Tuba City Unified using interactive whiteboard technology

Along with electronic white boards, teachers discuss and implement shared best teaching practices through monthly meetings

Sharlene Navajo (far left), one of Tuba City Unified School District’s seven principals, discusses best teaching practices during a monthly teacher meeting. These sessions promote team building, uniform teaching skills and daily assessments for students and foster a collegial comaraderie that nurtures a full, enriching learning environment for students. Rosanda Suetopka Thayer/NHO

Sharlene Navajo (far left), one of Tuba City Unified School District’s seven principals, discusses best teaching practices during a monthly teacher meeting. These sessions promote team building, uniform teaching skills and daily assessments for students and foster a collegial comaraderie that nurtures a full, enriching learning environment for students. Rosanda Suetopka Thayer/NHO

It's a big job teaching students in seven different schools with two elementary schools in distant communities, but Tuba City Unified School District (TCUSD) teachers are up to the task.

TCUSD is mostly located in Tuba City proper with a predominantly Navajo student population. The district also includes students from the two Hopi villages located at the western most doorway to the Hopi reservation. The district also includes students from a smaller tribe of San Juan Southern Paiute located eight miles from Tuba City and some non-native bureaucrat and Indian health service provider's children.

But district officials have undertaken an effort to provide on-going collaborative support and what they call a "shared best practices" session every month for the teaching staff of TCUSD. Much of the focus has been on whiteboard technology tools that the district installed at all seven schools. Called Promethean Planet, the whiteboards are the world's largest interactive whiteboard learning support tool.

The education setting for TCUSD students is further enriched by the teaching staff who are cross tribal, cross ethnic and range in age from first year teachers in their twenties to teachers who have worked in the TCUSD system for more than 35 years.

The teachers' care and support for their students was evident last week, when the district put on a half day in-service session at each school. The teachers reviewed student achievement following the 100-day count last week, physical ability and progress and other areas beyond textbook and classroom learning.

The Promethean Planet whiteboard screen has a computer projector that allows the teacher to show daily work, assignments, lesson plans, projects, quizzes, questions, tests, simulations, weblinks, worksheets and handouts. Teachers can also access interactive learning games that feature art, math, reading, language, arts, science, health and social studies. High school students can access vocational and world language topics.

Since the lessons and resources from Promethean Planet can be accessed anywhere at anytime, even parents can use the learning programs to see their child's daily and weekly progress. The easy access to student progress allows parents the chance to work with their students at home, providing more personal parental support.

Kindergarten teachers are the basic education foundation builders at TCUSD. During last week's meeting, the teachers showed how they work together as a team to help their students master basic skills like alphabet recognition, counting and reading.

Teachers in Tuba City are from various countries and tribes and varied walks of life but all are deeply involved in providing the best educational experience for their students. The teachers utilize their personal skills along with modern technology like the whiteboard programs.

Jia Christi Satorre, a second year Tuba City primary school teacher, is just 28 years old but she has eight years of teaching experience in early childhood development. She received her Bachelor of Arts in elementary education at the University of San Carlos in the Phillipines and is working toward a master's degree in Arts-Special Education. She grew up in the Phillipines and came to Tuba City specifically to work with a native student population.

Alongside Satorre is Ronda Black. She has been a teacher for 20 years. She is non-native but married to a full-blooded Navajo elementary teacher originally from Tuba City, making Tuba City her permanent home. Black went to Arizona State University and graduated with an early childhood education degree. She has taught kindergarten, third grade and pre-kindergarten for almost 10 years at TCUSD. She said watching her students graduate from Tuba City high school and go on to universities to pursue further education is especially satisfying.

Beverly Begay is also a longtime teacher. Begay is a full blooded Navajo tribal member. She is a product of TCUSD herself. She graduated from Tuba City High and then went on to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff where she received her teaching degree. She has been at TCUSD ever since. She's been in the education business for 38 plus years. She thinks teaching is the most important job and strives each day to make a difference in her students' lives.

Sally Yellow graduated from Northern Arizona University in 1997. She was originally a teacher's aide but was so inspired by the education staff at TCUSD that she went back to school to get her teaching degree. She says she enjoys working with children and they inspire her to get up each day and learn new teaching skills and teacher resources to make education fun and challenging.

Another teacher from the Phillipines teaching in the district is Purification Alajas. She is a kindergarten teacher at one of the distant TCUSD elementary schools located in the Gap community, about 35 miles from Tuba City. Alajas has taught elementary students for 36 years, with the past eight years in the United States. Alajas has been a teacher in North Carolina and Maryland. This is her second year working in the Tuba City District.

TCUSD teachers recognize that they are all dealing with many of the same teaching problems and issues and are committed to working together and sharing their best practices solutions. In working together and sharing in these monthly sessions, they are able to blend and share information to find the best solutions for students experiencing learning obstacles or problems. Many teachers use art, music and physical movement to help students break up the day and connect with their students' needs individually.

More information on the whiteboard technology teachers use at TCUSD is available at www.TCUSD.org.

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