Nurturing Student Literacy

The ability to read well impacts a student’s entire life

by Dr. Rod Berger

After spending more than 20 years with the San Diego education community teaching an incredibly diverse student population, Steve Elizondo has learned a few things about the empathy and relationship-building needed to be a successful educator in today’s world. He knows the critical importance of nurturing the love of reading, the love of math and the love of learning, period. And it all starts with reading.

When it comes to the challenges of teaching, literacy is always near the top of the list. "One of the big ones," Steve says, "Is the number of kids who come in specifically reading below grade level. A large percentage of them are reading significantly below grade levels.” It’s a big challenge to help catch them up so they can be successful in school. After all, while reading is certainly one of the gateways to success in elementary and high school, the negative impact of poor literacy on learning in college and later on in one's career can be massive.

Steve established PLCs or Professional Learning Communities to provide the scaffolding for the learning. “The first battle really is making sure that kids can read well so they can enjoy their experience,” Steve says. “Then we go from there.”

By tapping into the progressive social and emotional learning environment that he and his team create, kids perform well on tests and assessments because they're engaged and love their learning. The data points that we all like to gather blossom because confident students making good progress who are excited about their learning will naturally perform better on tests. Increased state scores is a nice by-product of the steady progress of advancing the learning ball at High Tech High and Golden Hill Elementary.

Steve says, “One of the things that I continue to love about High Tech High is the freedom that educators, principals, teachers and whoever works there has to create innovative, relevant projects and learning activities for kids.” After 11 years, innovation and creativity have become part of Steve’s psyche when he thinks about education. The importance of relevance, engagement and 21st Century skills for kids, means success in the long run for the future leaders prepared under his tutelage.

“In my experience, focus on the student engagement and the fun of learning will play out the way we hope and plan,” Steve says.

About Steve Elizondo

Steve Elizondo is an educator from San Diego, California. He has worked with kids for over 20 years. Starting out working in group homes, and later teaching students from diverse backgrounds helped Steve to develop the empathy and relationship-building skills necessary to reach all students.

Moving to High Tech High in 2005, Steve immersed himself in project-based learning as a Humanities teacher. Six years later, Steve became the director of one of the High Tech High Schools and was responsible for guiding the school in its mission of providing an engaging 21st-century education to all students.

Steve is currently the principal of Golden Hill K-8, a dual immersion public school in the San Diego Unified School District, committed to social/emotional learning, and developing students who are proficient in both English and Spanish. Steve was one of the keynote speakers at the 2nd Annual STEAM Barcelona conference in April 2016.

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