Classroom Innovator: Susan Everett

Social Studies - Garza High School

Garza is not your typical Austin High School. Its small and cozy building sits on the eastside of town. About 248 students walk through the halls daily, going from one 1 hour and twenty minute class, to the next.

Susan Everett wasn’t always as deep into technology as she is currently. Now, it’s second nature, partly due to the type of teaching she does. With full support from principal Linda Webb, part of Garza’s classrooms are heavily into Blended Learning: students come to school and go through their content online. This exposes both teachers and students to a vast array of online technology tools like Glogster and TimeToast., Prezi and TED Talks, Susan uses the word ‘fun’ when referring to her job. She is learning new things every day, often involving students in her quest for new tools.

In a Blended Learning environment, teachers become facilitators, guiding students through materials. At Garza that means students often receive their instruction on a 1-on-1 basis.

Kiley Kuhlenbeck moved here from Dallas 2 months ago and is pretty much caught up on the time she lost due to personal circumstances. “Being in a traditional high school in a lecture setting is Ok, but the online learning is really efficient. I can pace myself.” Drake Elder, another Garza student chimes in: “We get a lot of attention from the teachers. I do not have any distraction from other students, when I am reading online. And I don’t mind coming to school: I wouldn’t get anything done at home.”Susan Everett's classroom

The online studying encourages independence, says Susan. Students take responsibility for their learning, and are therefore generally more motivated. The content of the online modules comes from different sources such as iTunes U and TASA. The free Learning Management System Moodle is used to compile it all in modules. Students access the content with iPads, Netbooks or the Desktop Computers in the room.

Susan walks around her classroom. Some students are working on World History, some on Economics and some on World Geography. She stops at different tables and asks probing questions about the content the student is covering.  You can feel the mutual respect in the room.  Students genuinely like their teacher. She is knowledgeable and cares.  Despite the emphasis on technology in this classroom, it’s the human relationships that motivate the learning.   

(By: Hanneke Portier)