A fourth grader dressed as Super Mario rushes over to another student sporting a Luigi hat, who is frantically gluing green paper titles to complete a math puzzle. Once they complete this challenge and “unlock” the level, the students advance to more difficult tasks, all the while racing against the clock. When the bell rings, students rotate to a Reading and Social Studies class where another set of stages await them. Unlike traditional elementary schools where students have one teacher that teaches them all five topics, students at Hook Elementary belong to pods where they rotate between three teachers who teach Reading and Social Studies, Writing, and Math and Science.
Jenna Hayes, one of the teachers and masterminds behind this elaborately designed classroom, explains that being a part of a pod allows her the flexibility and opportunity to collaborate with other teachers. She said, “Collaborating with my partners is the best part. We share the same students and work together to make sure they all get what they need to be successful.”
This classroom format also allows teachers to truly hone their craft and master their subject. Kiley Haley, who teaches Math and Science, said, “My favorite part about the pod system is getting to specialize in Math and Science. I get to focus on teaching two subjects instead of six.”
Within each pod, teachers collaborate on themes, lessons plans, challenges, activities, and classroom decor to provide an engaging experience for students. About once a month, teachers will “set the stage to engage” for an entire week, where students get to test their learning through a series of challenges. The most recent challenge described above was centered around the video game Super Mario Brothers. When asked how students respond to this type of learning, Hayes said, “They come in excited everyday. They retain the information better than I have seen in years past.
Hook Elementary is one of three elementary schools in the Stephenville Independent School District (SISD), a rural township located in Stephenville, Texas, a town not only known as the “Cowboy Capital of the USA,” but also as the City of Champions. This namesake inspired the name for the district’s digital transformation, iChampion, which is a 1:1 initiative that leverages the power and mobility of technology to create a personalized, student-centric environment. Now in its second year, the district’s strategic move towards personalizing education for students has also triggered a transformation in teachers. When asked how this district-wide initiative has affected her as a teacher, Hayes stated, “Technology is a part of most of my lessons now. My lessons are way more creative and engaging. I have learned to use so many new apps and programs that I can tell right away if one will work for what I need. I am not afraid to try new things!”
To support this initiative, Brianna Hodges, the Director of Digital Learning, works across the entire district to ensure teachers have the technical support and training to adopt digital learning in their classrooms. However, this initiative is more than just digital tools; it is about the freedom of possibility. Hodges states, that “For our teachers, it’s the freedom to utilize tools and technology to present information in differentiated and interactive ways that were previously unimagined. For our students, it’s the freedom to express their learning through self-created animations, videos, mixed-medium art and share those elements of learning with the world. For our parents, it’s the freedom to experience the classroom along with their children in an authentic and tangible way.”
While SISD has always been proud of its students, teachers, community, and staff, the district is always striving to improve. Hodges explains that, “Just as we ask our top students to push themselves: revise that essay, rework the problem with an alternate strategy, add weight to the curl bar, as educators need to reflect, iterate, and hone our craft as well.”
To learn more about League member district Stephenville Independent School District, visit their district profile. To learn more about Hook Elementary, visit Hook Elementary’s website. To learn more about SISD’s iChampion initiative, visit SISD’s website.