Joyce Foss

September 14, 2015

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.

This month the spotlight is on Joyce Foss, English Teacher/Coach, Quartz Hill High School, AVUSD

We recently chatted with Joyce about what inspired her to become a teacher, her involvement with the UCCI programs and her love of singing!

How long have you been teaching, and how did you decide to become a teacher?
I have been teaching for 12 years. I have wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a little girl, with a chalkboard, teaching my stuffed animals. I never even considered another career, until I had my first child. After that, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom until my children hit high school age. Well, that plan was changed when my daughter came along 11 years after my youngest son. I home schooled my 3 children for 7 years, and my "career" got what some might consider a late start. I wouldn't change a thing.

You were one of the UCCI Pathways Grant recipients. What prompted you to apply for that grant, and what courses came out of it? 
I applied for the Pathways Grant after participating in a UCCI Institute. I loved the 9th grade English course that we wrote at the Institute called Language Takes the Stage. When I saw the grant, I wrote out my vision of a pathway and pulled together 3 other fantastic teachers. We came up with Language Takes The Screen (English 10)--a course on literature and film making; Language Takes Action (English 11)--a course on making documentaries. Our final course was not sent in for "B" approval, but it was Language Creates --a capstone course where the students choose what they want to create: play, film, or documentary. One day, I think I'll see about getting that one approved.
How has implementation of the courses you developed gone?
Our district has just put the 3 approved courses on our course list. Language Takes the Stage is being taught this year, and I believe the other two courses will be taught next year. I am so proud and excited that these courses have come to life in our district. I am hoping that I can pop in to see them in action.
Your district has implemented a number of UCCI courses—which ones, and how are they helping you meet the needs of students in your district?
Here are some of the courses we are using: Language Takes the Stage; Green Up and Go!; Agriscience Systems Management; Chemistry and Environmental Engineering: Water we doing?; Sustainable Agriculture: A Biological Approach To Industry; Biological Links To Energy and Environment; English 10: Awareness and Ethics in Law and Public Safety.

As you can see, we are reaching the educational needs of a diverse group of students. All of these courses are part of individual academies, and all of them fit our goal of connecting what students learn with how they will use their new skills in the world beyond the walls of their schools; they apply all the standards of core content with the industry standards of a CTE course. The purpose of our schools is to prepare students for college and career, and these courses serve that purpose so very well. 
You are an Instructional Coach for CTE and a teacher trainer for CSU’s EXPOSITORY READING AND WRITING COURSE.  How did you move into each of these roles? Can you describe the work involved in both?
Wow! How did I move into these roles? I had the privilege of being invited to an ERWC training the second year of my teaching career. I was so excited about the course that I piloted one of the modules and shared my experiences with one of the writers of the course, Kim Flachmann.  My communication with Dr. Flachmann lead to my becoming a trainer of teachers. In this role, I prepare teachers to teach the Expository Reading and Writing Course and/or apply those reading and writing strategies to courses across the disciplines. This has led to many opportunities for me to lead Professional Learning workshops in my district and beyond. 
My involvement with CTE began with an invitation to teach Introduction to Education online. Before that time, I really didn't understand what CTE was all about, but once I understood how students were being taught, I jumped on board with as much enthusiasm as I did with ERWC. I started attending UCCI Institutes and became involved in curriculum writing in as many ways as possible. I found that the more I worked with curriculum, the more I found it to be my passion. Ultimately, my involvement with the district literacy team and my connection with CTE came together in my position as a CTE Instructional Coach. My job involves presenting literacy strategies to the CTE teachers, challenging teachers to push the students with rigorous and relevant content, helping  teachers write and submit curriculum for A-G approval, and otherwise serving the needs of teachers. 
I am so thankful for both of these opportunities to serve other teachers and their students. I learn so much each time I work with other educators, and I am tremendously inspired by their skills and dedication.
Please discuss any non-academic interests/experiences, or perhaps related to academics but not necessarily to your current role (e.g. tutoring)
I love to sing, and I have just been accepted into the Antelope Valley Master Chorale. I am thrilled to be a small part of a much larger, much more beautiful picture. I have been a part of other choirs, so I often talk to my students about auditions and performances. When I share my fears, insecurities, and triumphs, I hope that my students see that life should be approached with gusto--never mind how our knees shake and how we feel vulnerable. We should always go for the things that are important to us. If we don't get them, at least we tried; and every time we tried, we learned something new.
As an English Teacher, do you have any favorite resources you’d like to share with other educators, and why?
Because classroom discussion is so vital to student engagement, it is important to include as many students as possible in the discussion. I find that the use of some online tools has enhanced my classroom participation and engagement.  TodaysMeet is a great one for students to state their answers, share their ideas, or ask questions in real time. PollEverywhere can immediately gauge student understanding, take polls on opinions, or allow students to vote on anything you want. Padlet is an online cork board where students can post specific responses or other materials. As with any online tool, the students need some time to get used to them -- translation: they want to play and write silly things -- but after some fun, they work quite well for me.

Another free tool that I love is remind.com. This allows teachers to text reminders to their students, from the computer or phone, without giving out your personal phone number. This is great for so many different reasons: reminders of tests; sending out a word of the day; reminding students to bring a book or special materials; sending out a word of encouragement.

I've found that vocabulary is a difficult thing to teach. The classroom time dedicated to it, and the lack of student retention are pretty discouraging. However, about 3 years ago, I was approached by a brand new company, called Membean, to pilot their vocabulary program. I've never seen a better approach to teaching vocabulary and word roots.  After about 3 weeks on the program, some students start to use the words in class discussions, and the other students get excited and exclaim, "That's a Membean word!" Doesn't get any better than that.

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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