Dr. Oghwa Ladner, Alvord Union School District

July 28,  2014

Every month in our UCCI newsletter, we feature one of the extraordinary educators we have worked with at the UCCI Institutes and in the UCCI Teacher Exchange. We started this feature so that we could have a way of publicly showcasing how creative, innovative, and smart California teachers are. We archive every issue of the Teacher Spotlight here, on the UCCI website, at our Teacher Spotlight page.

Dr. Oghwa Ladner, Alvord Union School District

Every month in this newsletter, we feature one of the extraordinary educators we have worked with at the UCCI Institutes and in the UCCI Teacher Exchange. We started this feature because we were struck by how creative, innovative, and smart California teachers are—and wanted others to meet them. These features are also collected on the UCCI website on our Teacher Spotlight page.

Dr. Oghwa Ladner, a Teacher on Special Assignment in Secondary Mathematics at Hillcrest High School in the Alvord Union School District, says her work is driven by a desire to serve. As Oghwa sees it, successful teachers have three elements driving them:  "Compassion, passion, and perseverance."

Oghwa's passion for teaching was ignited early in her career, when she worked as a day care provider. Her days spent caring for and guiding children led her to see that working with young people required, "a sense of respect and heart-felt service," but that it was also work that was intellectually engaging. "I wanted to share the knowledge and skills that I had received and developed from my own teachers with others," she says. And so from there she embarked on a journey to complete her bachelor's degree and become an elementary school teacher. 

During her second year as an elementary school teacher, Oghwa learned about the power of teaching mathematics at both the conceptual and procedural levels, and in doing so ignited a passion that would lead he to the work she does today as a Teacher on Special Assignment for STEM. "I was so energized by the work of teaching math in my elementary school classes that I worked on my [single-subject credential] to teach mathematics and taught math to seventh and eighth grade students for five years." It was during that time that Oghwa saw that math was less about equations and more about discovering processes for solving problems. “This shift to teaching mathematics conceptually changed me forever," she says. 

It was this shift in understanding of mathematics as a way to develop students problem-solving skills that led Oghwa to apply to be a course developer at the Summer 2012 UCCI Institute integrating math with the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector. To say the experience was transformative for Oghwa might be an understatement. "What drew me to UCCI is the innovative approach of being able to create integrated courses," she says. "But the UCCI experience helped me to understand how California’s adoption of Common Core’s college and career readiness standards intersects with the rigor and relevance integrated curriculum brings to student learning."  

Since participating as a course developer at her first Institute in 2012, Oghwa has gone on to serve as a UCCI facilitator at four more UCCI Institutes, successfully leading teams through the creation of courses as diverse as math integrated with robotics and Spanish integrated with patient care. And she was so energized by the opportunities integrated curriculum affords that she applied for a UCCI Pathways Grant in the 2012 - 2013 academic year to develop more integrated courses for her district. After being awarded the grant funding, Oghwa took an existing UCCI course, Algebra 2 for the 21st Century (which integrates Algebra 2 content with Scratch programming projects), and created three new courses that would serve her district, which is following a Common Core integrated math pathway. Her work as a Teacher on Special Assignment involved facilitating collaboration among math teachers from three Alvord district high schools in the design and implementation of these new integrated courses. Oghwa said what drove her in this endeavor was a desire for more students to have access to both college and career preparation. "I wanted students to not only learn Scratch but to help them learn about the fundamental components of programming while also being exposed to various approaches for career development," Oghwa said.  "The connection between integrated curriculum and college and career readiness is very important."

Oghwa’s work developing the courses she designed under the Pathways grant has broadened her influence beyond her immediate district. At a UCCI Institute, she met Andre Hargunani, a principal of the Critical Design and Gaming School at Augustus Hawkins High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  At Andre’s request, Oghwa shared her grant courses with him, meaning that teachers in LAUSD will also have been influenced by Oghwa’s expertise in curriculum design as well as her commitment to serving others and allowing them to benefit from the work she has done.

Since 2012, Oghwa has been an integral part of the UCCI Initiative, serving in many capacities. But she feels that she has gotten from the experience as much as if not more than she has given to it. “As I reflect on UCCI’s contribution, I realize how much I have grown as an educator over the last two years. The UCCI experience has helped me to understand how rigor- and- relevance-driven learning can be achieved by creating curricula through [the integration of] 'a-g' content and Career Technical Education. And it has been an empowering process, as a K-12 educator, to be able to experience a larger professional learning community beyond my site and district.”


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“I've gained more from this institute in regards to curriculum development than any other program I've been associated with in my 12 years of teaching.” 

- Aaron Lemos, Spring 2013 UCCI Institutes