Service Learning in the Cloud Forest

We have enjoyed two days packed with adventures. Let’s start with Monday. We had a chance to sleep in a bit and eat a delicious buffet breakfast before boarding the bus for a 3.5 hour drive to Monteverde. We stopped at a restaurant that was decorated with beautiful paintings and murals and enjoyed pizza for lunch. We have been eating and eating and eating so far!

Then it was time to head to the reserve. The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a self-sustaining, non-profit that relies on visitors who pay to come visit and volunteers who help maintain the trails, which is just what we did. We helped clear 3/4ths of a mile of trail from leaf litter. It is important that they keep the sides of the paths clear because when it rains the water needs to run off the path to maintain the trails. The work we did in 1 hour was equivalent to what 2 workers could do in a week. Go Team!

Keira and Liz lead the way

Our reward…a beautiful waterfall!

Within the reserve is a hummingbird sanctuary. We couldn’t take our eyes of these amazing fliers who were coming to feast on the feeders hung around the building. We snapped so many pictures you will have to wait to see more when we get home.

 We arrived at our home for the evening, El Establo Hotel, which was built up the mountain. This provided incredible views and on clear days you can see the ocean! We had a chance to enjoy the surroundings for a bit before heading to the Snake Garden and Frog Pond. We learned many new facts about the indigenous snakes, frogs, and toads, including how to distinguish venomous snakes and poisonous frogs. These amazing creatures come in many sizes and colors!

Ready to see Las Ranas…frogs!

Our Costa Rican Adventure Begins…

Training between terminals in Dallas

15 intrepid #NDBTigers have headed off to Costa Rica for a week of adventure. The trip began at 6am on Valentine’s Day, the perfect way to start a journey on which we are sure to fall in love with the beauty and biodiversity of this incredible Central American country.

We met at SFO, sort of bright-eyed, but definitely ready to go. Our layover in Dallas gave us time to take a few trains around the airport and grab some food.

Excited to expand our horizons this week

The flights were easy and we even arrived 25 mins early into San Jose, Costa Rica. WorldStrides was there to pick us up and take us to our hotel where we have a 3 course dinner. Everyone was full and ready for bed by 11pm.

The Dawn of Learning

My inspiring associate principal, Anne Schaefer-Salinas, posted this video and asked our faculty for a response. This video encapsulates so many of the thoughts and ideas I have been discussing with colleagues at school and in my PLN. Hard to believe this video was posted to YouTube 7 years ago! It reminds me that changing our educational system is a long and slow process. 

Teaching can no longer be focused only on standards. Students do not need to memorize facts the way I did when I was in school. Now we have information and answers at our fingertips, 24/7. We must all learn how to explore, ask the right questions, evaluate the results, digest the information, synthesize meaning, and communicate new ideas, often while collaborating with others. This requires a focus on learning. Often, there is not one right answer, which is a change from my “learning” experience when I listened to the teacher and regurgitated the content on a paper or test. That game of school is a disservice to our students. That format will not prepare them for college and beyond.  After 22 years as an educator, I can say that I am more excited and passionate about my job now than ever. This is an incredible time to be in education. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to design an experience that ignites a desire to learn. “The death of education, but the dawn of learning!”

Striving for Skills Based Learning

The school year is in full swing. I begin each year with culture building in my classes. Here’s what my Honors Bio students said about their ideal class culture. I used a tool called Answer Garden.

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Together, we work to develop a sense of community and support. In a comfortable environment, students are more able to take risks. I love teaching at an all girls high school because we can be silly and have fun without added peer pressure. Daily we work to build a class culture that will provide opportunities to develop communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creative skills. Even more important than the biology content are the skills that our students will need to be successful. I don’t have to worry about my students getting into a college. All of our students will have opportunities to attend higher education. My main focus is to prepare them to be successful in college so that they can continue to develop skills and deepen content knowledge for a successful career.

I am constantly connecting with colleagues and reading reports on what employers are looking for, what types of experiences they want their employees to have. Now that we have the ability to Google or ask Siri for bits of information, the skill to confidently and efficiently sift through the query results and find ways to clearly present what is learned is paramount to success. I was impressed how this infographic clearly states the skills needed and what students can do to prepare themselves for the workforce. This definitely gives insight into the interdisciplinary, skills based, team driven style of the courses I develop. In an ideal culture, students will feel challenged and supported as they strive for success!

Better Together California Teachers Summit 2015

I am honored to be hosting the EdCamp portion of this amazing event tomorrow, Friday July 31st, at San Francisco State University. 400 educators have signed up to spend the day learning together! My job as the EdCamp Specialist is to facilitate a 2 hour EdCamp in the middle of the day. For many this will be the first time they have experienced an EdCamp Unconference.

This is going to be an incredible day.

Take me out to the ballgame!


Wednesday was an amazing day! My family and I headed north on Caltrain and made it with plenty of time to enjoy the lovely reception for the finalists and their family and friends. This was my youngest daughter’s first baseball game and she was appropriately excited. I was so glad that my head of school and associate principal could join us for the fun.
The finalists were escorted onto the field for the big announcement.

While we didn’t win the grand prize, for the first time in Comcast All Star Teacher history, each school was given $2000! This was an incredible surprise. I’m looking for suggestions as to how we could use the money.
I want to do something that will impact the entire community 🙂

After the ceremony, we got to watch the game from excellent seats in foul ball territory. My husband is an expert at getting game balls so he took our little one down to the front and at the end of the game a generous player tossed her a ball. Her first game and she wore the three World Series rings, went down the Coca Cola slide at AT&T Park, AND got a game ball.
Overall an exciting experience for all!

Now I get to continue striving to be an All Star Teacher.
Thank you again for all the support and encouragement.

Comcast All Star Teacher Announcement on July 8, 2015!

Dear Community,

The day is finally almost here. On Wednesday, I will be heading to the Giants vs. Mets day game with Ms. Osmond, Mrs. Schaefer-Salinas, and my family. They will invite the 5 finalists to the field and make the big announcement! You can watch the coverage or check out my Twitter feed @TechBioBek.

CSN Coverage

Segments of the All-Star Teacher on-field ceremony will be featured on Giants Pregame Live (12pm-12:30pm on CSN Bay Area) and SportsNet Central (6pm & 10:30pm on CSN Bay Area) on Wednesday, 7/8. Set your DVR’s and tell your friends and family to tune in!

Whether my name is called on Wednesday or not, just being encouraged and cheered on has made me feel like I have truly won already…but of course I want that $20,000 for NDB!!! There has been such a feeling of teamwork and positivity on campus and on social media.

Thank you for for sharing this exciting news and encouraging others to vote. Every single vote made a difference.

We are Notre Dame!

Rebecca Girard