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How do we support and motivate teachers?

Vista Unified School District was formed in 1936 and now has 29 schools serving more than 22,000 students from preschool to 12th grade. Vista Unified School District is one of northern San Diego County’s largest educational agencies. The district stretches 39 square miles across most of Vista, a large portion of eastern Oceanside, some unincorporated areas and small slivers of Carlsbad and San Marcos. In addition to the campuses district administrators oversee, Vista Unified also includes one of the county’s largest adult-education programs with about 20,000 enrolled each year and another 3,000 students in four charter schools sponsored by the district. Vista Unified has 16 elementary schools, five middle schools, three comprehensive schools, two alternative schools, two schools for students with special needs, one K – 8 school, a blended and online independent study school, and an adult school.

The district serves a diverse population of students, including more than 3,000 in its special education programs and more than 6,000 who are learning English as a second language. Enrollment has declined over the last several years from about 26,000 students in 2000 to more than 22,000 in 2012. Fifty-eight percent qualify for free lunch, twenty-four percent are English learners, ten percent are homeless and sixty percent are Hispanic.

The Challenge

Instructional Technology and Blended Learning environments were very rare in Vista Unified School District prior to the 2012-2013 school year. Teachers were restrained from using technology related resources, so the student learning environments looked the same as it did 20 years earlier. Teachers were not able to explore the use of instructional technology as the resources were not available.

As the Common Core was implemented, there was a need to change the pedagogical approach to the classroom. The learning environment needed to provide opportunities for students to collaborate with their peers and their teachers in real time. There was a need to provide students with resources that allowed them to demonstrate their knowledge in a wide range of media.

The challenge was; how do they motivate and support teachers as they begin to implement instructional technology into their classrooms? How do they provide teachers support and create awareness as to what is possible when it comes to future ready learning environments?

The Solution

As a district, a priority was placed on creating a robust technology infrastructure that would support the use of instructional technology. Technology devices were purchased using district funds as well as school site funds. Targeted software was purchased to address student intervention needs and school sites purchased and piloted a variety of software and apps.

To encourage, support and motivate teachers, as well as create an awareness of what is possible to enhance learning experiences, they revamped large scale professional development days. The district has two large scale professional development days where all certificated employees attend. These professional development days are conference style where staff attend four different sessions throughout the day. These sessions are led by teachers and other district staff, along with community, and university partners. The first conference style professional development day took place in January of 2013. The first Vista Unified School District conference style professional development day was titled “ Celebrating our Own”. Having the District’s teachers present sessions sharing how they were using instructional technology in their classrooms sparked a great movement of embracing technology for the purpose of extending learning. The District now has nearly 20,000 devices that are used on a regular basis for instructional purposes.

From the U.S. Department of Education:

District Point of Contact

Devin Vodicka, Superintendent
Phone: 760.726.2170