In this edition of the Roundtable, host Tim Cavey connects with five Latina superintendents who are providing bold leadership to school districts in California (and now Texas). We discussed wins during the pandemic, International Women’s Day, gender equity in education leadership, solutions to pandemic problems, self-care strategies, sources of inspiration, and more.
Select any of the timestamps listed below to jump to specific portions of the discussion. ⬇️
Questions and Timestamps from This Conversation
0:24 – Who are you and what is your current CONTEXT in education?
1:57 – Let’s honor your communities. What is one thing that you’re especially proud of in YOUR DISTRICT?
10:27 – This week we celebrated Int’l WOMEN’S Day. What does it mean to see more women in places of leadership in education, and what work still needs to be done?
21:48 – It’s been often repeated that COVID-19 has magnified the systemic INEQUITIES in education. How do you see your role in building EQUITY for all learners across your communities?
34:44 – What is one other CHALLENGE that you’ve had to wrestle with this year? Tell us about your learning in this area.
37:51 – We all know that the so-called WORK-LIFE BALANCE is a myth – especially during this year of additional challenge. What are some practices that you live by that keep your fire burning week after week?
51:02 – Who are the voices and influences that INSPIRE you on a daily or weekly basis?
55:23 – How can we CONNECT with you and support your work?
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As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific/11:00 a.m. Eastern. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!
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RABBI MICHAEL COHEN is a designer, educator, creativity instigator, podcaster, YouTuber, speaker, and an Apple Distinguished Educator. He’s also the Director of Innovation at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys High School and the author of Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential.
⭐️ Use the timestamps below to jump to specific parts of this conversation in YouTube. ⬇️
05:09 – It’s story time! Please share with us about a low moment or an experience of adversity that you’ve faced in your teaching or education career, and describe how you overcame it.
08:54 – I can’t say enough about your book, Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential. So many good directions we could go here, and it’s been fun to hear you discuss your ideas chapter by chapter on your podcast. But let’s start with this quote:
“We want our students to believe that they have the ability to create something incredible, but for that to happen, they must experience the freedom of authentic learning. Our students must be allowed to take risks and be given the space to experiment, fail, and try again.”
Can you talk more about what you mean by authentic learning? How can school leaders and teachers move their practices and thinking in this direction?
12:15 – You also wrote that “I believe that creativity is a mindset, not an art set.” I love that quote because I hear the growth mindset there – the ideas that our identities and capacities to learn are not fixed, that we all have creative capacity.
What is your word to students and educators who have decided that they are not creative people?
16:39 – How are you looking to grow professionally and improve your practice next year? Can you share about a specific professional goal or project that you’re currently working on?
19:55 – Outside of education, what’s another area of learning for you? What is it that ignites your passions outside of the classroom and brings you alive as a human being? Tell us why this area interests you and why you enjoy it.
20:38 – Share about one personal habit or productivity hack that contributes to your success.
Voices and resources that spark Michael’s thinking and ignite his practice:
ELENA AGUILAR is an accomplished educational presenter, speaker, and author. She strives to help leaders learn, be their best selves, and serve students well. In 2018, Elena published Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators, and in 2020 she released Coaching for Equity: Conversations That Change Practice.
Questions That Guided Our Conversation
1:15 – Why don’t you start by telling us a little more about your current context in education?
2:27 – First things first: how are you doing right now? How are you handling the home quarantine and social distancing?
4:37 – It’s story time! Please share with us about a low moment or an experience of adversity that you’ve faced in your teaching or education career, and describe how you overcame it.
08:48 – In 2018, you published Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators. This seems like an especially timely focus today, with educators everywhere having to reinvent their practice and respond to challenges on a variety of levels. What are some pieces of wisdom and insight that you could share from your book that might provide educators with some hope and encouragement during a very challenging time in our schools?
18:46 – If you could offer one practical strategy or bit of advice to educators around the challenges of building equity, what would that be?
21:24 – How are you looking to grow professionally and improve your practice right now? Can you share about a specific professional goal or project that you’re currently working on?
22:41 – Outside of education, what’s another area of learning for you? What is it that ignites your passions outside of the classroom and brings you alive as a human being? Tell us why this area interests you and why you enjoy it.
23:39 – When it comes to writing, are you the sort of structured or disciplined writers that follows the same writing time each day?
As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time/11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!
JESUS HUERTA is an elementary school teacher at Kennedy Gardens Elementary School in El Centro, California. He’s also an instructor for the Krause Center for Innovation, a 3D print enthusiast, a futurist, and a believer that technology is for everyone.
Competing During Uncertainty
About a year before our interview, Jesus was a finalist for the Leroy Finkel Fellowship, an award given annually to a teacher who presents “an innovative technology-enhanced curriculum project that is standards-aligned, replicable, relevant … and fun.”
Jesus had entered the contest and had made it to the short list, but he was laid off by his school just days before he was expected to present. Despite the professional uncertainty, Jesus gave everything he had to the presentation and won the award based on the 3D printing work his students were doing to create prosthetics (see a full description of the project with videos). As gratifying as it was to be recognized in the contest, it was equally satisfying to be given another teaching position shortly afterward.
The Evolution of 3D Printing and Learning
Jesus has been teaching for six years, and he’s been 3D printing the entire time. From classrooms to conferences, he carried his printer around with him wherever he went in his first years.
One way that 3D printing has really changed in the period since, Jesus says, is that the financial barriers to entry have come way down: printers and filament have both fallen a lot in price. Software has also improved and diversified and the 3D printing community has grown over these years as well.
It’s an exciting space, because 3D printing just keeps moving forward. Jesus shares a number of ways (other than prosthetics) that 3D printing technology is being used to provide medical solutions and improve quality of life around the world. On top of all the other competencies and skills that students build as they learn to design and print in 3D, the list of real-world applications only seems to grow.
Board Games, the Design Process, and Entrepreneurship
Another project that has really energized Jesus and his 5th graders is a board game project. The project combines the best of entrepreneurship, the design process, collaboration, and presentation skills. Working in partners or small groups, students begin by drawing a board game design, followed by a cardboard prototype. Further iterations follow.
Jesus describes a very authentic learning experience that occurred when one 5th grader forgot to bring her group’s prototype into class for her group’s pitch. Yes, there was some distress and some tears in that instance, but after thoughtful debriefing and reflection, he knows the real life lessons learned will last a lifetime. By project end, Jesus is always impressed by what his students manage to come up with, saying he would likely purchase them for his own family if they were commercially available.
Increased Access to the Joys of STEAM Learning
Something that Jesus has wanted to do outside of his classroom for some time is offer evening classes that align with his core passions: 3D printing, robotics, the design process, engineering, game design, coding, drones, and anything else related to STEAM.
In particular, he wants to create opportunities for kids who can’t access this kind of learning in their schools, districts, or towns. He’s built a partnership with an LGBTQ center to share space, and he’s proud to support diversity and equity for all learners by doing so.
“Learning is for everyone,” Jesus says. A kid’s gender, culture, language, religion, or orientation shouldn’t be limiting factors – and that’s something that Jesus has always been passionate about. Historically speaking, STEAM learning has tended to include more boys than girls, and evening that playing field is another part of his mission. He’s also looking at ways to include adults and mature learners, too.
Personal Passions: Creating with Wood and Playing the Violin
One of the areas of learning that Jesus recalls fondly from his childhood is drawing. In recent years, he’s revisited this passion through woodburning and carving. He’s also passionate about the sounds of the violin, and it’s been a joy to practice an instrument he’s always appreciated but never played. Jesus brings these passions into his classroom, too, using applications like Google Quick Draw, Google Music, and SoundTrap to helps students create a wide variety of digital art and media pieces.
A Productivity Tool: Wunderlist
Jesus loves using the Wunderlist app to track to-do items and track his progress, and the gamer in him enjoys the satisfying ding the app makes every time he checks off another task.
Voices and Resources That Spark His Thinking and Ignite His Practice
When it comes to a Twitter follow recommendation, Jesus doesn’t waste any time. “Paul Gordon does even more than I do,” Jesus says. One of Paul’s core passions is esports, but he also does 3D printing, laser cutting, design thinking, and more. He’s an advocate of risk-taking and a culture of yes, and he’s been a great education partner. Follow Paul @TeachTheTech.
One edtech tool that has really captured his imagination is the Oculus Quest, an all-in-one VR set. Users no longer need controllers – the set will now recognize user hands. His kids have played around with an Oculus app called Virtuoso that allows them to play piano in VR, and it’s blowing their minds. Other apps, like TiltBrush or Sculptor VR, allow users to paint and sculpt in VR as well.
Because his wife works in the criminal justice system, Jesus says they’re both enjoying a podcast called Crime Junkie. The series is so good that occasionally Jesus gets a few episodes ahead of her, and then he’s got some explaining to do! Follow this podcast on Twitter @CrimeJunkiePod.
Over on YouTube, Jesus points to the Uncle Jessy channel as a great source for 3D printers, techniques, and projects. Jesus appreciates how he follows up review videos with subsequent videos that clarify and update previous evaluations. Follow the creator on Twitter @UncleJessy4Real.
On Netflix, Jesus and his family are enjoying NCIS. They’ve been enjoying it so much that he’s actually a little sad that he’s been missing it for the last 15 years.