In her classroom, Lower School Spanish Teacher Sabrina Leon isn’t afraid to try new things, and as a member of Westridge’s Education Technology team, she is part of an exciting initiative to inspire other teachers to integrate more digital tools into their curriculum.
“One of the things that I love is when someone comes to me with an idea, saying, ‘I want to do this,’ and I research and find the best tool for them to make their idea become reality,” Sabrina said. Incorporating technology into classroom learning, she believes, both increases engagement in the material and helps reach different kinds of learners.
In her Spanish classroom, you can find Sabrina teaching the language using outside-the-box methods designed to push students out of their comfort zones – from improvisational skits in Spanish to Virtual Reality (VR). Her philosophy during her 14 years at Westridge has always been to help students find an emotional connection to what they’re learning. “With VR, for example,” Sabrina explained, “I wanted them to go beyond memorizing Spanish vocabulary to actually having an experience in Spanish. The students might not remember how to say, ‘Kick the soccer ball,’ at first, but they’ll remember the experience of learning to play soccer with the Real Madrid players through VR - and reflecting on that moment might trigger more vocabulary. It’s multi-dimensional learning!”
With that in mind, last year Sabrina and Lower School Art Teacher Val Trimarchi combined their 5th grade classes in a collaborative unit called “Art-añol.” Students created interdisciplinary art projects including Frida Kahlo inspired self-portraits and accompanying poems written and recorded in Spanish.
“What we have to do as educators is find the right digital tools and teach students how to use them,” Sabrina said. “After an introduction [to a new tool], students produce amazing work and so often will think of many other ways to use it. That’s incredibly exciting.”