DeKalb educators to present at statewide summer conference
Two local educators received an invitation to join the cream of the crop this summer when they were chosen to be presenters at this summers University of Texas/Texas Association of School Administrators (UT/TASA) Annual Summer Conference.
Kali Little, Instructional Technology Specialist, and Melissa Motes, Director of Instructional Technology for DeKalb ISD have been invited to share with school administrators all over the State of Texas the plan they both implemented and executed to transform a total of eleven classrooms on all campuses of DeKalb ISD into state-of-the-art active learning spaces. “Learning doesn’t look the same as it used to,” explained Melissa Motes. “Technology has evolved, and kids have so much more opportunity than they used to, but we still are trying to teach them the same way we did. Things are changing, and we wanted our classrooms and learning spaces to reflect that.”
Motes and Little did just that. They first went to the school board and obtained approval for grant funding for their project, then to the teachers to solicit applications. The first year, three classrooms - one on each campus - were approved for a complete face-lift. Through consultations with district teachers, other educators, and vendors, they were able to determine a plan of action and see it through to completion. The result - a non-traditional setting conducive to learning in our modern age of technology. Walls were painted in fun shades and heavy traditional classroom furniture was replaced with light-weight modern furniture in bright and fun colors. Pieces with names like “wobble stool” and “fidget bars” replace the rigid steel and wood desks of times past.
The changes have been met with glowing reviews from teachers and students alike. Rhonda Stone has taught 8th grade math at DISD for the past 23 years, and in a video that Motes and Little will include in their presentation, she says that although she once favored a more traditional classroom, the changes have brought about many great improvements. “It has revolutionized a lot of what I expect from my students on a daily basis,” said Stone.
Also featured in the video is DISD student Michael Vaughan sitting on one of the new “wobble stools” purchased by the district. In a traditional classroom setting, Michael says he has had trouble remaining still and quiet. “I used to move around in my chair and make a lot of noise and I would get in trouble for that,” Michael says, as he rocks on a bright green ball shaped “stool.” “But with this, you can move around on it a lot….and you don’t get in trouble.”
Dr. John Booth, Superintendent of Schools at DISD says the opportunity to present the hard work and innovative thinking that have gone toward the districts newly-transformed learning spaces to such a distinguished audience is something to be proud of. The vast majority of presenters at the conference come from large wealthy districts that are generally known to be on the cutting edge of instructional technology. “TASA is the largest school organization in the state,” explained Booth. “Making this presentation is not something we applied for and then were accepted to - they invited us to be a part of this. It is so exciting to be in that group of schools with Coppell, San Antonio, and Grapevine-Colleyville - those are your top flight schools and we are right in there with them. We are among the most forward-thinking districts in the state.”
Motes and Little will make their presentation at the UT/TASA Summer Conference on Tuesday, June 25 at the Hyatt Regency in Austin.