All PSJA ISD employees are encouraged to contribute to our Voices of PSJA Blog! We ask that you write about a topic you are passionate about so that other members of our PSJA Family can learn more from you and your work. Submit your blog here.
Questions? Call the PSJA Communications Dept. at 354-2027.
Preparing our PSJA educators for the digital age through Power Tech SessionsPosted by Senyda Elizondo, PSJA Integration Specialist on 1/31/2019
Education has transformed because of the digital age. Today it is commonplace to find most children surfing the web or using apps on a mobile device. A recently released report from Common Sense shows that 95% of teens now own a mobile device. Educators now more than ever are redefining what teaching looks like by integrating technology into student coursework. Students need to attain skills that will allow them to produce and contribute to our changing digital world. As an Integration Specialist, my mission is to empower educators to use technology to facilitate student learning. I strive to surround myself in new areas of technology improvement and innovation in learning. I work with a team of three additional specialists.
During the summer of 2017, my colleague Debbie Pingel and I had the opportunity to attend the International Technology in Education conference in San Antonio. What we noticed is a change in professional development delivery. Teachers and staff have grown weary of the conventional lecture type professional development and crave a hands-on experience that is more personal. The Ed Camp model that empowers educators by being participant-driven also inspired us to reform our Professional development.
After hosting many of these “conventional” technology trainings, we decided to change things up a bit. From these experiences, the PSJA Tech Power Session was born. The Tech Power Session is an hour-long session where we provide a snack, door prizes and the invitation to learn numerous technology integration tips. During the session, participants can select three out of the seven possible technology sessions. These technology topics range from district programs such as Brain Pop to technology hardware such as Mimio clickers and iPad apps. The sessions are broken into 15-minute segments and participants rotate. Tech Power Sessions are hosted by a different elementary campus each month and are open to all elementary educators. Each topic is delivered by an elementary CIT (Campus Instructional Technologist). The CIT is also a classroom teacher who can give their personal expertise on the topic. The round table setting allows the participants to engage and collaborate in a setting comfortable for both the presenter and attendee.
The Tech Power sessions have been successful due to the elementary administrative support, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The Instructional Technology Department is moving forward on building more educational leaders in the area of technology integration.
How is this work connected to the Spirit of PSJA?
The Spirit of PSJA encompasses the following four major areas: Positive Engagement, Student-centered Excellence, Joint Empowerment and Adaptive Innovation. Our mission in Instructional Technology is to develop and facilitate growth through technology integration for all educators. My job is to adhere to our district protocols and deliver innovative practices in the classroom that allow teachers to collaborate and drive student success. Our Tech Power Sessions have captured large audiences among our elementary educators and incite new learning opportunities. These sessions build capacity among our educators attending and demonstrate expertise by our elementary CITs who deliver the sessions.
- 15 years working at PSJA ISD
- PSJA High School Class of 1998
- I have three children in PSJA ISD
What does PSJA ISD mean to me?
As alumni, community member and employee I am proud of my district. I am honored to work for the citizens that I live next door to. I am invested in my community 100%. As a PSJA parent, I have the opportunity to see all our district's successes from a different view. I get excited when I see the direction we are headed and look forward to mine and my children's future here.Comments (0)
Preparing students for college and beyond through real work experiencesPosted by Pedro Leija, PSJA ECHS Video Technology Instructor on 1/8/2019There is no doubt high school football is king in the RGV and the three months the season lasts are very special to our community. I had the privilege of covering this majestic sport for the last 16 years of my life, but this 2018-2019 season I was in for a big challenge and an even greater satisfaction.It first started when the PSJA Communications Department wanted to incorporate a pre-game show before the Friday Night Lights, but the timeframe made it impossible for coaches to be the guests. After brainstorming and reaching some dead ends, we decided we would have a live segment highlighting all the wonderful things happening at our campuses. Yes, having the principals, teachers, and directors of organizations making a difference in our community sounded like a win-win situation. We could meet our goal of having a pre-game show and our audience would get to see all the great things happening at PSJA.Could it get any better? It did, and it became a game changer. After careful thought and long hours of planning, the idea of incorporating students was suggested into the production of the show. I walked out of that meeting with a million ideas and not enough time. We re-organized and decided to offer an “experimental” internship, an experiment that a few weeks later became a reality. First things first, only two high schools offer TV Production classes in the district and the first challenge was to get everybody involved. An open casting was set with the idea of incorporating student reporters from all the high schools. We had students from PSJA ECHS, PSJA North ECHS, PSJA Memorial ECHS, PSJA Southwest ECHS and PSJA T. Jefferson T-STEM ECHS interested in participating. We went to all campuses and interviewed students, shared schedules and what followed in the next 12 weeks made me reconsider my ambitions in life.During the first football games this fall semester, the students showed up scared and nervous. It was a normal occurrence; the students became exposed to a familiar environment but to an unfamiliar situation. From seeing the game in the stands, now they were part of it.In some instances, I would see their microphone shaking before they did their small interviews. I realized that I needed to use a familiar teaching technique on them, so I incorporated the good old, “I do, we do, you do”, a technique I learned at the New Teacher Institute. I started doing my sideline reports and showed them how I got my notes, the stance in front of the camera, and the little details of reporting. Later, I invited them to be on camera with me and the final goal was for them to do interviews on their own. By the second week, the students were reporting on their own. By the end of the season, they were bringing stories, running the camera, and presenting the halftime show on their own. I felt a sense of pride and satisfaction I had never experienced before as a professional. My “kids” were doing live reports, operating cameras, gathering information like professional reporters and presenting stories.PSJA ISD's 20+ staff, 7-camera live broadcasting operation of the game is top quality in the state. Our students had exposure to professionals that are the best at their craft in the RGV. An experience that made one or more students even rethink their career choice.How is this work connected to the Spirit of PSJA?
By the end of the internship, students became team players with professionals on the broadcasting field, developed initiative and shared their vision. Now they are confident individuals believing in the skills acquired during high school and a memorable internship.About Me* Two years working at PSJA ISD* PSJA High School Class of 1995
Empowering our parents to become role modelsPosted by Olivia Benford, PSJA Parental Engagement Program Director on 1/7/2019
For the past 7 years, the PSJA Parental Engagement Department has offered GED, ESL, Computer Technology, and an array of entrepreneurship classes to over 12,000 parents in our community. These efforts have proven to be very fruitful for the schools, families, and community. Parental engagement in our schools has grown by leaps and bounds. Parental volunteering is astoundingly high, as well as parental attendance at parent meetings. But more importantly, once parents become students themselves, they grasp the full impact of the importance of an education.
They become empowered. They become empowered with the knowledge of a full understanding of all aspects of the academic field. Which, in turn, leads them to encourage their children to strive for the best education possible. That encouragement coming from the home is comparable to nothing more important. The transformation of the parents is so visible in each individual.
One can feel it on the inside, and, you can visualize it on the outward appearance as the parent begins to express person views, carries a conversation about future goals and desires for the family. You can also see the transformation of that personal pride, even outward appearance. What a gift to be a part of that. Our staff at Parental Engagement Department are grateful every day to hold such an important and rewarding responsibility, to serve.
How is this work connected to the Spirit of PSJA?
As the "Spirit of PSJA" defines the character of an employee, Parental Department and its staff are committed to creating: Positive Engagement, Student-Centered Excellence, Joint Empowerment, and Adaptive Innovation. This is what we strive to do on a daily basis as employees of the District and as human beings helping and supporting each other any way that we can.
* 29 years working at PSJA ISD
I have invested 29 years of my life working for this wonderful District and I would do it all over again. Very proud of the District I work for!
Paying it forwardPosted by Eloy Garza, PSJA Southwest Marketing Instructor on 12/17/2018
I have served as the marketing instructor and shot put/discus coach at PSJA Southwest Early College High School since 2012. I graduated from PSJA North in 2003 and studied marketing and advertising at Morningside College in Sioux City, IA on a football, track and choir scholarship. Prior to being an educator, I served as a corporate account executive an head of marketing for technical publications firm in San Antonio. I came back to the valley to start a family with my high school sweetheart and decided to pursue a career in teaching/coaching because I wanted to try and make an impact in my community. The corporate world was great, but I wanted something more fulfilling than a monetary reward.
I am blessed to work with the amazing young men and women of the South Pharr community. When given the right motivation they will outwork, outperform, and outshine any other student in the country. I wear two hats at Southwest, “Mr. Marketing” and Coach Garza. As a teacher, I run the Southwest Marketing program, the first student-led marketing agency in the United States. We offer comprehensive marketing services in exchange for real-life experience. I started this method of teaching because my students weren’t engaged in my class. I thought there had to be a better way to get them engaged with the material and give them experience that would really prepare them. Our program is now working with international corporations such as HP and has been recognized as an innovative model by the U.S. Department of Education. More importantly, many of my former students are doing very well in college and pursuing careers in marketing.
As a coach, I’ve had the opportunity to train some of the best athletes in the country. My athletes have seen success as Districts Champions, State Finalists, and Junior Olympians but the real focus of my program is for my athletes to follow something I call the “PR Philosophy”. We never focus on first place, our goal is always to achieve Personal Records in competition and in life. This is an intangible that truly gives self-fulfillment long after the glory of being a champion fades. Moreover, this mentality becomes a way-of-being that stays with them after their athletic career.
I teach and coach what I am most passionate about and love knowing that I am helping others the same way my teachers and coaches helped me, it’s what gives me purpose. I am a public servant and know first-hand how badly my students need me to give my all. To give some sort of context about me, I come from a single parent home and helped raise my two younger sisters. I’ll just say that we lived through very hard circumstances and that I’ve seen things that I would not wish on anyone; drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, etc. Were it not for my coaches and journalism teacher, Armando Rodriguez “Rod”, my life would have turned out very differently and I would probably be in prison right now. My coaches pushed me to reach my athletic potential and ensured that my hard work would not go unnoticed by college coaches. Rod was the teacher that pushed me to be a better person and believed in me at a time when I didn’t know how to believe in myself.
I often get asked why I do what I do, the typical teacher answer is that I do it for the kids. The truth is that I want to be their Rod or Coach Garcia! True success for me is seeing one of my students presenting a marketing strategy to a CEO with the skills I taught them or having one of my throwers sign a letter of intent for an athletic scholarship. This is my way of paying it forward, my way of doing for others what was done for me. I am a product of PSJA and honored to do my small part to make it better!
About Eloy Garza
* PSJA North High School Class of 2003
Vales Por Dos! PSJA Dual Language Program impacts generationsPosted by Olivia Martinez-Tovar, PSJA Dual Language Development/Biliteracy Director on 12/10/2018
There are many benefits to speaking two or more languages at a young age and continuing this type of education through high school and beyond. Being bilingual (listening and speaking) is one thing, but when you are also biliterate (reading, writing, and thinking critically in two languages), that changes a whole lot of things. Bilingualism and biliteracy allows students to maintain AND strengthen their native language, which builds a STRONG foundation for literacy, while simultaneously learning a second language; it increases mental flexibility for children as they think critically in two languages; prepares them for academic and professional careers (dual language students are more marketable because of their biliteracy); results in higher scores on state assessments; and builds self-esteem and creativity. Bilingual, biliterate students also develop sensitivity towards other people and cultures, making them more apt to collaborate with others, while maintaining a strong sense of their own identity.
PSJA started implementing a two-way dual language program in 1995 with four elementary schools that slowly grew to six campuses. Dr. King, our PSJA Superintendent of Schools, began our district-wide program back in 2008 with Pre-k and Kindergarten students. Those kindergartners are now sophomores! That cohort alone is over 1,050 students. Overall, we currently have over 14,000 students participating in our internationally recognized Dual Language Enrichment Program.
Our mission at PSJA is to provide this type of education for all students who are part of our district and we welcome all students, from all grade levels, to be part of this amazing educational experience. Being bilingual and biliterate gives our students an advantage that, unfortunately, not many others are afforded. Already, PSJA has definitely seen the fruits of its labor. We have former dual language students who have graduated with the Seal of Biliteracy become part of our district family again, but this time in a different capacity. They have joined our workforce and are giving back to our community. Some success stories include Aisha Loya from our first cohort who is currently an ELA teacher at PSJA Southwest Early College High School; Brenda Villarreal also from our first cohort who is now a Dual Language Early Childhood teacher at Berta Palacios Elementary; Criselias Rodríguez from our 9th cohort (who, thanks to our Early College program, graduated with a Bachelor Degree before he graduated with a high school diploma), a Dual Language Physics teacher at PSJA Early College High School, and several others who are serving our students in different roles.
We have so many amazing students who have set great goals for themselves and take pride in the opportunity to help them to accomplish those goals by providing them with a first-class bilingual, biliterate education.
How is this work connected to the Spirit of PSJA?
Our work through the PSJA Dual Language Enrichment Program definitely relates to our district’s leadership definition the Spirit of PSJA. In specifically, the Student-Centered Excellence characteristic is exemplified as we hold our district’s vision and expectations for success for all students and all staff. We communicate our bilingual-biliterate vision with our teachers and principals so that our plan can be implemented according to the goals set forth by the district leadership and expect exceptional results for our students.
It also relates to Positive Engagement as we welcome staff, students, parents, and community as honored members at district table. We build relationships with students, parents, and teachers and communicate effectively with all stakeholders regarding our program as to how we will continue meeting the needs of our students.
To Joint Empowerment which enables us to develop and empower individuals and teams for effective action. We ensure that our teachers partake in relevant dual-language training opportunities that have the latest research, and collaborate to develop a rich and viable curriculum that is student-centered.
- PSJA High School Class of 1991
- 10+ years at PSJA ISD
I have two kids attending PSJA ISD. My son, Evan Jared Tovar, graduated from PSJA Thomas Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School in May of 2018. My daughter, Katarina Celeste Tovar, is currently a sophomore at PSJA Early College High School.
What does being a part of PSJA mean to you?
To me, being a part of PSJA ISD means being part of an amazing family that focuses on strengthening student achievement. There truly is no better school district to be a part of.