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Linda Ashida

Kristen Gierman

In 2011, Linda Ashida was teaching Spanish and said she was by no means a trailblazer in technology. She did the basics: word processing and email. But Ashida wanted to get her Spanish students recording their voices right away rather than having to wait 10 days to get into the language lab. When that project was a success, she recognized technology’s potential for the classroom. 

The next three years were the most energizing of her career, Ashida said. Her school was awarded an iPad pilot, and she became a learner right along with her students. When she couldn’t figure out how to convert a webpage to a PDF, one of the quietest students in class raised her hand and, using an Apple TV, showed her and the class how to do it.

“It struck me how everyone together — whether in the classroom, school or district — we’re all teachers, learners and we can all be leaders, especially in this environment where new stuff keeps coming.”

That is the philosophy she’s taken into her current job as the district’s teaching and learning facilitator. Ashida helped create a collaborative atmosphere at Elk Grove High School in Illinois called the Peer Observation Group, a non-evaluative observation program among teaching teams. The Group led to the Collab Lab, where teachers and students come to collaborate on projects, discuss what they’ve learned from each other and hold teacher-led professional learning days. All of this is curated and shared across the district through social media.

“Imagine possibilities,” Ashida advises teachers. “Be willing to step out of your comfort zone, take risks and fail forward. Connect with others and share your story. In so doing, you will learn, discover, innovate and build community in ways beyond what you imagine possible.” — Jennifer Snelling