Leslie Hirsh Ceballos is not afraid to use technology in the classroom. She’s so good at it that PBS selected her as one of its 2014 LearningMedia Digital Innovators. The Richardson teacher is one of 100 educators tapped for the year-long professional development program.
Her title at Carolyn G. Bukhair Elementary School is master teacher, but Leslie Hirsh Ceballos is really more like a coach. During the day, she meets with a cluster of third-grade teachers and after school, she coaches 4th, 5th and 6th grade math & science teachers.
“So I’m in the classrooms, either if they didn’t quite understand what we did in cluster, I’m modeling for them in the classrooms,” Ceballos said. “If they want to try it out and want me to just watch and give them feedback, that’s what I’m doing. I could be pulling small groups and trying some things out with just a small group of students.”
Ceballos says this is her dream job. And while she may not have her own classroom of students, she feels like she’s making a difference, teaching new strategies to teachers.
“I wanted to be researching the best practices out there,” Ceballos said. “I wanted to present that to teachers and I wanted to impact more than just my 18 to 25 students in my four walls.”
For her application to PBS, Ceballos got creative. She used the online software PowToon, which uses animation to create presentations. In it, a female animated figure appears and words describing what she does as a master teacher pop up. It’s set to the Jackson 5 hit song ABC, 123.
So teaching may not be as easy as singing the song’s chorus, but Ceballos tries at least to make it fun. In the classroom, she’s taught students how to blog, use Google presentations and record themselves using Flip Video cameras. She’s taught teachers how to use iPad applications and other online tools with their students.
“You know, it’s not so much fun for the kids just to try and figure out what a vocabulary word means,” says third-grade teacher Ashley Bradford. “So she’s helped us with ways to make it more game-like, like finding some apps on the iPads where the kids can play against each other.”
Bradford says she’s always looking for new ways to get through to her third graders and learning how to incorporate technology helps.
“We’re competing with PS3s and Xboxes and all of that, so she’s really good at bringing the fun into the classroom so that the kids are engaged,” Bradford said.
Most of the students at Carolyn Bukhair Elementary are classified as English Language Learners and more than 90 percent are Latino. Third-grade bilingual teacher Elizabeth Reggans says Ceballos found a way to help students get excited about tests.
“She created an amazing review week for us for STAAR,” Reggans said. “The kids just loved it. And we incorporated technology and with technology we also incorporated something fun for the kids to do and games.”
As schools become more diverse, Ceballos says using technology in the classroom becomes even more critical.
“So if it’s teachers talking and the student is really not getting it and they’re able to bring in a video to show it rather than just tell it, it’s so helpful to those kids,” Ceballos said.
Ceballos heads to D.C. later this month to join other digital-savvy educators. She’s one of only 16 teachers in the country who was picked for the all-expenses paid trip.