Spotlight Author: Pam Moeai, Educational Technology Specialist Team Leader
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
— Helen Keller
Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Hilda B. Jones Center, and like the Grinch from the beloved Dr. Seuss story, I felt my heart grow in size that day as I met with the students and, in particular, one exceptional teacher.
What is the Jones Center? This GSD educational site provides a vocational training environment to give special education and at-risk students the opportunity to gain work-maturity, and specific job skills. One of the many wonderful and dedicated educators you may be able to find at the Jones Center is Jason Kerzner.
Jason has been with the Jones Center for 12 years. Before coming to Granite, he was employed with Westminster College as a chef, where he was able to hone the skills he now shares with the students. It is at the Jones Center that he has found his home and his “tribe.” But, teaching the students food preparation is just one small ingredient to Jason’s master plan. His primary focus is providing opportunities for students to practice skills in collaboration, social interaction, and basic job readiness that will help them be more marketable as they enter a competitive workforce environment. The curriculum for his class is based upon 21st Century Skills and includes the following:
- Work Habits and Attitudes
- Interpersonal Effectiveness
- Follow Instructions
- Quality of Work Accomplished
- Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
- Communication Competencies
- Appearance and Grooming
Jason uses multiple means of learning and assessment structures and strategies to engage his students in the process of achieving these curriculum goals. One thing I found pleasantly surprising was how much technology played an intricate and important role in helping him accomplish these goals.
Jason uses a large, interactive, touch screen panel to organize the agenda for the day and present the lesson or topic. He has found that his students learn and understand better if they refer to the images on the screen for work-site assignments and lessons. “The images stick in the kids’ minds!” he relates. He currently uses Microsoft Office tools like PowerPoint and Word to create his lesson plans and resources, but has set PG&E goals of integrating Google Tools because of the advanced translation capabilities. I found this to be the “norm” for Jason – always looking for new and more advanced ways of reaching each and every one of his students.
To better meet student needs, Jason uses a variety of hands-on resources for those students requiring a more tactile experience. All of the tech he uses is directly related to paper form. Word/picture Sort activities provide his kids an active and better way to solidify their understanding of the process. Images of the recipes they will be doing for the week are found online and displayed on the brightly lit interactive screen in order for the students to have a visual idea of what a successful outcome should look like. Websites like PurposeGames.com are used to create a game-based learning environment to practice vocabulary and image recognition. This all helps support the goal that “when his students leave, they MAY learn to cook, but more importantly, they learn how to WORK.” Simply stated, Jason is a rock star! His students respect and love him. What makes him even more infectious is how humble he is.
Aaron Kammerman, the School Technology Specialist for the Jones Center, confided to me that he was amazed…and happy… this interview even happened. He has known Jason to be an expert teacher, but also understands he is a pretty quiet and private individual, just happy to do his job day in and day out. When asked what makes Jason so special, Aaron said, “Jason is very student-centered in his approach to teaching and cares not only for his students, but for their families, as well. We’ve had many conversations of how he can better serve his students.” He has witnessed his interactions with the students and their families and knows that Granite School District is lucky to have someone so perfectly suited to help fill the needs of his community and customers.
I am very grateful that Jason allowed me, and now others, a brief glimpse into his world. Way to go, Jason!