS.
“This year’s conference was an invigorating event that benefited local educators and demonstrated the power of partnership between EDS and CREATE. I was blown away by the consistent quality, passion, and impact of all the sessions I attended,” Daly added.
The conference was organized by EDS Associate Teaching Professor Carolyn Hofstetter with co-organizers CREATE Associate Director Susan Yonezawa, Barbara Edwards, executive director for Math for America San Diego and math coordinator for CREATE, and Rachel Millstone, EDS lecturer, secondary credential coordinator and science supervisor.
In concurrent addresses to two audiences, Yonezawa, Daly, Hofstetter, and EDS Professor/Director of CREATE Mica Pollock welcomed educators to the conference.
“In our work,” Yonezawa said (pictured above, with Daly), “we meet a lot of fabulous educators, administrators, and university and industry folks who are trying to do a lot of different things in their classrooms, and we get to see them all. And then we go back to our offices and think, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be great if other people got to network with these folks and with each other?’ So that’s what this conference has always been about. And although this year’s title is ‘Teaching for Impact,’ the focus is on celebrating the great education and educators in our area.”
“We have been very thoughtful about how we’ve curated the sessions,” Daly told attendees. “We want to provide opportunities for you to come together, be together, think together and to build our own network around such important work. It’s important we come together as a community and as a network because in the end, we believe deeply that we’re better together. We have the opportunity to learn together and to think together.”
Yonezawa said teachers would have the opportunity for hands on learning in some sessions, and in others, to listen to teachers’ attempts to try something out or learn how they worked together in a collaborative team with colleagues or local partners.
“Fundamentally, it’s about designing,” Yonezawa said. “These sessions are all actually works in progress. We say to teachers, ‘it’s okay if it wasn’t perfect, it’s kind of good if it was messy; if it didn’t work out it’s because that’s the reality.’ It’s going to get messy, and we’re hoping that you’re okay with that, because we told them we’re okay with that!”
This year’s presenters were teachers from regional schools and districts, EDS and CREATE faculty and staff, NSF-funded master teachers in UC San Diego’s Noyce programs, and current UC San Diego doctoral students. Additionally, former UC San Diego students, higher education faculty, community members, and intermediary organization leaders helped lead sessions.
Conference attendees selected up to three sessions from the 20 teacher-to-teacher learning sessions offered. Sessions offered learning approaches for grades PK-16 (pre-Kindergarten through college) in science, history, math, English language arts, engineering, computer science, special education, internships and technology use in the classroom.
From “A Fairy Tale Curriculum for Early Childhood” to “Tackling the Transition from High School to Community College Mathematics,” the conference offered a broad range of innovative teaching and learning opportunities for attendees.
Here are a few of the highlights from the conference.
Making Groupwork Work: Teaching Strategies to Promote Effective, Engaging and Equal Group Work
“We went to ‘Making Groupwork Work.’ It was amazing,” said Urban Discovery Academy science teacher Angela Price, who with colleague and math teacher Melinda Bayliss, was looking for new ways to improve instruction and learn new teaching strategies.
“We do a lot of project-based learning, a lot of cooperative and group work, which is the goal of our school. We’re trying to incorporate 21st century skills into our teaching, which includes collaboration and communication,” Price said.
“Making Groupwork Work: Teaching Strategies to Promote Effective, Engaging and Equal Group Work,” led by Yekaterina Milvidskaia and Tiana Tebelman, Vista Magnet Middle School mathematics teachers and recipients of a Math for America San Diego fellowship, provided resources and interactive techniques to create collaborative group work environments for any classroom.
Mathematical Perseverance and Meaningful Math Talk: Constructing Arguments, Critiquing Others, Building Knowledge
Price and Bayliss together attended “Mathematical Perseverance and Meaningful Math Talk: Constructing Arguments, Critiquing Others, Building Knowledge,” led by Valentyna Banner, fifth and sixth grade teacher at San Diego Global Vision Academy and Aly Martinez, mathematics teacher at San Ysidro High School.
In this session, attendees learned how to incorporate games and tasks into mathematical learning to boost communication. The session helped students realize that “even though they think math is hard and they can’t do it, that they actually can. The session offered ways to promote math in a positive light and help students continue to succeed and work together,” Price said.
Bayliss said both sessions addressed a key issue she faces in the classroom: providing all students with an equal voice.
“In group work I find — and I think most people do — that the stronger students take over, so the first session was excellent for learning how to ensure everyone has a voice. The second session was about having people speak up in general, how to feel more comfortable talking in group discussions, and having a chance to speak in class every day. So many kids are so quiet,” Bayliss continued. “They never raise their hand to answer a question and they can go through the whole day without speaking, so the games were a way to get everybody to feel comfortable speaking. I’m doing geometry in my class right now, so the games presented were perfect. I’m trying them on Monday!”
Creating a Middle School Computer Science Course Curriculum based on CSTA National Standards
With the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting 9.4 million new STEM jobs available by the year 2020, with 4.6 in computing alone, the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) has stepped up as a nationally recognized leader in promoting computer science education for its students. SUHSD teachers Tara Taylor (Eastlake Middle School), Tina Tom (Chula Vista Middle School) and Art Lopez (Sweetwater High School), with Colleen Lewis (Harvey Mudd College) led an informative session on their experiences piloting a middle school computer science course. The session covered CS concepts, suggested computer science programs for use, ways to modify programs and activities for middle school students, assessments, and made connections between CS and the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.
“Teachers were excited to learn from one another and from some cutting-edge colleagues on how to support middle school students and teachers in learning Computer Science in our area schools,” said Susan Yonezawa, who attended the session. “We have so many treasured teachers like Tina and Tara in our San Diego community, and were so lucky to get Colleen from Harvey Mudd to come out and work with our San Diego educators.”
Spanish-English Transfer: Connecting Languages Strategically to Build Biliteracy Skills
“We’ve told parents and students in order to become better and more fluent in English you can only read in English. And it’s not true. Knowledge is knowledge,” says Deborah Costa-Hernandez, executive director of the California Reading and Literature Project, Statewide Office, housed in CREATE. Costa-Hernandez shared instruction and guidance to conference attendees for transferring literacy skills and vocabulary development for early learners in Spanish and English.
The benefits of a dual-literacy focus for language development was a big take-away for teachers.
“We want students to practice reading in English, but we also want their parents to read to them in any language,” Costa-Hernandez explained, adding, “reading in both languages is critical for language development.”
Smart Tech Use for Equity (2016)
Launched in 2015, the Smart Tech Use for Equity project is a growing community of regional educators who seek to support teachers as “equity designers” — people who continually evaluate the pros and cons of using technology in the classroom with equity in mind. The initiative is led by the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) and CREATE, with funding from the National Writing Project and Teaching Tolerance of the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Read a collaborative article by CREATE Director and UC San Diego Education Studies Professor Mica Pollock and K-12 teachers about the initiative in this spring’s Teaching Tolerance magazine.)
Building on their well-received presentation from last year’s conference, “Smart Tech Use for Equity (2016)” featured K-12 teachers sharing their latest projects and findings from their own classroom tech use/equity efforts. Session presenters included co-leaders Jeri Aring, Chula Vista Hills Elementary School, Kim Douillard, San Diego Area Writing Project and Cardiff Elementary School, Melissa Foster, Castle Park High School, Alicia Johal, Mar Vista Academy, Mica Pollock, UC San Diego/CREATE/ Education Studies, Michael Salamanca, Madison High School, and teacher colleagues from the 2016 Smart Tech Use for Equity cohort in Chula Vista Elementary School District and Sweetwater Union High School District.
Other Conference Learning Sessions (and feedback from attendees) included:
PS-1, Special Education, and Internships Sessions
- A Fairy Tale Curriculum for Early Childhood, Shawntanet Jara, Solana Vista Elementary, Solana Beach School District; Alison Wishard Guerra, UC San Diego/EDS
“Very interesting, educational, informative, applicable. The connection across the grade levels was a great thing to see. Thank you!”
- Innovations for Special Needs Populations. Mona Kiani, High Tech High and UC San Diego/CSUSM EdD Program; Brienne Downing, Excelsior Academy and UCSD/CSUSM EdD Program
“This session was truly amazing. It was obvious that Mona and Brienne have a passion for teaching and their students. I learned so many new techniques that will be valuable in my classes. I would definitely attend another session…they were knowledgeable and engaging.”
- Helping All Students Access the Adult World through Internships, Eric Romer, Preuss; Miranda Martinez, UC San Diego and Preuss; Randy Scherer & Daisy Sharrock, High Tech High Graduate School of Education; Students
“Great presentation between the two groups. Amazing way to help students gain valuable job experience at a young age.”
Common Core State Standards/Next Generation Science Standards Sessions
- Beach Science: A Model NGSS-developed, Interdisciplinary Middle School Program Bridging Formal and Informal Science, Sarah Morgan Sickler, Cari Paulenich, Emily Arnold, Darcy Taniguchi; Birch Aquarium, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
“I liked the organization of presentation that included activity and design along with reading analysis activity. Relevant to beyond grade 6, I will use what was shared in my high school class. Loved the hands on activity!”
- Rhetorical Précis, a Writing Strategy for Common Core, SBAC and the New SAT, Erica Heinzman, Kearny International Business High School, SDUSD
“Writing is a major need in my science class. This was an amazingly informative session with so many examples and resources to help my students starting Monday, not in another two months. Very timely.”
- MUD: Translating Current Research to the Classroom Using Modeling, Jennifer Ekstein, Bonita Vista HS, Ken Richter, SPAWAR, Danielle Vincent Griffith, Crawford HS, Julie Walker, Rancho del Rey MS, for the CREATE Next Generation Science Leaders’ Institute Science, 6-12
“I enjoyed the think pair share aspect of this presentation along with taking us through some steps students would participate in when they perform this experiment. Excellent reminder to bring real scientists into the classroom!”
- Infusing Literacy into Science, Kellie Fleming, Curriculum & Instruction, Vista Unified School District, Glenn Melero, El Cajon Valley HS, Grossmont Union High School District
“I liked the scaffolded pair share/ graphic organizers. I liked how you made us want to read to understand the phenomena…liked the metacognition questions.”
- Before the Clock Strikes Midnight: Novel Engineering as a Way to Rewrite Fiction, Sarah Imbriaco, Sharon Fargason and Melissa Han, Baker Elementary School, SDUSD
“Learning by doing! I feel prepared now to tackle Novel Engineering with my own students because I was able to do a version of it today myself.”
- Meaningful Closure Activities in Mathematics, Andrea Holmes, Heather Scott and Jennifer Carr, San Marcos Unified School District
“I LOVE how your session had so many access points for teachers at all different levels of student centered math instruction. Also, I really appreciate how you looked at all of this through a research lens. Your honesty and candidness is refreshing.”
- The Central Role of Place Value in K–5 Mathematics, Randolph Philipp and Beti Azuz, San Diego State University; Jacklyn Kane and Bethany Schwappach, Cajon Valley Union School District
“Thank you for the resources. Always awesome to see research based practices and results from using those practices. Great presentation.”
- Tackling the Transition from High School to Community College Mathematics, Tracey Kiser, UCSD EDS and Hilltop High School, Sweetwater Union HSD; Carlos de la Lama and Misael Camarena, San Diego City College
“It is important for me to know how to best prepare my students for a future career in math so I want to see other perspectives and where we find common ground.”
English Language Arts Sessions
- Empowering Youth: Integrating Empathy-Based Practices Across the Curriculum, Alison Black, Coronado Middle School, CUSD; Adam Ramirez, Academy of Arts and Sciences
“Great insights and concrete example of empathy in action, service-based project driving science unit rather than being (an) added component was huge! I have plenty to think about! Great presenters!”
- Foundational Literacy Structures for College and Career Readiness, Carisa Barnes and Peri Kost, DMD, Kearny
“I enjoyed getting the particulars of collaboration, and curriculum planning at Kearny High DMD. I was very interested in the reinforcement of visual literacy and communication throughout the coursework.”
- How to Ensure Students Are Able to Access Grade Level/Complex Text (Using RALLI’s Structure), Jeannette Monroy, Nestor Espinoza, Delia Kumabe, EJE Academies
“The session was very informational. Introduced a great way to ‘mesh’ subjects and make them powerful/purposeful. Love the way they presented information across grades.”
- The ELA/ELD Framework: Integrated and Designated ELD in Action, Sarah Peterson, California Reading and Literature Project and Ira Harbison Elementary School, National School District
“I feel that the workshop greatly expanded my understanding of ELD and ELA of the primary ed. level. I enjoyed the hands-on aspect also.”
For more information about the conference, and if you’re interested in participating in next year’s event, contact Susan Yonezawa at email@example.com.