Day 161, Amy Illingworth

Did you know that there are over 250 SUHSD staff members on Twitter? Staff from all across the district are sharing learning and telling the Sweetwater story using the hashtag #suhsd. We even have a monthly district Twitter chat using the hashtag #suhsdlearns (named after this daily blog showcasing our community of learners!). Our next district Twitter chat will take place on Tuesday, May 9 from 7:00-8:00 PM.  The chat will be moderated by three staff members from our Equity and Culture department, Sonia, Mariana, and Molly. We will be chatting about creating a safe and healthy school environment.

If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat, it’s easier than you think!  We have an entire page of Twitter resources available on the Professional Growth website here, but this is a mini Twitter chat tutorial:

  • You need a Twitter account.
  • It works best if you are on a computer, rather than a phone or ipad.
  • It works even better if you use, which allows you to view multiple columns at once.
  • You type #suhsdlearns in the search box in Twitter or Tweetdeck and you will be in the right place!
  • Our chat follows a Q1/A1 format. That means you will see one person tweet out Question 1 (Q1) and anyone participating can respond with their first answer by including A1 and #suhsdlearns in their tweet.
  • Answer questions and chat (via tweets) with your fellow SUHSD colleagues throughout the hour.
  • Have fun learning!
  • Consider submitting a written or video blog about what you learned in the #suhsdlearns Twitter chat!


Day 151 , Rosette Sowell

What’s in a theme?

The thought of having Dr. Gilbertson of the UCI History Project come and speak about the new History-Social Science Framework is enough to make a self-proclaimed history buff geek out about attending the world history content workshop.  Yet, to my surprise this workshop was packed with so much more.  We learned about The California Way as defined by Thomas Adams, the Deputy Superintendent of California Department of Education.  According to Adams, H/SS teachers need to create inclusive classrooms for our diverse student body and ensure cultural relevancy in order for students to have a more personal connection to what they are studying.  But, my favorite takeaway of the day is the idea of centering our instruction around a year long theme.  Examples given by Dr. Gilbert include: the role of a citizen, or individual versus state. The role of the citizen can be tackled in so many ways with our new framework.   If you are interested in this idea, I suggest you check out the MIT website for visualizing cultures recommended by Dr. Gilbertson.  MIT Visualizing Culture:   Another great resource is the Humanities Out There (HOT) curriculum which is aligned with the California standards, as well as Common Core standards.  Definitely check it out!  HOT Curriculum

We ended our day by working on a framework plan.  If you haven’t checked it out, there are a few new additions for world history teachers to cover.  New sections include: Economic Integration and Contemporary Revolutions in Information, Technology, and Communications; The New Geopolitics; The Impact of Globalization; Rights, Religion, and Identity; and A new Role for the West.  If you want to check out the framework, it is linked here. New CA H/SS Framework

I have to say, I am really excited about these new additions because they will help us make history more relevant to our students with some focus on modern world developments.  Talk about a jam packed and productive day!  If you are a H/SS teacher you don’t want to miss an opportunity to hear Dr. Gilbertson speak.

Rosette Sowell has a Masters in Education and is a world history and AVID teacher at Bonita Vista High School.  

Day 146, Gretel Rodriguez

What does it mean to advocate for public education? It means being able to advocate not for the benefit of yourself but for others. My father left me when I was two and my mother removed me from my home at the age of twelve. Since then I moved from home to home trying to salvage what was left of my childhood but entering adulthood at lighting speed. I have been working since the age of sixteen and was the first to graduate from college from a family of six siblings. Many made bets that I would end up pregnant or a drop out. I love it when someone tells me I can’t do something.

In later years and deep reflection I realize it comes natural almost innate for me to fight for our schools. This was and is my home. All of the staff raised me for better or worse but mostly for the better. I do not take kindly to outsiders attacking my family or home. I speak for the underdog in almost any situation and especially those that lack the knowledge of their rights.

An education is a civil right that all students and parents must have access to in our lifetime. Teaching goes beyond the classroom but has become a civil responsibility that many of us are brave enough to accept the challenge.

Whether it’s advocating for our ladies, our English Learners, our Black students, our LGBTQ Plus, Muslim, or our Dreamers many of us fight to make sure they are loved and learn at the same time. We often fail and trust me I have failed. There are nights I cannot sleep thinking of whom I didn’t reach and then you receive a loving message from a former student that changes those failing moments.  Students that have died to students that became amazing adults. Each student no matter the experience takes a piece of me with them.  Each year I wonder how much more can I give and I continue to give because there are always those students that refill us unintentionally.

My own two boys have their failing moments and moments that changed their lives because of our Sweetwater staff. Yet, they and I know it’s about forgiveness and love that nurture the love we have here in our district. We harm ourselves and others to allow any trauma or hold on to resentment to cripple personal or academic/professional growth.  My boys and I are honored to be a part of Sweetwater and we all know that in order to seek social justice for our communities it must be in becoming activists.  We all plan to protect public education because we believe it is a civil right everyone should experience.

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change,” King said in a speech near the Washington Monument in 1968, on the dangers of neglecting important social issues.

Gretel Rodriguez grew up in Los Angeles and attended SDSU for her bachelors and credential.  She earned a Masters in Education Technology and has taught in the district for fifteen years. She specializes in working with English Language Development students and mainstream English Learners. She is a full time advocate for public education and raising two boys.

Day 141, Sara Chai

Have you ever felt like a celebrity, with constant greetings and smiles?  I admit I had never really understood the celebrity feeling until a few months ago.  Teenagers were constantly smiling at me and saying hello.  Several asked how I was doing, and what was new at Montgomery Middle.  You see, I was surrounded by former students as I participated in SUHSD’s first Family STEAM Night at Montgomery High School!   I shared the scientific process of making ice cream and watched Genius Bar students share about helping with tech and participating in our district’s First Annual Solar Sprint.  This reminds me of why I am a science teacher and have taught for more than single digits at Montgomery Middle.  What I want to express to my former students in this moment is: you make me smile and make me proud!  Thank you for being so welcoming to me and reminding me why I teach!


Sara Chai is a science and technology resource teacher at Montgomery Middle School.  She recently completed her masters in educational leadership, with an emphasis in technology.  In her time when she is not at school, you can usually find her tide pooling or trail running! 

Day 140, Confidential Unit of the Sweetwater Union High School District

What we learned today…..

Did you know the district has eleven (11) Confidential employees that strongly support and assist the district management team in a variety of levels?  You may be asking yourself, “What IS a Confidential  Employee?”  In short, we work in areas that on occasion deal with employer/employee matters or whose duties normally require access to confidential information that is used to contribute significantly to the development of management positions.  We do not have a bargaining unit and work in departments such as the Superintendent’s Office, Fiscal Services, Human Resources, Leadership Development and Systems Innovation, Legal Services, and the Office of the Clerk of the Board.   We are ambitious and work diligently to remain current on all aspects of our jobs.  We believe in customer service, loyalty, dedication, efficiency and integrity.  Most importantly we work as a team putting students first.


From the Confidential Unit of the Sweetwater Union High School District:


Superintendent’s Office:

Imelda Genovese, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent – 20 years with the district


Fiscal Services:

Carolina Zimmermann, Sr. Executive Assistant – 31 years with the district


Human Resources:

Kim Ruiz, Personnel Analyst –  35 years with the district

Araceli Guzman, Sr. Executive Assistant  – 32 years with the district

Blanca Hernandez, Sr. Administrative Assistant  – 31 years with the district

Ligaya Quitilen, Sr. Administrative Assistant  – 25 years with the district


Leadership Development & Systems Innovation:

Yolanda Hernandez, Sr. Executive Assistant – 31 years with the district.


Legal Services:

Vanessa Quintero, Sr. Executive Assistant  – 20 years with the district

Yvette Farina, Sr. Administrative Assistant – 25 years with the district

Betsy Garcia-Pena, Sr. Administrative Assistant  – 8 years with the district


Office of the Clerk of the Board :

Karina Estrada, Sr. Administrative Assistant – 15 years with the district


Hello SUHSD Learns Readers,

If you enjoy reading our daily blogs, please consider writing one for us! Tell us what you have learned today. Blogs can include a narrative, pictures or a video segment. Click here to get started and you will receive an email about the details of your blog submission, including when your blog is due.

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 134, Dr. Dianna Carberry

The best gift I’ve gotten in life is a love of reading.  My grandmothers passed it on to my parents, my parents to me, and me to our daughter. From my earliest memories I can still see the library in my grandparents’ home full of books.  My favorites back then were comic books, (Popeye, Donald Duck, Buck Rogers, The Green Flash to name a few) but the shelves were full of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys mysteries, Ellery Queen, Perry Mason, Sherlock Holmes, Little Women, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, AA Milne, and a plethora of other books.  On blustery Saturday’s I recall taking down a book, grabbing a blanket, and sitting by the warm fire immersing myself in my choice.  My grandmother and mother would be reading too.  No one spoke, we just read.  Sometimes my mother would scold me when she would catch me finishing a spellbinding book under the bed covers with my trusty flashlight. I really think she was proud that reading was such a joy to me. In high school I still found time to read, sometimes staying up all night until I would finish the book.  I still do that sometimes.  My tastes in genres and my love for reading has never changed.  Years later my mother, daughter, and I would repeat this memory.

My family favorites are mysteries and I warmly recall trading them with my mother as a young mother myself. But I also love historical novels and books about other cultures and communities.  Our daughter’s friends thought it was odd that she didn’t have video games as a child.  Our deal was we would buy her any book she wanted to read so she too would curl up with a favorite book.  I remember the days of walking to the library to check out Babysitters club books and later the book store where we’d pick out a few and hurry home to start reading.  Today her library is larger than mine and much more eclectic.

The love of reading has made us good readers; reading to learn is critical.  Because I read a lot I believe I can learn anything I put my mind to. However, reading for fun is what I wanted my daughter and students at my school to value.  Sometimes books teach us about our past, present and future.  I learned a lot about the outdoors from Scrooge McDuck comics, like what poison oak looks like and that it grew down in our creek.  The comics covered life lessons, science, problem-solving, trust, and mischief.

Each time we moved homes as a family we dragged boxes of books to the new home.  It’s like having our friends with us. The bookshelves in our home are full. Today some of my friends are Kay Scarpetta, Alex Cross, Rita and Harry Decker, Eve Duncan, and Amy Underwood (the main character from the book our daughter wrote last year).  Over Spring Break I plan on pulling out the newest books of some of my friends for the sheer pleasure of being entertained.  In the staff lounge on 5th street there is a book case where you can borrow or share a book.  I’ve shared a few of mine. I urge you to do the same. Go make your own new friends!


Dianna Carberry, Assistant Superintendent Leadership and Systems Innovation.

When she is not reading she is riding her bike, hiking, gardening, sewing or playing in the water.  This year is her 39th year in education and this December she and her husband will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. 

Day 123, Steve Rodriguez

Have you found yourself feeling a bit stale in the classroom?  Are you searching for new instructional ideas?  Or do you just frequently experience a sense of professional curiosity, wondering if there are fellow teachers out there somewhere doing interesting things that might benefit your classroom of students?

If so, I highly recommend attending a professional teachers’ conference. Two weekends ago I attended the 2017 California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) state conference held in Santa Clara, CA. What I re-learned from the experience was the value of spending time amongst my own teacher tribe, exposing myself to new ideas, new faces, and intense energy.

The three-day CATE conference involved over 800 English teacher attendees from throughout the state. I attended general sessions featuring prominent speakers, and a number of smaller presentation sessions featuring teachers like myself willing to share their experiences and findings.  Though I didn’t find all ideas applicable to my classroom situation, the presentations provoked me to reexamine what I currently do with my students—and that alone made the conference worthwhile.

In addition to attending, I also actively participated by delivering an hour-long presentation session to fellow 12th grade teachers. My presentation was on Olympian High’s Common Senior Experience—a theme/project-based curriculum my school has administered for the past 8 years. Though preparing for the presentation was time consuming and a bit intimidating, I actually enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone while conducting the event.  Once done, I was on a mental high for the rest of the day after fielding enthusiastic questions and comments from the audience.

Next year’s CATE conference will be held right here in San Diego (at the Town and Country Hotel in Mission Valley) during March 9-11, 2018.  For English teachers it will be a great opportunity to expand one’s perspective and spend time with fellow teachers.  And you won’t have to spend money on airfare or a hotel room.  I highly recommend attending!  Chances are good you too will leave such a conference, if not full of new ideas, at the very least intellectually stimulated and mentally refreshed—not to mention, motivated by the high level of energy possessed by motivated peers excited to share their theories, opinions, and experiences.

Steve Rodriguez teaches AP English Literature and English-12 at Olympian High School.

Informational Meetings for AAA

Dear Teachers, Counselors & Psychologists with a Preliminary Administrative Credential and Current Assistant Principals:

The Aspiring Administrator Academy (AAA) wants you!  We are looking for a few good men and women who want to make a difference as leaders and mentors.  We are asking you to join our growing platoon of innovators in the Sweetwater Union High School District.

If you are a current assistant principal, we would love to recruit you as a year-long mentor.  In your role as a mentor, you will help aspiring administrators learn more about the assistant principal position.

If you are a current teacher with a preliminary administrative credential, not only will you gain valuable field experience, but you will collaborate with fellow cohort members to learn about the assistant principal position from a variety of perspectives.


To learn more, please preview the SUHSD Aspiring Administrator Academy website.  In addition, please plan to attend one of our informational meetings:

  • March 6 – 3:30 PM in the PDC
  • March 7 – 4:00 PM in the PDC
  • March 14 – 7:00 AM in the PDC

Give us a year… we will give you an experience that will prepare you to thrive as an administrator.

Purpose:  The purpose of the Aspiring Administrator Academy is to recruit, train, support and retain high quality site-level leaders who will increase student achievement, close the achievement gap, and support innovative efforts to improve learning within the SUHSD.  The Academy will offer training, mentoring, and a year-long apprenticeship to program participants for the purpose of advancing equity in the SUHSD.  

Day 115, Operation Grit

Tiffany Howerton, MOH English teacher and Operation GRIT advisor

Michelle Beauchamp, MOH English teacher and Operation GRIT advisor

Operation GRIT is a club and a mentoring program at Montgomery High School. We match 11th and 12th grade GRIT mentors with 9th and 10th grade protégés in Aztec Checkout.  Our goal is to help students with their academics, but also to make sure they know they have a community of peers that care about them. Mentors and protégés meet 2-4 times a week to ensure overall success. GRIT stands for Growth, Resilience, Integrity, and Tenacity, which are the 4 pillars of our mission statement.

Gia Jaramillo, MOH Senior and Operation GRIT Vice President/mentor

Initially when I started mentoring I simply wanted to complete my community service hours and be done with it. But after 3 years I’ve gotten into the routine of going 4 days a week, multiple hours a day. Operation GRIT has changed from a dinky after school program to the largest club in my school. Not only have I grown more sociable, but also it has expanded the value of my school and community. Through this program I found that I enjoy helping my protégés and seeing the moment when they understand a problem.

I’ve decided that I will continue helping students to reach their full potential through teaching. My favorite part of GRIT is that we celebrate the success of all the students, both small and tremendous. This helps unify us as a whole as well as incite a passion within the individual students. I hope to help Operation GRIT prosper and grow in the future as I plan to continue the tradition when I am a teacher.

Oscar Soto-Castelo, MOH Freshman, Operation GRIT protégé

Operation GRIT has helped me a lot to improve my grades. Currently, I have been getting really good grades because of the program. I meet with my mentor at least twice a week to make sure I stay on track. If it wasn’t for my mentor and Operation GRIT I wouldn’t be going to the college trip during Spring Break. I can’t wait to visit universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The trip will be fun especially since I get to go with my mentor Gia and other students in the club.

Last semester, I felt proud every marking period because we would have a party to celebrate good grades. I always have fun. I hope to one day become a mentor in the club. I know I can do it.