DCPS Teacher Stacy Tedesco’s Brainchild “Listening to Literacy” Takes Off

Stacy Tedesco, ESL Teacher at Thomson Elementary

Stacy Tedesco, ESL Teacher at Thomson Elementary

From coaching gymnastics to running sound and lighting for the theatre to serving as D.C.’s Thomson Elementary’s ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher for students Pre-K through fifth, Stacy Tedesco has done it all.

While primarily a language teacher Tedesco has always possessed a natural curiosity for technology, assimilating concepts into her regular teaching responsibilities and taking a role as a School Based Technology Coordinator for DC Public Schools (DCPS) in the maintaining of Thomson’s technology and training employees in proper use, acting as in-house tech support and the chief liaison within the districts’ multifarious technology offices. As chief liaison she developed a multi-year replacement plan and implemented pilot programs with the classroom use of MP3 players, Apple TVs, iPads and netbooks, some of which go live next year. She heads a targeted instruction for struggling readers in what is referred to as “reading interventions,” in addition to acting as building leader for the testing of benchmark reading assessments.

On STEM education Tedesco said that that the teachers who use technology effectively are teachers that invest their own time, talents and money into the growth of learning, not concerned about profit margins or investors or what’s to come.

“The thing about STEM education is that no teacher is in it for the money,” said Tedesco. “We are meeting the individual needs of the 30+ human beings who sit in front of us every day. Teachers know that learning is so important that they are willing to lead by example and show students that learning to work with technology is essential for growth.”

Many of Tedesco’s students do not possess a computer at home, their parents do not own smartphones and may be illiterate; this is why technology should be seen as something to bridge the gap between students and their peers. Tedesco believes this year’s utilized technology produced measurable growth in academic performance in such a way that was non-intimidating to students or their families.

“How can we provide language support to our students outside of the school day?” “Can a program be implemented at a low cost, using individualized materials?”

Tedesco may have found an answer to these questions in the form of a $10 2gb MP3 player through the implementation of her program “Listening for Literacy.”

“The necessity of a project like this has been evident since the time I started at Thomson,” said Tedesco. I teach at an urban public school in one of the country’s most challenging districts. We proudly boast a very diverse population including around 60% ESL students. The challenge is to find something that does not require expensive equipment and is not completely chained to the classroom.”

Many DCPS parents are learning English in after school English classes, embracing the idea of take-home linguistic learning through first-hand experience. The strong parent connection is what separates this from other ideas.

“As far as I know we are the first group to put together a large-scale program that is concentrated on sending home audio material that does not require internet. While there are great things online for students, most of our families do not have a computer or internet at home. We have learned that they are using the MP3 players as well as the students, and in one case, the family purchased speakers and listened as a family,” said Tedesco. “These are the positive unintended consequences that we did not even imagine.”

Students who participated in this language program averaged a full point higher in mid-year reading scores than that of non-participative students. While growth cannot be solely attributed to MP3 players, it allowed for students to develop a love of reading that had, as she puts it, “yet to be kindled within them.” Technology helps to achieve goals that are not necessarily directly related to any STEM subject; it possesses the capability to show students that technology can be a tool that helps them, that individualized education is possible and affordable.

“I hope that the lesson learned for the educational community is that with creativity, technology can be a catalyst to solving problems.”

On the future of STEM education Tedesco views that if the country wants to see more college educated engineers it needs to start earlier than college, to demand more technology and math education for the youngest students to enable the “spark that will grow into a full flame of dedication to engineering; STEM has endless possibilities.”

As an older generation of educators begin to retire, the majority of the teaching force will be those who have grown up with carpal tunnel syndrome, three to five generations of iPods and the blatant addiction to social media Facebook, Twitter, etc. Tedesco vies for the students to experience technology as a tool, not as a subject. As she puts it, “a computer can help them learn and is not something that they have to study–Once that love of technology is developed, I think it will be almost impossible to stop it.”

Next year Listening for Literacy will continue with hopes of expansion with a grant from Donors Choose allowing for the purchase of MP3 players and accessories, planning to start incorporating video flashcards and expanding to a greater number of students.

Her blog about experiences with Listening for Literacy, Technology, and educational topics www.stacytedesco.com

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