Jan Barber-Doyle, Bell Gardens High School

Oct. 21, 2013

We work with a lot of teachers here at UCCI – at the Institutes and in the UCCI Teacher Exchange – and what always strikes us is how creative, innovative, and smart California teachers are. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to let others know about some of the truly awesome work teachers are doing in their schools and in their classrooms?”

Enter a new feature we’re calling, “Teacher Spotlight,” where we'll showcase the innovative work teachers all over the state are doing in designing and teaching integrated curriculum.

In this first Teacher Spotlight, we meet Jan Barber-Doyle, who teaches at Bell Gardens High School in the Montebello Unified School District. Jan and her colleagues–Patty Jimenez, Mitchell Paik and Elizabeth Lowe–applied for and received one of our UCCI Pathways Grants, which we were able to offer with expanded program funding in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The Pathways Grant program allowed UCCI to assist schools in building new integrated courses to sequence around an existing UCCI course and to submit those courses for “a-g” approval. The goal of the grant was to allow schools to expand their integrated “a-g” course offerings in a way that would best meet the needs of their students. With the grant, the Bell Gardens team concentrated on a four-year sequence of courses in Environmental Science built around the UCCI course Biological Energy Links to Energy and Environment.

Jan has taught at Bell Gardens High School since 1998, and before that had more than 20 years of private-sector experience in high-tech manufacturing and production engineering at world-class facilities for Sperry-Univac, Toshiba America, Inc. and Orthodyne Electronics, Inc. 

"My personal and professional experiences have shown me that experience is the best teacher," Jan says, "and having multiple opportunities to make mistakes in a safe environment is one of the most valuable lessons."

Jan and her colleagues pursued the UCCI Pathways Grant because they saw an opportunity to bring real-world experiences and problem solving in environmental science to our students to prepare them for jobs that might not even exist yet.

"The world is changing so quickly that we owe it to our students to help them develop the skills and imagination that will usher them into a successful and rewarding life in that future world," she says.

One of the courses designed by Jan and her team is the recently approved Artistic Links to the Environment , which integrates the visual and performing arts ("f") subject area and the GREEN (Globally Responsible Environmental Education Network) career pathway of the Agriculture and Natural Resources, Engineering and Architecture, and Energy, Environment and Utilities CTE industry sectors.

Jan wrote Artistic Links to help 10th-grade students recognize, appreciate and promote the often-neglected connection between humans and the natural environment. Accordingly, the course includes assignments that have students creating pencil studies that illustrate their design ideas “for a garden structure that will improve the aesthetics of a fence line.” Another assignment has students designing a small pocket garden under predefined growing conditions, using a catalog of plants (including edibles), and creating color palettes and plant arrangements. With assignments such as these, Artistic Links thoughtfully integrates visual and performing arts (“f”) content with the key concepts involved where the multiple career sectors of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Engineering and Architecture, and Energy, Environment and Utilities overlap.

This course will be coupled with a second year of Coordinated Science to complete the foundation work begun in 9th grade. After that, 11th-grade students will take AP Environmental Science plus the CTE course Power Links to the Environment, blending theoretical science with legacies of conventional power generation and transmission, and alternative energies. Seniors in the GREEN Pathway will take an applied science and technology course called Community Links to the Environment where they will intern with local industry on renewable energy projects.

We here at UCCI feel honored to have been a part of inspiring this kind of integrated curriculum work, and we are grateful to Jan for letting us interview her for our first UCCI Teacher Spotlight. You can read the entire text of Artistic Links to the Environment on this Google document

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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