There are many moments where I am reminded why I chose a career in education. These moments arise when I am engaged in conversation with other teachers, conducting professional development workshops, developing new lessons, or simply reading about changes and latest developments in the field. Education is a dynamic field, and it has provided me with many opportunities to positively impact the lives of young learners as well as provide inspiration and support to new teachers. One such occasion occurred in mid-April when I was invited by Dr. Rosalinda Quintanar to conduct a presentation to students in a class entitled Meeting the Needs of Second-Language Learners (EDTE 162), a course within San Jose State University’s Teacher Education Department and a credential requirement. The class consisted of approximately 30 credential candidates, and its primary focus is applying theory and practical classroom techniques for providing equitable access to content for English language learners.
The purpose of my presentation was to provide an overview of RAFT and the resources and support it makes available to educators working in a variety of teaching environments. The students were intrigued by the unique materials available to RAFT through the generous support of its donors that are used in activity kits and design challenges in RAFT’s vast library of resources. I presented a variety of RAFT activities including Hovercrafts and Gravity Defying Frog to illustrate how materials can be used creatively for teaching specific content as well as demonstrating different strategies for facilitating the activities with students in multiple grades. What amazed me about this group of potential teachers was their ability to brainstorm ways of maximizing student engagement and promoting equitable learning experiences. These are skills that even veteran teachers continue to improve over time, so I believe these students have a substantial head start in making improvements to the quality of education!
Visiting this class was a point of pride for me not only because I am an SJSU alumnus but also because it highlights the current need for additional materials, kits, and other supporting resources to address the issue of equity in the classroom and to foster the development of student-centered learning environments. This experience reiterated the importance of the work that RAFT has been doing for nearly 25 years, inspiring the joy and love of learning through hands-on education. It brings to light the need to include the issue of equity as a critical consideration in the learning experiences we design as educators.
My engagement with the university community described above was an outstanding experience, and it is equally beneficial that we continue to engage and learn from our members. We encourage you to help facilitate this engagement by reaching out, scheduling time with our education staff, and determine more about how to leverage our activity kits to address a variety of curriculum topics while also facilitating equitable learning experiences that reach more students. If you have a lesson or unit that you would like to share and that you believe could be enhanced using RAFT activities and materials, we are eager to help!
By Eric Welker - RAFT Education Developer & Coach