Elementary school teacher Linda Yollis has plenty of reasons to smile these days.
Her combination classroom of second and third-graders is thriving and the students are absorbing information like sponges.
Secondly, she was recently selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) in New York City in October.
Out of 600 applicants, GTA reportedly only extended an invitation to 50 educators.
“It’s such an honor and I’m thrilled,” said Yollis, a schoolteacher at Chaparral Elementary School for 26 years.
There are only 700 Google-certified teachers in the whole world. Created to train educators in the newest innovative technologies for classroom use, GTA now attracts educators from as far as South Africa, Singapore and the Czech Republic as well as next-door neighbors Mexico and Canada.
The Encino resident has been known to actively bring technology into her classroom, especially since stumbling upon blogging in 2008.
She created a classroom blog and used it as a way to give parents a glimpse of what they’re doing in the classroom.
Not long after, her blog was drawing comments from fellow educators around the world, past students and even grandparents.
According to principal Rose Hibler, both children and their parents have taken to blogging.
“The parents especially, feel connected and feel that they have access to the classroom,” she said.
“Aside from bringing energy into the classroom, I discovered that blogging also opens it up to the world,” said Yollis, getting up to illustrate her point using a map.
Pointing to the Southern hemisphere, she said, “This morning, we used Skype to talk to our buddies in New Zealand.”
Using the Skype call, Yollis was able to integrate real learning in her classroom. The children learned about time zones, elapsed time, population comparison and the difference between a rural and suburban area, among others.
“If this were several years ago, we would just do it the conventional way - get a worksheet instead of comparing real communities and define rural and suburban,” she said.
Educational blogging is catching on. Other teachers at Chaparral have followed suit and started their own blogs, using geometric scavenger hunts and virtual field trips to engage their students.
“It’s real, authentic learning,” she said, describing the online virtual community she helped create.
“We’re incredibly proud of her and her passion for blogging,” said Hibler. “I can’t think of a better person to represent our school and our district.”
Also through educational blogging, Yollis’ classroom has connected with other classrooms in other corners of the world including Ghana, Canada, Belize and Uganda.
As she heads to New York City next week, this LVUSD teacher of the year hopes to bring home the newest innovative technologies, engage her students more and make them want to come to class even more.
“Kids love technology and really respond to it so I hope to make it more meaningful for them," she said.
Yollis’ one-minute application video submitted to GTA can be found here.