As a result of my participation in the counselor-in-training program at Camp Winacka, I was awarded a Future Teacher Scholarship to Mount St. Mary’s University (MSMU) upon graduation from high school. At this small, culturally-diverse, women’s liberal arts school, I simultaneously earned a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with the intent to teach elementary school. However, my experiences with the MSMU’s Women’s Leadership Program and student teaching experience influenced me to decide that I would rather teach middle school or high school.
That fall, I eagerly returned to my rural hometown to give back to the close-knit community that raised me. I began substitute teaching and coaching volleyball, basketball, and softball at Mountain Empire Junior/Senior HIgh School in the far east corner of San Diego County. I spent a semester as a reading resource teacher at Campo Elementary and a year teaching adult English as a second language courses at Portero Elementary. In the 2004-2005 academic year, I taught English Support, Math Support, and Peer Group at Mountain Empire Junior High School. I worked directly with Native American students to fulfill the district’s Title VII grant. Even though MSMU had prepared me to work with culturally diverse populations, this was the first time I was directly responsible to teach a specific special population, and I quickly learned the importance of establishing a supportive classroom culture. However, my temporary contract ended after one year, and I returned to substitute teaching. After four years of teaching and coaching at my alma mater, I followed a connection I discovered through coaching and applied to teach a different special population in another close-knit community in a rural setting.
I began teaching English 9 and 10 and coaching volleyball at San Pasqual Academy (SPA), a residential high school for foster youth which is part of San Diego County’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) in the fall of 2006. Within two years, I realized that my new students needed intensive academic support and resigned from coaching to focus on teaching. I followed the site’s practice of using technology in my classroom, but as JCCS began to support increased student use of technology, I began to transfer the use of technology to my students. I joined the JCCS Technology Committee and became a Cybersafety Pilot.
In 2010, I was awarded another scholarship; I received a Bridgepoint Education Salute to Teachers scholarship and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with Technology in 2011. That same year, I became one of the first one-to-one laptop classrooms in my district and committed myself to creating and maintaining a paperless classroom through the use of free online tools. This work resulted in academic success for my students who began to consistently earn some of the highest test scores in the district on standardized testing, such as the California High School Exit Exam, California Standardized Testing and Report, and Measures of Academic Progress Testing. These successes led to additional responsibilities in my district, including positions as the lead tech on the JCCS Academic Vocabulary Committee, the union Site Rep for SPA, a member of the SPA Building Effective Schools Together (positive behavior intervention supports) committee, and a position as a Beginning Teaching Support and Assessment Induction Support Provider.
After a dramatic change in JCCS leadership, I began to focus my energy back to my classroom. Since the Technology Committee was disbanded, I began to further participate in the educational technology community by attending multiple conferences and earning Leading Edge Certification. I slowly began to take on additional responsibilities once again and became the Yearbook Advisor, Associated Student Body (ASB) Adviser, and Volleyball Coach. However, these responsibilities again pulled me too far away from my goal of teaching the students in my English classes. This past spring, I resigned from ASB and volleyball.
Currently, I am beginning my tenth year of teaching English 9 and 10 at the academy. My classroom is an innovative learning environment that combines academic learning with technology, with the support of trauma informed practices and restorative justice. In addition to continuing to push myself to maintain a blended 1:1 paperless classroom, I am also challenging myself to begin to teach others. This summer, I became a Google Certificated Educator and became a presenter at EdTechTeam Summits and Computer Using Educator Conferences. I am also learning how to deepen my knowledge and expand my influence by pursuing a Master of Art in Educational Leadership with an Emphasis in Technology and an Administrative Credential through San Diego State University and, my district, San Diego County Office of Education.