20 min read

Yucaipa Calimesa JUSD Fulfills Teachers’ Desire to Learn

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Q&A with Kathy Jackson and Mark Pierson, professional learning leaders for Yucaipa Calimesa Joint Unified School District

It was our pleasure to sit down with Kathy and Mark from YCJUSD to soak up all that they’ve accomplished since they set out on a mission to deliver relevant learning to teachers and support staff. Kathy is the Director of Teaching and Learning for K 12, and Mark is a Teacher on Assignment for Technology. With the support of their district’s leadership, they’ve used Alludo to transform professional learning into a program that now has 100% engagement and doesn’t take away teachers’ time in the classroom! Most importantly, through professional learning, they are creating opportunities for students.

See how they did it…



AT A GLANCE

Yucaipa Calimesa Joint Unified School District with Alludo

YCJUSD professional learning leadership made it their mission to deliver a learning experience based on the unique needs of their educators – including learning style, skill level, and interests. 

  • Yucaipa Calimesa JUSD is made up of nearly 9,000 students across 13 sites.
  • They made it their mission to…
    • Be relevant to teachers and support staff 
    • Protect teachers’ time in the classroom
    • Move away from traditional, synchronous, one-size-fits-all in-person PD 
  • YCJUSD chose Alludo because…
    • Personalized learning ensures they are relevant
    • Asynchronous, microlearning activities offer flexibility
    • Easy feedback loop makes support easy for administrators
    • Gamification is the direction they wanted to go
    • Learners can jump ahead and they become virtual learning advocates to their peers!
  • The Alludo solution featured…
    • AL_Yucaipa-resultsOne learning platform to manage training in topics like curriculum, ed tech, and pedagogy, but also learning from other departments like HR and beyond!
    • Ability to onboard substitutes effectively and a pathway to hire these substitutes to build their capacity
    • The ability to create distinct courses and learning pathways for district initiatives like SEL, new teacher onboarding, and more



Here is the full interview...

Q: What do you love most about what you do?

A: (Mark) I've always wanted to be a teacher, because of the teachers that I had growing up and still communicate with to this day. I also like seeing the influence of the students that I've taught. I now have some that are in their forties and seeing them and seeing the route that they take and how things work out. Basically it's the energy I get from the things that we create when we help students learn.

A: (Kathy) I think over the last couple of years, we've really had to do some soul searching on why we love our position. And it's changed. Right now the thing I love most about my job is supporting principals and supporting their leadership in providing opportunities for our kids. Because when we hear the stories of our kids being successful, it's because…I miss the interaction with the kids being at the district…so when we hear the stories of teachers being successful with their students, it's as though we get to share a little part of that win, and it's our why. Just making sure that our kids are getting as many opportunities as we can. And I think it's a really strong belief here in our district that teachers are the catalysts for all the success that happens at our sites, and principals have to lead that.

"When we hear the stories of teachers being successful with their students, it's as though we get to share a little part of that win, and it's our why."



Q: Can you talk a little bit about your background in education and what led you to your current role at Yucaipa Calimesa JUSD?

A: (Kathy) I was a teacher for 12 years and then became an assistant principal for two years. I was an assistant principal at a few sites, and then I became a principal at two sites and then moved from my district that I had been at for 20+ years to this district. And I was here in Yucaipa for six months and then COVID hit, so that was an interesting – it is an interesting – experience. But I do often think we carry those experiences and all of that with us. My heart goes out to our educators and our principals, because we haven't walked what they just had to walk through the last year and a half. So I know I have to work really hard on not assuming that I know what they're going through. We just have to constantly remind ourselves to be in touch with our teachers and our principals to make sure that we're being relevant because they've been through a lot in the last two years. Things that we've never been through.

A: (Mark) My journey started my junior year at Purdue, and my mom had passed away, and with some of the inheritance I bought a computer. Back then, a terrible computer was $2,500. Everybody thought I was crazy. It had DOS 3.0. How could it be bad? And from there, not knowing where that would take me, I've always integrated tech into the classroom. I've taught elementary in Indiana, third through fifth grade, elementary in Oklahoma, third through fifth. And then when I came to California, I did alternative ed, 16 to 18 year olds for a number of years. Then I went back to elementary and then got this job for helping teachers integrate tech. So it actually merged both things together. And so when the story started, I had no idea it was going to take me to where we are today. So, it's always been enjoyable, and it's been nice to be able to incorporate those skills into this position.

And when you were talking about COVID, it's interesting because that's the first time everybody was a new teacher. So as a tech coach, I had all new teachers in front of me because nobody had ventured where we were at and had to integrate those things. But we also, I think, made more progress in that year and a half, two years in technology than we could have ever done had we had workshops. So that helped out.

A: (Kathy) When I joined the team, I can remember having discussions like, how are we going to push this forward? How are we going to support technology to grow? How are we going and you know, and just the heavy lift that that is. And then, as you said, COVID came, and it was just such an acceleration that we wouldn't have had had that not happened, right?

A: (Mark) And I think to kind of tie it to Alludo, I don't think Alludo would have been as successful if we wouldn't have already had some of the tech skills that those teachers learned during that time. Because now going into Alludo, you have the initial training on how to do it, but people were still hesitant, not sure what to do with it. And now when you tell them to upload a screen image, when you tell them to share a document, those kind of skills are more universal now than they would have been before that happened.



Q: Now that we're in this new normal, what would you say is the biggest challenge?

A: (Mark) I would say from our standpoint, it's teachers are very stressed, more so than usual. I have several colleagues in other districts that are having teachers that used to be very heavily into tech, not doing as much with tech at all this year. One of our teachers that I went and visited a few weeks ago who when you would walk in her room pre-COVID, it was tech all the time. And now you walk into a room and she's barely turning on her Newline board. So trying to give them the right amount of space, but still give them that support they need to to be able to stay current and not have a gap from shying away from it so much. So, just making them comfortable in the learning process. 

One of the things that has helped us with the (Alludo) integration is they're small little bits to where they can go through and learn and they can choose what they want to learn about. Because I don't think you're going to get teachers right now to sit through something that maybe part of it applies and they have to sit there the full time. So it's nice to be able to pinpoint more where their interests are.

A: (Kathy) I would have to agree with everything Mark just said. The biggest challenge is being sure that we're relevant to what our teachers need. That is a challenge, because everybody needs a little something different in the ways of support. As far as curriculum goes, we all basically need the same thing, but being able to offer choice through Alludo is a game changer. Choice is something that we haven't been able in the past to do. It was…show up for PD and you sit all day and you get it…and whoever is really excited takes away some. People just go through the motions of having the have to's on PD. But if we make it relevant and…it's really nice if we can do a mix of both mandatory and choice and ensure that those things are relevant in the choices. I think that's a challenge because again, you have to keep that connection to the site and their needs all while steering the curriculum of moving forward with all of our new tools. Just so I'd say everything that Mark said, plus just making sure that we're walking that balance of being supportive, but also in having a clear direction. And these are the things that the district has as a priority, and we're supporting you to get there. But along the way, how you learn these, we're going to give you choices. And I think that Alludo has helped us with that challenge.

A: (Mark) If I could get that little snippet where she said she agreed with me 100%, if you could send that to me, that would be…

A: (Kathy) Nope, nope, not going to happen. 

(Laughter)

"The biggest challenge is being sure that we're relevant to what our teachers need. That is a challenge, because everybody needs a little something different in the ways of support."



Q: What led you to Alludo? What were you doing prior to Alludo for PD?

A: (Mark) We have a lot of PD here on site. And the way the district organized it at that point was you had to choose two PDs throughout the year, and several were offered and that's on top of the required ones. That's how it was being handled at that time. So they were still given choice, but there would be obviously fewer to choose from, because of the personnel and days off and substitutes. And that was in the days when you could still find a substitute.




Q: So two PDs within a year…does that mean two topics?

A: (Mark) Yeah, before COVID we were still integrating Google Classroom and those kind of things. So it might have been that one of them was a Google Classroom Day and then you could sign up for that, or it might be workshops in that regard. We also offered after school short little snippets like little hour workshops that they could come to. But those were voluntary. 

More people are participating and that's twofold. One, because of the incentives we've offered for them to participate. But then also since you have a wide variety of what they can cover, that increases their usage. I know that I want to cover something about this end of Google at my own place, and if I open it and it's something that I wasn't as interested in as I thought, I'm going to skip down or I'm going to go over here and learn about a different program or a different concept. They are able to do that, and before it was all or nothing. Here's what we're going to cover, and if that doesn't work for you, then you get to sit here for that amount of time.

A: (Kathy) Generally, districts pretty much offer the same PD before Alludo. Just come, and one size fits all. It's really nice to have a platform. We lead our teachers to meet students where they are and to understand the different needs that our kids learn differently. But sometimes we don't walk that talk with our teachers. And we need to make sure that we...as we're saying, learning is learning...learning how people learn. Offering the choices, we allow teachers that just want to run ahead, the trailblazers that want to learn before we get there, if they want to pick that on Alludo and learn about it and talk with Mark about it later. And I think that's a piece of success for us is we are a smaller district, and Mark literally talks to people, checking if they're online and if they're doing their I can't remember what we call it, what do we call it, Mark, when you give them the OK, they get credit for it.

A: (Mark) Oh, the approvals. And it's funny, because with that sometimes I'll show up to somebody's classroom, somebody is doing the Newline training, and I showed up to their classroom. I go, So the date and time aren't working on your Newline board? They go, How did you know that? Because I was grading your stuff last night. So I had showed up to help them out, and they were just shocked because they weren't thinking anybody was looking at it.

A: (Kathy) So I think that's the one piece that made it successful, and I think Mark is a huge piece in that. It's a huge piece, because he adds a personal touch. He will literally joke with people and say, No, not yet, you missed this. Sometimes people just get in there to click, click, click and do it. But Mark will have a real, genuine experience with them or authentic experience and then later follow up. And so that gives people positive feedback to an online experience that might not otherwise get one. 

I think my favorite part about Alludo and PD is that in education, sometimes we treat everybody the same and feel that they all learn the same. Alludo gives that opportunity for us to learn about things that we're interested in and for people to go way ahead of everybody else if they want, or to just do the mandatory and just check the box and get it done.

A: (Mark): I think that we are reaching places where you weren't able to before. For example, we have our substitute teachers on Alludo, we have our classified staff on Alludo. And so everybody has an opportunity where before it was a lot harder to incorporate that. We can get a substitute for the teachers for the day. We can't necessarily get that for classified staff and get that integrated. So that's been a help as well.

A: (Kathy): That can lift PD and not only teachers, but for our subs to learn quickly what the expectation is of the district for subs and for our certificated and classified.

A: (Mark): During COVID we had a set of Alludo trainings they had to do before they were able to be substitutes. And so that way we knew going into it they had the basics down when they entered the classroom.

A:(Kathy): Actually some of those subs, they learned a lot, and they were very grateful for the opportunity to have professional learning of Alludo. And then we turned around and hired those subs. So we were investing in building our capacity and Alludo supported that.



Q: What caused you to make a change in how you were doing PD?

A: (Mark) I think at that time it was mainly a lot to do with budget cuts just because we didn't have the ability to pay for as many subs to get people to come in. As well as you were running into the area of teachers feeling like they were out of their room more than they were in it, and so you needed to accommodate that, so they weren't getting frustrated.



Q: What were the reasons you decided to invest in Alludo? 

A: (Mark) At that time gamification was also big or was being talked about more even for the classroom end. And so giving that a try on the PD instead of what already had been occurring to give it kind of a new fresh look. That's where Alludo came to mind because they had pretty much put into works what we were going to try to do, but Alludo had the framework.



Q: What aspects of Alludo help you the most?

A: (Kathy) (As a learner) I can do it at any time. The flexibility of it. And when I couldn't do something, you let me know I was doing it wrong. Almost immediate feedback. 

What helps us in my position for Alludo the most is offering that flexibility for people. There were so many limitations. You can't do in-person, and now we can; that's not there anymore, but that was one. We had sub shortage, and that's still here and that's still real, so this helps us kind of lift that. And then people just wanting to learn about different things than just the mandatory or just the curriculum that we have. If we're a smaller district, we don't have six, seven TOAs, so Alludo really brought professional learning to a new level. Having conversations with the site leadership and Mark having conversations with teachers on, What do you want to see on Alludo? It really helped. And then the support from you guys we got. As soon as a teacher would raise their hand and say, Hey, can we have this on Alludo? 

That's what started happening, too. HR started working with Mark on Hey, can we put this on Alludo? It kind of exploded, because we kept it in the forefront and people just started asking, Can we do this on Alludo? Can we do this? And it just started taking on a life of its own, which I'm sure he is really excited about. It helped in areas that we didn't even think possible. But I know HR has recently been tapping into Mark and supporting on Alludo as well, not just Ed Services where it was just a curricular support. Now it's going into other areas. It even picked up a big lift for us for SEL. It's just supported in ways that we didn't know, but as we really work hard to be relevant and get input from our teachers and our staff, we get that input, and then it took on a life of its own.

A: (Mark) The two big things you said there were flexibility and choice. When I go to teach a workshop, what I go to cover may bore somebody on one level in the room, but the other person still needs to learn that. This way they can kind of pick and choose, and everybody can be challenged where they want to be. Instead of having that variety throughout the room that might leave a little frustrated or not get to what they wanted to cover until towards the end.

A: (Kathy) A lot of our teachers, after being out of the classroom, they don't want to miss. They don't want to be out of the classroom anymore. That's a big shift and Alludo provides the opportunity for our teachers and support staff to not have to miss a day with the students.

A: (Mark) And I've done Teacher on Assignment in previous districts, and I've also had people who have come here to do workshops. And the staff here definitely has that energy and that want to learn that isn't necessarily prevalent everywhere. When I first got here six years ago, we just made the transition from Microsoft starting into the Google end of things. People would show up voluntarily to workshops. They've got a very positive energy about them and they want to learn and they want to improve their craft. And that's a majority, and I don't think that's a majority in a lot of places you might go to.

"Alludo provides the opportunity for our teachers and support staff to not have to miss a day with the students."



Q: What are the biggest initiatives Alludo helps your district drive?

A: (Mark) We did a lot of SEL this year for sure, and that incorporated everybody classified and certificated. Any new programs that we had coming out, we would add there (Alludo), because since that's where they were used to going for their other choices, we were able to add things in there without making it a separate step or a separate area for them to go. Even if the training came from the company we were using, we could put the final part of it in Alludo to where they could post their badge from that company or whatever it was, so that we were still able to tie it into one central location.

A: (Kathy) I think the top three that come to my mind are SEL. We do a lot of surveys to understand what our teachers and support staff need, so SEL was huge. That was a big one that we just recently rolled out and is still going on. And then the technology tools. We bought a lot of new technology programs, and so that was a huge one. We did a lot for teachers…Here,we bought it. Here's how to use it. And then we did have a push for new curriculum.



Q: What has been the biggest outcome of using Alludo?

A: (Mark) I would say the biggest outcome from Alludo was because of how our leadership made it incentivized. But then after teachers and classified were in there actually doing the lessons, they continued past that. We would have people that did activities and then decided, Hey, this is different than I thought it was going to be. I actually like this. I want to try this lesson or that lesson. Because of that initial push to get everybody involved, it makes it that much easier for them to continue. Second semester this year, we incentivized. But now you had more participation because now you had other people saying, Oh no, you need to do it. It's not that bad. It's pretty good. I learned such and such. 

A: (Kathy) Alludo gave a shot in the arm for professional learning. The way that our leadership rolled it out was giving relevance, the respect of their time, and the professionalism to learn more. I think that was a huge outcome for us. I love that our district did classified and certificated and put at the top that we value professional learning. Like Mark was saying, our district, our teachers and support staff, they want to learn, and that means opportunities for our kids. I'm very proud that our leadership has chosen to put a value on professional learning, and value means time and money, and that's a respect for professional learning.

AL_Yucaipa-quote-copy

A: (Mark) And even if you look at the time and money, if you looked at the number of people that have taken the trainings versus what you would have had to pay to have substitutes cover their rooms to do PD to get that many people involved, that's a huge difference. And wouldn't have happened.

A: (Kathy) I mean, there's the small things that, like I mentioned before, we're a smaller district, we have the three TOAs, and we are K12 aligned, so it would take us years to roll out all the PD that we can on Alludo.



Q: Do you two have any Alludo specific memories that stand out?

A: (Mark) What I liked about it, as far as memory wise, is the details of how to share a document. Well, when people were going through and sending these in, I'd be able to tell that it wasn't correct and send them back their feedback. Now we're on our second semester of our second year of doing this. I hardly ever have to send out that message on how to share something. So unless they're a new member, the other ones, they got it covered.

A: (Kathy) I honestly really enjoyed when you guys sent the Alludo mascot. You guys send those and we got to go and deliver those to our teachers, to our top performing teachers and our top gamers. I don't know what we called it. We called it something cute or you guys did, but it was so fun. The teachers loved it and we like to get out to the sites and give them a little hug. So that was fun, and I wish, we probably should do more of that, but that was cute. And you guys provided it. You made it easy, you sent it, and then we went out and shared that. So that was fun. It's probably one of my favorite things.



Q: You have over 14,000 activities in the SEL course, over 11,700 in the new TIPS and over 40,000 in your 2021 TIPS original program. And correct me if I'm wrong, Mark, but you supported most, if not all, of the approving of those activities?

A: (Mark) Yes, but I got really good at it because I have the app, I have the website on my phone, so I just keep up on it a little bit each day.

And the other part was Julia, whenever I would need something extra instead of making me do it, she would say, Oh, we can take care of that for you. I'm like, Oh, good, because I've got 4,000 more to grade. No, but, but no, it's good. I like the grading part of it anyway, just because it gives you insight. Sometimes I can't see the names on my phone when I go to do it, but I can see the content. But it's always interesting when you give somebody either their feedback or since this is a small district, we know everybody really well. You can put a personal message in there like, What are you doing up so late? Or this or that, and so they really like that kind of feedback.



Q: How has Alludo affected your capacity to personally engage with learners in let’s say…a year’s time frame?

A: (Kathy) You can imagine it's going to take us a while for example to roll out in person mass common formative assessments. We did those in person, and we're just wrapping up and debriefing this year. So it took us a year to kind of push on that to roll out common formative assessments. So learning about math standards, what they look like and instruction and building those as common formative assessments together. That took us a year to go K-12.

A: (Mark) Because we have the Alludo to fall back on for the other trainings that gives you the if we were doing that for a year and trying to do other trainings in between there, it wouldn't have worked. We wouldn't have the number of subs, we wouldn't have the number of minutes in a day.

A: (Kathy) And we just underwent a K-12 science adoption. And that's a good point, Mark. I'm not sure we would have been able to pull that off had we been expected to do other things alongside the science adoption. Good point

A: (Mark) And I would emphasize again, it was the district leadership's buy-in, or I don't think it would have happened anyway, because with them offering that incentive that they did and showing that it was a priority to them. There's nobody I know that on a Saturday or Sunday is going to be working on any type of professional development all the time consistently. 

A: (Kathy) The difference that he was seeing in the leadership that we have – it's a priority, and it's put in the front, and it's made a priority so that everybody knows about it, all the departments support it. That means all the principals understand it, the teachers get it, and it's tied to Mark and his professional learning. Then he goes to the sites and then that craving of recognition or connection gets fueled and it just keeps it in the forefront. And I think that is why it's successful.



Q: Is there anything else on your mind that we didn’t get to?

A: (Kathy) I would just like to say that in the very beginning, I feel the success of the program is, and Mark kind of alluded to it, is that there was a lot of hand-holding and support from Julia, and Julia was on the spot, supportive the whole time. And it was just enough for us to learn – for Mark to learn – how to do it. In reflection, that's a piece that I have not mentioned that the support was phenomenal and it was timely and she heard us what our needs were and came through, so we really appreciate that. And it has not been that way the last two years working with different companies. Every time we turn around there's somebody new. We were very grateful that Julia’s on the other line, her smiley face and very competent hands, really, really supported us.