Morello Park Elementary School – 2010 Winner

Renee Travis was a young mother whose own children’s experiences in elementary school inspired her to go back to DVC, earn an associate’s degree, achieve a four-year college degree, get a credential, and become a teacher.

Renee believes that learning happens best when kids are motivated and engaged. Renee uses technology to keep her students engaged. She designed integrated technology lessons to help students master the third grade Language Arts standards. Every day, students rotate in groups on a bank of six computers. This is called TECH STAR TIME, which stands for Technology Enhanced Curriculum Helps Students to Achieve Results through Integrated Meaningful Education. The computer has a host of targeted instructional activities – pictures, vocabulary games, crossword puzzles, comprehension practice with online quizzes, grammar games, internet links and a variety of other activities that focus on the skills Renee is trying to teach. Each student can move through these activities at his or her own pace. A GATE student can work on challenging enrichment materials, while another student at the next computer is working with remedial materials. Because students work at their own pace, they are motivated to learn. And they have fun.

The students are absorbed in what they are doing, they enjoy it, and their test scores are high. Renee has shared her vision with other teachers at her school, and her district is contemplating adopting it at three other elementary schools.

Renee’s involvement with her students doesn’t stop at the classroom door. Recently, she learned that a student’s mother was on the verge of being deported, leaving the student to live with a father whom she only saw twice a month. Renee helped the student make a list of the things that were within her control, and to manage the stress of those things that were beyond her control. Together with the student, she created a “feelings journal” in which she could express how the situation was affecting her. She met with the student often during recess and after school. As the student’s eighth birthday approached, her mother’s immigration hearing was also fast approaching. The family was so close to Renee that she was asked to attend the child’s birthday party in the mother’s place in the event that the immigration hearing did not go well. There was a happy ending – the immigration judge allowed the mother to stay in this country, and mother, daughter and teacher celebrated together.