Empowering Rockwall ISD students with 21st century learning

Students pose with RISD Board members Russ Childers, Linda Duran, Stephanie Adams and Jim White on Board Appreciation Night.

(ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX – Oct 6, 2015) As families settle into the new school year, the Rockwall ISD and the Board of Trustees have some exciting goals in mind for students in 2015 and beyond – goals which will greatly impact the way students learn and prepare for life after high school.

Linda Duran, Rockwall ISD Board President

According to RISD Board President Linda Duran, one of those goals involves developing the 15 different career pathways students choose from as they navigate through their secondary education, set out by the district’s Career and Technical Education programs for college readiness.

Funded through the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998, CTE is designed to allow students to take career-related courses such as animal science/vet medicine, culinary arts and fashion design in order to prepare them for success in their field of interest.

“Culinary Arts, Robotics, Academic Decathlon, Agriculture and Animal Science, all of those things will increase and help feed into these different career paths that the state is requiring students to take,” Duran said.

The district will also take steps towards 21st century learning, which Duran said will keep every student “feeling empowered academically and emotionally.” With 21st century learning, also referred to as project-based learning, students can take the skills they’ve learned individually in different courses and collaborate with others on a project in a particular subject. The concept would see students still using computers and other technology in their own learning without losing the personal contact through group interaction that builds teamwork skills.

“My personal goal would be for each student to get the core learning skills – whatever pace they’re in – and then to put it altogether where it makes sense in project-based learning,” Duran said.

A great example of this type of learning can be found in the district’s Robotics program, where students take what they’ve learned individually in Math and Science courses and use that knowledge to work together to build a functioning robot.

“This is exactly the point of 21st century learning,” Duran said. “The thing is, you have to have that Math base or you can’t do Robotics. But then you take what you learn and apply it to a real world situation. And then you really learn. It’s like the kids that build the trebuchets in Physics; they learn so much about force, angles and trajectory, and they don’t forget it. Plus it’s fun!”

The district is also setting its sights on the November election for the proposed $256,816,104 educational bond referendum package. A 2015 Bond Planning committee comprised of 60 parents, teachers, business people and elected officials met from January to June to discuss how to allocate funds to best benefit the district for the next few decades, with a goal for every student in the district to be impacted by the bond in some way.

Some of the biggest investments of the bond include the construction of a College andCareerAcademyfor high school students offering specialized, career-oriented classes and programs to help students focus on their futures, as well as the construction of two new elementary schools.

The election will be Nov. 3, with early voting Oct. 19-30.

Of course, the RISD school board always encourages more participation from parents, as their feedback proves valuable when it comes to what the board can do to improve the district and keep it running efficiently and effectively for students.

“I want the public to feel free to come in and see what’s going on, and to talk to us,” Duran said.

Duran has extensive experience working within the RISD, including 23 years as a guidance counselor atRockwallHigh School. She currently teaches Social Psychology at KD Conservatory,CollegeofFilmand Dramatic Arts inDallasand is a trainer for the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children.

Officially voted in as the new RISD Board President back in June, Duran looks forward to another great school year and working with a fantastic school board made up of members who work well together and continue to keep their focus on improving the education of students throughout the county.

“We have a wonderful board,” Duran said. “Everybody on the board is in it for the right reasons, because everybody wants what’s best for the students. We just want to make sure we work together towards the same goals.”

For more information, visit rockwallisdbonds.com.

By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News staff writer.

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