IN CLOSE WITH | Yvonne R. Zamora
The principal of Mims Elementary in Mission, TX, Yvonne Zamora shares her thoughts on building a society within her school and why she wishes social media had never been invented.
GETTING STARTED How did you get started as an educator, and how has your job changed over the years?
I began my career as a second-grade teacher at an impoverished school, which was in my neighborhood, only two blocks away from my house. I served as an educator for my neighbor’s children for six years. During those years, I got involved with University Interscholastic League (UIL) and General Education Diploma (GED) in search of other means to serve students and our community.
Once we provide teachers with professional development, it is imperative that we integrate technology with fidelity and that we monitor its impact.
During the latter part of my teaching career, I completed my Master’s in Mid-Management in the fall of 1999. I began my administration career as an assistant principal at Mission Junior High and completed two years, only to return to my elementary roots. I served as an assistant principal at Mims Elementary for three years and have served for 12 years as principal at Mims Elementary.
During these 12 years, lots of changes have occurred. Instructional leadership and accountability are now at the cusp of the principal’s main responsibilities. Throughout the years, the focus has changed from guiding teachers, maintaining facilities, and overseeing students’ educational needs to becoming an instructional leader, guiding and providing teachers with feedback and professional development, holding all stakeholders accountable for student achievement and progress, and building capacity while delegating other, less pressing, issues.
INSPIRATIONS What inspires you about teaching? Do you have a slogan or mantra that guides you?
Being at the elementary level allows me to see our students for a period of seven years. We get to build their strengths and weaknesses. We get to build their cognitive, affective, and physical abilities. We get to see them grow and watch their personalities develop. They come at the early age of 4 years old and leave at the age of 11. We allot ample time to help them evolve. We do so with the assistance of the entire school staff, along with our parents and community, in an effort to provide them the best educational opportunities. You ask what inspires me: our students do!
Our mantra is “Simply the Best.” We dedicate our lives to our students each day because our students deserve simply the best!
We dedicate our lives to our students each day because our students deserve simply the best!
FAVORITE TECH What is your favorite tech tool right now and why?
My favorite tech tool right now is myON. We pair up myON with Chromebooks and we have opened new doors to our students. Our initiative is that every student has access to a class set of Chromebooks, and we are almost there. myON comes along and reinforces our vision to have a literature-rich environment which offers students a variety of experiences. Moreover, diagnosed and undiagnosed hyperactive students and students on the autism spectrum have a tool that allows them to enjoy literature while having their literacy needs met. In addition, that experience is not limited to the classroom for our students. myON allows at-home access not only to students, but to all community members. At last, the total reading experience is within our reach!
RECENT EVENTS What memorable edtech conference have you attended recently?
I really enjoy attending the Texas Computer Education Association Conference (TCEA). This conference attracts thousands of educators due to the enormous number of technology tips that are shared that can be integrated in the classroom. The knowledge and resources shared give me a perspective on what we need to do to transform our classrooms. If I am unable to attend, we make sure that someone from our campus attends, so that we can stay abreast of new technology that is available.
GREATEST MOMENT What was your greatest educational moment?
My greatest educational moment was initiating our society within our school, our very own Minitropolis. Students in our Minitropolis study traditional academic subjects with an emphasis on real-world application. Students create a model of the world outside the school. Students establish a municipality, a government system, and an economic system. They participate in the democratic process by forming their own government, electing officials, and passing laws for the students or “citizens” of the school or “city.”
We have the privilege of seeing our students become leaders, enhance communication skills, solve problems, work as a team, and make decisions in real-world situations!
Students create an economy by creating money, establishing and running banks, and becoming consumers of goods sold in the retail sector of the society. All students hold jobs within the society and are paid with Minitropolis money for attendance and following the values code. Students save their money in banks or spend it to purchase goods at various stores. Students must also pay taxes to the IRS. Non-profit organizations, other businesses, and a government-run post office are also a part of this society. We have the privilege of seeing our students become leaders, enhance communication skills, solve problems, work as a team, and make decisions in real-world situations!
RED ED What was your most embarrassing educational moment?
As a principal, we have countless things happening in our building. We rely on the entire team to make things happen. From time to time, we are asked to speak at different meetings being held at our campus. Due the number of events happening during a particular week, I stepped into a parent meeting. I proceeded to greet them and began what I thought was the topic of the meeting. Well, there is the art of reading your audience while you are addressing them. I looked around and watched parents and their expressions and then turned to the staff who was present who, with their not so subtle ways, were asking me to look at the agenda. There is also the art of using humor to redirect and completely change your topic while trying to redeem yourself. I thought I did a good job, but the jury is still out on that one!
PD FOR ME What makes for great tech-related professional development?
Research-based tech-related professional development makes for great presentations. The most important factor is to have staff buy-in. We need to demonstrate how the particular tech-based professional development is going to enhance instruction and impact our students. Start with the end in mind. Once we provide teachers with professional development, it is imperative that we integrate technology with fidelity and that we monitor its impact.
NEXT TECH What’s the next technology you want to bring to your school and why?
Before we venture out to obtain the latest technology gadget, I would like to fully take advantage of all of the amazing experiences that can be shared through Google. Google offers so many features that assist in enhancing instruction, and I would like our students to fully explore all the possibilities. We recently had one of our teachers become a Google Certified Educator. We are working together to prepare professional development to completely take advantage of all the tools that are available to us.
NO THANKS What technology do you wish had never been invented and why?
I wish social media had never been invented. It has become such an overwhelming part of our society. It has impacted the way we communicate by allowing incorrect grammar, spelling, and the exclusion of punctuation marks. Furthermore, it has disconnected people from the people they are surrounded by, only to replace them with people who are not physically present.
FUTURE LOOK What educational technology do you wish someone would invent and why?
Dysfunctional is the new norm. I wish someone would invent a tool that would bring back old-fashioned family values. I miss those! One can dream…
Reach Yvonne through:
School website: http://mims.mcisd.net/
Facebook: Mims Elementary Public Group
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