December 7, 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 Donna Wyatt, Linked Learning Office for Oakland Unified School District
We spoke with Donna about her current role at the Oakland Unified School District and her love of travel.
What do you currently do and why?
I am Manager of CTE Curriculum and Instruction in the Linked Learning office for Oakland Unified School District, and I do it because I believe that CTE serves as the hub for our Linked Learning pathways and provides the context for academics and work-based learning. I know that CTE connects students to learning, both in high school and beyond.
What is your background and how did you get to where you are today?
My first career was as a nurse which paid the bills but I didn't find it very fulfilling until I was asked to act as a proctor for student nurses coming into the hospital. I enjoyed the educational aspects of working with student nurses and that got me thinking about teaching. I took two years away from work when I had my son and one day saw an employment ad for a medical assisting teacher. That was in 1990 and I've never looked back! I began my career in education as a Health Science teacher for Colton Redlands Yucaipa ROP. While there I was asked by the principal of the continuation school where I taught to be a founding member of the HEART Academy at Redlands High. During my time with the HEART Academy we were able to place students in internships at Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda University Children's Hospital and San Bernardino County Arrowhead Hospital. After leaving CRY-ROP, I worked for Riverside County Office of Education before moving to Alameda in 2008. All together I have 17 years in the secondary classroom and now teach for UC Berkeley Extension in the CTE Teacher Preparation and Credential program.
Prior to your UCCI Institute participation, had you done any integration of CTE and academics?
Yes. I was lucky enough to work with a group of highly collaborative teachers in the HEART Academy. We were always looking for ways to integrate across content not just through projects but through daily classroom instruction. One project that stands out was a combined 10th English, Biology, Health Science and Mathematics in a project called "Making the World a Healthier Place," in which students had to address a world health issue and propose a solution. Students came away from this project with an understanding that a health crisis going on in some faraway place can directly affect their little corner of the world, and it allowed them to see that health truly is a global concern, which broadened their perspective and understanding that there are both biological and societal issues at play in global health. They were able to see connections to their studies in World History (early explorers, the Black Plague), Biology (viruses and bacteria), Health Science (Infection Control), English (The Hot Zone) and finally an early introduction to Statistics.
What have you seen in how districts are approaching incorporating integrated curriculum into high schools, and what are the challenges you see in this work?
I think all of our Linked Learning partner districts recognize the importance of integration and try to create the structures necessary for teachers to do this work. Common planning time is essential to the work of integration, as is support of continued collaboration. A master schedule continues to be a challenge in the effort to cohort students and give teachers the time to collaborate. Several of our pathways in Oakland set aside specific times each month to work on the build-out of integrated projects and they also spend time each week discussing what they are teaching so that integration becomes something that students see in every class on a weekly basis. In addition, the OUSD Linked Learning office supports teachers during the summer by providing stipends and time for pathway teams to meet to revise projects, map curriculum and build out courses. The overall goal for most of our pathways is to have at least two fully integrated projects each year but also to make integration something that is not just seen in projects. Curriculum mapping is essential to the effort of every day integration.
Please talk a bit about the “implementation guidelines” you have created for administrators in Oakland.
We have had many OUSD teachers take part in the UCCI Institutes and write courses so our pathway teachers are fully on board in adopting the courses. Implementation in OUSD includes providing time and stipends for teachers to build out the curriculum and work together to develop both content areas of the courses. It can't simply be a matter of adoption; there has to be process of development.
What UCCI courses are currently being taught in Oakland and how are they being rolled out/implemented?
We have many UCCI courses currently being taught in our pathways. Some of them include Literacy, Advocacy and Public Service, Public Health: reading and writing your way to a Healthier World, and Algebra 2 for the 21st Century. In many cases our OUSD pathway teacher helped write the courses. In most cases, courses are rolled out based on recommendations from staff within the Linked Learning office. Building out the program of study (POS) for a pathway is a team effort: I research the various UCCI courses available and then build out a POS which I then take to the pathway coach working with the team. The entire pathway team, pathway coach, principal and myself then review the courses and select the courses most appropriate to the pathway outcomes. Pathway teachers are then provided time and stipends to build out the courses. We are all very excited that UCCI is focusing its efforts to expand the UCCI Teacher Exchange next year to provide more support to teachers implementing this curriculum. Building out courses is hard work!!!
We’d love to hear about any non-academic interests/experiences/hobbies you have, or perhaps related to academics but not necessarily to your current role.
In my spare time I travel as much as I can both local and distinct. My travels always include being outdoor hiking, biking, kayaking, and SUPing. My next journey is to Iceland in March. My quieter pursuits are reading, music and old movies and time with friends and family.