Master of Arts in Teaching, 1997
School of Education
December 1, 2012
“I believe I am so fortunate to be in education at a time where students and teachers can be more connected than ever before.”
As a child, a teen, an adult, a teacher, and an administrator, I have found school to be instrumental in my development. Starting in the busy classrooms and special education rooms at Newport Elementary, Newport Ensign Middle School, and Newport Harbor High School, and leading to the vast lecture halls of UC Davis and UC Irvine, education has given me more than I could ever give back.
I recently met with our head of school at Whittier Christian High School to work on an open house keynote talk. We began to estimate how many hours the average high school student spends away from home at school. We surmised it to be 5000 to 6400 hours, depending on extracurricular activities. What an impact schools and, more importantly, teachers make!
School wasn’t always easy or simple for me. With the relentless pace of succeeding in seven or eight different subject areas all at once, I never could seem to keep up in elementary school. If it hadn’t been for the tireless dedication of the special education teacher, Mrs. Arnold, now retired from Newport Mesa Unified School District, I could not have hurdled some of my learning challenges. I hate to remember the countless hours she told me to sit still and read my sight words! Thankfully, her extra help on difficult reading assignments and her alternate explanations to math facts paid off, big time.
I really began to love learning mid-way through my high school years. Literature came to life; science intrigued me. This newfound passion for learning led me to UC Davis where I earned both a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in English. I graduated with honors from the sociology department and worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the social research methods course under Debora A. Paterniti, Ph.D., Associate Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine and Sociology. Through her guidance and direction, I learned the rewards of sharing my knowledge and insights into social research methods. Janet Papale, of the UC Davis Writing Program, also catapulted my confidence and skill in writing by spending countless hours editing and re-editing my long narrative about my dead grandfather. It was when I volunteered three days a week in a fifth-grade classroom at Davis Elementary, however, that I got hooked on teaching. The expertise, patience, and level of critical thinking in that one classroom demanded my attention and focused my life goal of becoming an excellent teacher.
UC Irvine School of Education is where I learned to master the craft of teaching. Through their commitment to future teachers in the Intern program, with the long daily teaching schedule, to the nightly cohort discussion groups and classes, the professors spurred us on and trained us to equip the next generation of students. With technology tools and best research based practices we students were being prepared to change schools.
My one experience in Education 338: Teaching English in the Secondary School, taught by Carol Olson, revolutionized my skills set and led to my being named Beginning Teacher of the Year at Murrieta Valley High School while in my Intern year. I went on to teach at Valley High School in Santa Ana, CA. and then on to a rural school on Maui, Hana High and Elementary School where I shared lessons and best practices found in Carol’s book, The Reading Writing Connection: Strategies for Teaching and Learning in the Secondary Classroom.
My love for teaching and teachers brought me to Whittier Christian High School where I am the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. As a staff we are collaborating in academic departments and working on a six-year curriculum development and review cycle. The process calls for progressing through the following six phases, each phase roughly one year long:
- Curriculum Goals. Each department affirms or modifies content and performance standards, ESLR’s, reviews/examines current curriculum and instructional methods using Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe in relationship with Whittier Christian High School’s mission, vision, and core values.
- Benchmark Assessments. Each department implements benchmark assessments developed during curriculum review phase, stages 1,2 and 3 of Understanding by Design, which could include but is not limited to the following: final exam projects/authentic assessment and/or traditional exams, specific assessments developed and confirmed by department and administration. Each department establishes benchmark goals based on initial assessment results and assess annually using establish benchmark assessment tool.
- Data Evaluation. Taking place initially the year after the benchmark is given, data analysis includes looking at the skills expected and making decisions based on student achievement. Departments must look at the benchmark assessment, both formative and summative, analyze results of standardized testing, and develop a one-year timeline that introduces and implements the needed changes to improve student learning/skills.
- e-Portfolio. Each department selects student achievement of benchmarks, digital evidence is collected and posted, plus department curriculum guides and curriculum are developed and digitized. In the third year of the cycle teachers will begin to develop a digital portfolio of their own academics and lessons.
- Strategic Planning. Based on data evaluation and analysis, each department will create a timeline of instructional modifications and implementations from identified skills and integrate these into the department’s daily instruction and assessments.
- Accreditation. The accreditation cycle is ongoing with annual updates documenting the work that has been done. However, in preparation for upcoming accreditation visits, this phase of the cycle will be used to focus on educating our employees, convening focus groups, and gathering documentation, as well as reviewing ongoing work in each of the above phases of our curriculum review and redesign.
I believe I am so fortunate to be in education at a time where students and teachers can be more connected than ever before, and I am appreciative that UC Irvine School of Education was instrumental in helping me achieve much success.