DJLN Educator Spotlight: Supporting Blended Learning with Andrea Lucero

| By Yonah Kirschner, Project Manager, Digital Content and Communications

In this Educator Spotlight, you'll meet Andrea Lucero and find out how blended learning is making a difference for her students.

 

Andrea Lucero has been in the field of education for sixteen years and is currently the Middle School Principal at Hebrew Academy RASG. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education with a concentration in Social Studies for grades 6-12 at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York. She began her teaching career as a fifth grade teacher at a private school and then later moved on to teaching tenth grade U.S. History at a public high school in New Jersey. In 2002, she moved to Miami and began teaching part time at the Hebrew Academy. In 2008, Mrs. Lucero graduated from Nova Southeastern University with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and began her role in administration as the Middle School Principal in 2011.

 

When did you realize you wanted to work in education?
As a small child, I used to play teacher at home and always wanted to be an educator but I finally began to focus on education in high school and college. It all really sank in when I attended an Assistant Principal Academy in Tampa while working at Hebrew Academy. After a full week immersed in learning, leadership and administration, I shifted my focus from the classroom to this leadership role.

 

Can you tell me more about your role and how you support teachers who are integrating technology in your school?
As middle school principal for grades 6-8, I oversee Judaic and secular teachers and provide curriculum support, supervision, pedagogy and guidance with student relationships. I am lucky to have a solid strong team of teachers who think outside the box and explore new lessons, activities and blended learning initiatives. I completely support any idea that will have a positive impact on students’ learning and also excites teachers including all types of technology. As a former teacher, one of the things I loved about working at Hebrew Academy is how openness and creativity is encouraged to bring the classroom to life and create eager learners. I encourage my teachers to do the same.

 

What’s a lesson you worked on with a teacher that integrated technology successfully?
We strongly encourage blended learning. Every classroom has devices now being used for learning activities. Teachers have traded paper submissions for Google Docs. If you walk into an ELA class, we have learning stations with students on alternative seating such as bean bags working in small groups in the classroom or in the hallway: on computers, recording themselves reading hebrew into Google Voice, working collaboratively in a document or presentation, watching a video or completing a project on Wizer.me, i-Ready or Wordlywise. This year we have gizmos for science and math where teachers create online simulations. In math they utilized simulation to see geometric angles and in science they saw chemistry balance and weights. Students can work on varying levels and use technology to focus on specific skills they may need to work on. We have even used technology for Talmud to enhance 6th grade text analysis using Mishnah and Gemara Berura for text analysis.

In our school, we’re very proud to say, you see bits and pieces of blended learning everywhere you go.

 

What advantages do you see in using blended learning and technology in the classroom? Benefits for students?
I would say the advantages for students is that it allows them to really work at their own pace and allows us to personalize learning in order to meet the needs of the students.

For example, we’ve incorporated a number of adaptive learning programs into math and language arts classes, Talmud and science that allow us to meet the needs of the students by using adaptive learning. We use i-Ready to test students and then used their diagnostics to inform their learning. After we began using the Wordlywise online platform, our ELA teacher noted that it allowed children to accelerate at a much quicker rate than the rest of the class. At the same time, it helped us address students who were below grade level by lowering their level on Wordlywise. One major advantage of this approach is meeting a student’s needs without making the child feel bad about his learning since no one else knows that level an individual child is working on. So here we are using blended learning in an academic sense and maintaining an emotional balance for our students.

Because our children are now growing up in a digital age, it’s important for children to see technology and devices as tools for learning rather than simply for playing videos and texting. We hope to impart the benefits of technology to enhance learning and to expose children to new ideas and new places from their own chairs.

 

Where are you looking to take technology integration at Hebrew Academy in the future?
Technology changes every day. We’re always looking for new opportunities to use technology to meet the needs of our students while keeping students excited about learning and teachers excited about teaching. We have had companies approach us to pilot their programs and we are excited about testing new platforms and supporting ideas for blended learning.

 

What have been the highlights of participating in JBlend Miami?
I would say that it was incredible to be able to meet with other colleagues from across our area to see how they’re implementing blended learning. One of the best parts of JBlend Miami was being able to talk others to hear what has worked and what hasn’t worked for them and what they’re showcasing in their schools. This has been one of the best professional development initiatives for us as a team and has built buy in from faculty and teachers, kids, and our full community.

 

What’s been most rewarding about having technology for learning?
It’s extremely rewarding to see students excel, especially those who don’t exactly fit the paper and pencil typical essay writer mold. Seeing them succeed… excited to show me the presentation they’ve created… seeing the progress they’ve made in the adaptive program… seeing students make the connections between online learning and traditional classroom lessons -- those aha moments are priceless.

The best part is seeing the kids excited and ready to learn. They are so used to devices so when we add that component into their lessons, they become infinitely more engaged.