My years as a professional outside the classroom play a big role in what I do as a teacher and coordinator of a high school career academy. Prior to teaching, I was a production manager for Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues in New York where I had to manage people with a variety of personalities, master the art of multi-tasking, and hire art directors, prop masters and interns. In order to get this job I had to network my way into the television industry and to move quickly up the ladder and gain experience. I became resourceful and as a result became a proactive problem solver.
I loved my years in television production, but I always knew that my destiny was teaching. I am motivated by my mother, Aviva Freeman, a Response to Instruction and Intervention Expert and inspiration for teachers all over District 1 in LAUSD. I like to think that I inherited a bit of her natural ability since I have always gravitated toward teaching roles starting as a young kid where I tutored kindergartners, worked at camps and after college graduation, I was a museum educator and a consultant to assist teachers integrate technology into their classrooms.
When I returned to Los Angeles in order for my husband and me to live closer to our families, I applied for the Los Angeles Teaching Fellows program that trained professionals to be teachers. I was fortunate to do my student teaching at Foshay Learning Center and even luckier to land the position of Technology Teacher of the High School Technology Academy right away. I tell everyone that I have one of the best jobs in LAUSD.
As the lead technology teacher I expose the students to some of the top industry standard software on the market such as Dreamweaver to make websites, Flash for animation, and Photoshop for graphic design. All these projects, plus video production and programming get compiled into the students’ professional digital portfolios. I am able to keep the technology updated due to the California Partnership Academy grant I applied for and receive every year since 2004.
One of my greatest contributions is the production of the digital portfolios that now all students on Foshay’s campus create, starting in the 10th grade. I feel passionately that in order to be skilled at a career, the students need to know how to get a job. I started the online digital portfolio two years ago and after that first summer a handful of students got in touch with me to tell me how far ahead of the other students in their college they were due to the portfolios. Their resumes and proof of experience got them better jobs and scholarships. As a result I spread the word to the other academies on campus and now my students are teaching everyone else how to create these websites.
I take pride in the work that I do and I am always looking to share my ideas in order to get feedback and to assist others in adopting highly engaging and relevant activities in their classroom. I have presented for the past three years at the Educating for Careers Conference in order to share how I build mentoring programs, work with business partners and co-create cross-curricular projects with my team of teachers. In 2010, my Technology Academy was selected as one of the top ten academies in the state and a video was made about us as a sample model academy in order to help educate and inspire others about the academy model.
As the WASC Coordinator, I was able to get the teachers to communicate more with each other and share their best practices. As a result we are more informed of data, more in tune with each other and spread common messages and themes throughout our classrooms including a 10th grade International Baccalaureate Ethics Unit, college research, career shadows and resume writing.