SUHSD Twitter Chat

Have you ever participated in a Twitter chat? It is a fun-filled hour where you can learn and share new ideas about education from the comfort of your own home.

The next SUHSD Twitter chat will take place on Tuesday, April 11 from 7:00-8:00 PM. To follow along and participate, please use the hashtag #suhsdlearns . We will be chatting about Digital Citizenship and our chat moderate will be Mari Venturino, a teacher from Mar Vista Academy (@MsVenturino).

For more information on Twitter chats, read here and here.

Day 101, Amy Illingworth

Have you noticed that your inbox has been missing the daily SUHSD Learns post? We need your contributions!  We know that each member of the Sweetwater community has learned something this year. Please take the time to share your learning with us all.


To contribute all you have to do is:

  • Write (hand write, type, email, or call us directly to type for you) a short description of what you learned *OR*
  • Record a short video where you talk about what you learned *OR*
  • Send in pictures with captions about what you or your students learned
  • Create an infographic of something you learned
  • Submit student work (as long as we have parent permission to post it) demonstrating learning

Blogs can be in list format, in video format, or in narrative.  Blogs can be created by one individual or by a team of people. We are open to all styles and appreciate hearing from a range of district students, staff and community members.

For questions or support, please contact Cynthia Acuna ( or 619-585-4431).


Dr. Amy Illingworth is the Director of Professional Growth. She loves reading about others’ learning experiences and looks forward to new community members contributing. 

Day 94, Xavier Balladarez

I see success as the measure of one’s impact on others. In order to be successful I set as a daily goal to make a difference in someone, whether that is as simple as smiling at that person or encouraging the individual to pursue a tertiary education. The reward of success does not come into appearance immediately but rather blooms in the future, when you see how your actions have become a crucial and influential component of the complex instrument to society that person has become. Teachers are a model of this, as they educate copious students, which become the leaders of our society and build a better community for future generations. In my opinion, there is no equivalent satisfaction than seeing a student progress and succeed.

In a mentor program at my school, where high school students educate middle and elementary school students in STEM and careers within the field, students are exposed to the experience of a teacher, where they get a sense of a teacher’s responsibilities and their love for education. This mutuality impassions the students to pursue higher education, have closer relationships with their teachers, and consider a career in education. Being more understanding of the role, the students admire the teachers for their outstanding efforts and ability to teach, creating respect and aspiration.

As the student board representative, I find as my responsibility to voice the opinions of all student with equity, leading me to live my life in the shoes of others. I listen to their concerns and ideas and discuss with the schools’ leaders to design a proposal that would allow for the betterment of the students’ educational experience: didactic, environmental, and socioemotional. A beauty of being the student board representative is being able to witness the complex structure of the district, composed of devout and dedicated individuals who work passionately to create a better future for the students and the community. In addition, to have the opportunity to make a district-wide contribution alongside the amazing district-staff generates happiness of ineffable magnitude, that which inspires me the same way I hope it inspires other students for them to follow this feeling.

Xaiver is a Junior at Southwest High School . He was the first sophomore to attempt AP physics, he currently is taking 5 AP classes and is in VEX Robotics and FIRST Robotics as well as serving as the student board representative. Xaiver is an active member of the ASB.

Taco Tuesday & Twitter Too!

Please join us at the PDC from 4:00-6:00 PM for our second Taco Tuesday & Twitter too event!  Beginner and advanced Twitter users are welcome. We will be introducing the value of Twitter as a professional tool for educators, discussing an #suhsd Twitter chat, and exploring ways to expand our Professional Learning Network (PLN). Please let us know you are attending and invite your friends and colleagues.  Did we mention that there will be tacos?!



Day 70, Alicia Johal

Because Even After This Election, I Have Hope.

I woke up on November 9th feeling heavy, wondering when and how to answer the questions of middle schoolers staring up at me that morning in science class. Maybe they would have questions? Maybe they wouldn’t? Maybe they hadn’t had a chance to process yet? Maybe they had their minds made up? Maybe they were sad? Maybe they were upset? Maybe they were anxious about their families? Or maybe, they just didn’t know what to say about it all?

They walked in that morning and we did what we have done many times before in class – we made a circle. Restorative circles aren’t anything new in this class. We use restorative circles to speak, share, and most importantly – connect with each other. I let the students know as they set up their chairs that we would talk about the results of the election and how they were doing with it all. Students were reminded of the rules; be respectful, talk when you have the talking piece (our classroom alien plush toy), listen, and answer the question genuinely. Students could also “pass” on sharing when the talking piece came around to them (which some of them did).

Before we began I reviewed some facts about democracy and how one person cannot create a disaster over night. There was a lot of confusion and then head nodding – I think they needed to be explicitly told that our president-elect could not just start building a wall tomorrow. We talked about the steps it takes for a bill to become a law, the house of representatives selection, checks and balances, and senate roles.

Then I started giving them sentence frames to provide them a safe space to share their views. (Noteworthy – I got these questions from Twitter that morning – check them out here. There is also a run-down of what restorative circles are and how to start them, thank you Ashley Westhaver!). Here is a snapshot of some responses from my 8th graders.

  1. The main thing on my mind after seeing the election results is/are _______________.
    1. I am wondering about my future
    2. I am wondering I am safe
    3. I am wondering if he will actually pass all of the laws that he wants to
    4. I wonder if he will help people to work together
    5. Everyone rioting because they are so upset
    6. Will he really build a wall?
    7. Can he start deporting everyone?
    8. He is sexist
    9. He has no political experience, he is a business man
    10. He is racist
    11. He acts like a child and isn’t mature
  1. One thing I wish the adults who voted understood is __________________.
    1. The media pours anxiety onto us and a lot of what they say is not true
    2. The radio stations talk about it so that people get more scared
    3. However they voted, a bigot or corruption would have won, it was a lose lose
    4. He would start deporting people right away
    5. Trump can’t do anything without congress approving things
    6. That escaping to Canada doesn’t do much because their economy relies on our economy
    7. Not everyone should judge him just yet, let’s see if he can produce results
  1. 20 years from now, I hope my future children will describe our country as _________.
    1. 20 years from now, I hope my future children will describe our country as safe.
    2. 20 years from now, I hope my future children will describe our country as equal.
    3. 20 years from now, I hope my future children will describe our country as fair.
    4. 20 years from now, I hope my future children will describe our country as protected.
    5. 20 years from now, I hope my future children will describe our country as bright.
    6. 20 years from now, I hope my future children will describe our country as happy.
    7. 20 years from now, I hope my future children will describe our country as okay.

Our students are not concerned about the lies told by a candidate. Put simply, they SEE that they are lies and they’re calling it. They are not fooled. Let that sink in and give you some comfort – even kids are not fooled by this. They aren’t dwelling. They admitted to having stress but also have shown their resilience. Their overall advice (if I can summarize it the best I can) is to stop listening to the media, ignore the lies, pay attention to who is in congress, read about propositions, treat veterans better, keep the Chargers in San Diego because the hotel tax doesn’t mean a citizen tax, and moving to Canada won’t save you (have I mentioned that I love middle schoolers?).

Finally, and most importantly – there was a broader worry and concern of, will he actually DO all of the things he said he would? I validated and reassured them, and also tried to remind them of our democratic process, but even I know that I am concerned when I think of the next 4 years. So this is where our jobs as adults come in. We need to not only re-group from this quickly and effectively, but we need to get back to work – because our students are watching. And our students depend on us. We owe it to them to advocate to make sure they experience a safe, fair, and just society.

And so after the circle was done, we took some deep breaths, put on our lab coats and goggles and returned to diagnosing diseases in our mystery patients. Little did they know, they had also just diagnosed our current society and questions about the future, better than any CNN correspondent could have.

I left my classroom feeling lifted. The somber mood of the morning had dissipated. I realized that even though I am the only adult in my classroom, students are my allies. They get it. They are watching intently. They are watching their country. They are watching the world’s reactions. They are soaking it all in and making evidence-based statements. They’re not messing around and they are surely not giving up.

So even after this election, I have hope.

Alicia Johal is an 8th grade science teacher at Mar Vista Academy.

Day 67, John Patel

In 1984, German hair metal band, The Scorpions, unleashed their anthem  “Rock You Like a Hurricane”.  If you have never heard it before, stop reading this and look it up.   Not only was it a song that united East and West Germans, but the world.  Learning how to play the hook to this opus was one of the defining accomplishments of my adolescence.  Like all of my accomplishments of that time, it was birthed by trial and error.  My most meaningful, although admittedly not efficient, method of mastering something new was always solitary, repetitive experience.   

However, as an adult, my attempts to become an educator using this same lone pursuit of mastery produced limited results. Much like the Cold War’s Berlin Wall, the structure and culture of our profession often reinforces barriers that keep us from collaborating in meaningful ways, and thus impede professional growth.  

I recently had an experience that, at least for one day, unified a group of talented educators in an attempt to chip away at this perennial problem.  Myself and fellow Scorpion’s fanatic, Kelly Leon, organized a group of social science teachers in the Induction program to visit two campuses for a learning walk.  We used the book Instructional Rounds in Education as a guide for collecting data around a problem of practice with the intention of  conducting an evidence-based discussion around what we observed.  The reflection focused on characteristics of practices that led to making learning visible to students and teachers, an idea defined most recently by researcher John Hattie.  What teachers walked away with was not a grab bag of strategies to use in their classrooms, although we all noted brilliant activities we would be repurposing for our own instruction, but a matrix of characteristics that we observed as making learning visible with real students.  We had a common experience and set of data to interpret and while we all viewed the classrooms through our own lenses, we were able use those varied perspectives to deepen each other’s understanding and sketch out a blueprint for creating meaningful learning experiences for students.    

Within the expansive arena that is known as professional development, it has always been problem-solving with colleagues that, for me, has expedited surmounting the steep learning curves embedded in our profession.  When the four walls of a classroom are broken down, we can often take away chunks of shared experiences that lead to consensus and collective actions.   Tearing down those walls, much like David Hasselhoff’s 1989 Berlin performance, and engaging peers in dialogue continues to push me closer to maturing into the educator that I want to become.  


John Patel is an English, AVID & Social Sciences Induction Mentor, who taught for many years at San Ysidro HS. He loves 80’s references and tolerates Twitter. 

Day 66, Amy Illingworth

I recently participated in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with hundreds of other educators across the globe, about The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. If you’ve never participated in a MOOC, I encourage you to do so. MOOCs are often free, offered by universities, private organizations, or authors and professors, like the IMMOOC was.

Each week the author, George Couros, an educator in Canada, and Dr. Katie Martin, a professor at USD, brought on guests for their video chats. They recorded these chats so we could view them at any time, or even listen to them as podcasts. Each week’s episode was focused on a section of George’s book The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity.

While I learned a lot from the book itself (which I recommend to any educator to read!), I actually want to share what I learned from the MOOC experience.

I learned:

  • Taking a virtual course with strangers opens your eyes to new viewpoints and perspectives.
  • Asynchronous learning that takes place at different times and places can be powerful.
  • It’s hard, but important, to step out of your comfort zone.
  • I work harder when I know my work will be seen by others.
  • I appreciate when I am given choices about how to share what I’ve learned.
  • Making connections with other educators provides unlimited opportunities for collaboration.
  • There are a lot of amazing educators around the world working hard to try new and different things on behalf of all students.

This experience makes me think about what learning looks like for our students.  In his book, Couros identifies 8 things to look for in innovative classrooms. His graphic is below.


How many of these items do our students experience every day?

What does an innovative classroom look and sound like in Sweetwater?

Please share in the comments section any experience you’ve at with MOOCs or innovation; we’d love to hear what you’ve learned!


Dr. Amy Illingworth is the Director of Professional Growth. She is a reader, a writer, a learner, and even an innovator. You can find her on Twitter @AmyLIllingworth, visiting classrooms across the district, working with aspiring administrators and leaders, and sometimes in her office. She looks forward to reading what other Sweetwater community members are learning. 

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