Julie Garcia

Julie Garcia has worked in Education for over 26 years, as a middle school math teacher for 20 of those years. “Technology changed the way my students learned,” Garcia said. “I’ve always been passionate about how technology helped meet the needs of all my students.” Before stepping into her current role as the Program Manager of Instructional Technology for the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), she served as a resource teacher at several schools to support a 1:1 technology model where each student had their own device, which they “carried around like a textbook.”

“I’m supportive of the 1:1 model, where students have [a device] ready to go and it’s part of the daily routine. It extends the classroom activities into the homework and outside of school activities -- with technology there’s fluid access to learning whatever was started in class."

With COVID-19’s impact on the nature of schooling, Garcia’s role and responsibilities have grown rapidly and vastly. “We’ve been working to get SDUSD online, collaborating with IT to provide the space for students and families to engage in schoolwork while at home,” she said. Garcia’s work has been crucial to the success of the 200+ schools and almost 6,000 teachers and classified staff within SDUSD.

Back in March, Garcia was focused on getting resources and materials collected and supporting families, so when students eventually went home, they could easily access lessons and enrichment materials. She and her team were also ahead of the curve in preparing teachers to familiarize themselves with available technology. “My proudest moment is how my team came together to respond to COVID-19 and provided teachers with the information and classes they needed before they were expected to teach online, we were super proactive. Those teachers had the opportunity to take classes before they were expected to teach online -- not after the fact,” she noted.

In order to proactively prepare the teachers within SDUSD, Garcia and her team gave up their Spring Break and worked 15-hour days to prepare and provide trainings. “We felt so supported from the outpouring of love we got from teachers who liked our classes and found them super informational,” she said.

“We support universal design for learning, encouraging teachers to find different ways of presenting information -- providing visuals or simulations,” Garcia explained.

Over the spring and summer, Garcia and her team continued offering classes and preparing for students to come back to school. The first week of school had teachers involved in professional training, so Garcia and team facilitated learning menus, 40 hours of instruction and self-paced lessons for students to use asynchronously during this time. Simultaneously, they also worked to create a parent learning menu, curating information on how to support children doing at home-learning. The majority of August and September, she has been focused on providing immediate teacher response and support, seeing a high need to support teachers with Zoom calls. Garcia is also supporting the family helpline, a hotline for families to call when they need help getting Wi-Fi and hotspots for their students.

Those interested in some of Garcia’s trainings can check them out here.

Garcia leads a team that supports research and development on technology integration in the classroom. “How do we redefine the way teachers teach, and students learn? We rarely do any planning in isolation,” Garcia said. “I work with so many great people -- my department, IT, etc.

I think everybody works so hard in a positive direction that has helped make my work easier as well.” When supporting teachers, Garcia and team question what will make a teacher’s life easier? What is getting in way of a teacher being successful in implementing a new tool or strategy? How can technology be built into classroom lessons and improve accessibility?