San Marcos educators nab innovation awards

San Marcos educators nab innovation awards
Double Peak K8 School fifth-grade teacher Charity Shepard, left, and innovation coordinator Christine Dixon, were selected by Classroom of the Future Foundation for two top awards on May 23. Photo by Steve Puterski

A pair of San Marcos teachers were honored for their innovative work in the classroom.

Christine Dixon and Charity Shepard, both educators at Double Peak K8 School, were tapped as the San Diego Computer Using Educators Innovative Coordinator and Innovative Teacher of the year, respectively, by the Classroom of the Future Foundation during an awards ceremony at SeaWorld on May 23.

The pair teach at Double Peak K8 School in San Marcos.

“My main job is innovation where I’m working with all the school with engineering, technology and coding,” Dixon said.

Dixon acts as a co-teacher, where she visits all classrooms to reinforce what is being taught. She helps students build prototypes to solve problems and use a Makerspace Center for design thinking.

Shepard said one of Dixon’s best attributes is her ability to modify the curriculum from kindergarten to eighth grade. In addition, Dixon also helps teachers with innovation and design thinking.

“She does an amazing job,” Shepard said. “It’s her willingness to share … with other schools and in the community.”

Dixon said giving the students creative freedom features all forms of design, from a tall tower to a pillow or circuitry. Typically, she said, a design challenge is laid before the students to solve a problem.

For example, Shepard teaches about the American Revolution, so Dixon adds to the lesson by challenging students to solve a problem.

“It looks like chaos, but we call it creative chaos,” Dixon said. “It’s what classrooms and schools are going to. The biggest thing we ask kids to do is to look at the world and solve problems.”

In the classroom, Shepard, who teaches fifth grade, said she is trying to bring Makerspace to a new level, while being standards-based. She said it allows students to be more creative and empathetic.

“I was able to do yearlong project,” Shepard said. “Some people look at it as a technology award, but for me it was looking at what my students were still struggling to do and find a way to do that.”

Another example, she said, is that all the natural disasters over the past year spawned a project where her students could contact those affected and prototype the problems and solutions. It was supposed to be just a math project.

However, she contacted Solutions for Change in Vista about homelessness. The students conducted different styles of writing, read about the subject and used math to include costs for the families’ needs and create a prototype basket of necessities.

“It was a very neat thing for my kids to understand,” Shepard said. “It’s how would they take these solutions for homelessness and improve on it. Because of their research … we were still hitting the standards but my kids were still developing the skills they need.”

In addition to Double Peak, other North County schools also cleaned up during the awards as Calavera Hills Middle School and Valley Middle School in Carlsbad were both honored with the Impact and Inspire awards.

The Encinitas Farm Lab won the Achieve Award, while Talent Cities through the Vista Unified School District won the Innovate Award. T.H.E. Leadership Academy Garden, also through Vista Unified, received an honorable mention for the Achieve Award.

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