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News Item: Homepage

VIDA, VUSD Garner Top Awards From Education Foundation


By Ray Huard


Top awards for excellence in education were earned by Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA) and the Vista Unified School District by an organization that connects business leaders with educators.


VIDA, a Vista Unified middle school, was given the 2017 Impact Award from the San Diego-based Classroom of the Future Foundation (CFF) at the group’s Innovation in Education Awards ceremony May 24 at SeaWorld in San Diego.


The school district also earned the Foundation’s Achieve Award for the district’s program to test, refine and train teachers and administrators in using new state science teaching standards that stress critical thinking, problem solving and analysis over rote memorization.


Classroom of the Future Foundation Chief Executive Officer James Wright, in a letter announcing the awards, wrote that Vista Innovation & Design Academy (VIDA) “improves student achievement through a highly innovative design-thinking model.”


VIDA’s program “best exemplifies CFF’s organizational goals – to inspire, innovate and achieve.”


“We feel so grateful and so blessed to be recognized,” said VIDA Principal Eric Chagala. “It’s a great honor for us to be recognized by them because they have a lot of business connections and they understand what kids need to know in the future. CFF helps push innovation in schools to better prepare kids for the economy of the future.”


The Classroom of the Future award to VIDA comes with a $10,000 grant, that Chagala said would be used to enhance the school’s engineering program and to buy supplies, such as the motors, gears, and drives which students use to build robots and for other projects.


VIDA’s design-thinking method of teaching encourages students to take risks, to experiment, and to use failed attempts at designing and building projects as part of learning.


“We try to take an entrepreneurial mindset with our school,” Chagala said. “Our whole approach to education in general is based off of creativity. We offer personalized opportunities for students to pursue their strengths, interests and values.”


Among other things, the school has a student-run business making campaign-style buttons for a variety of groups and for other schools. Profits are donated to a charity of the students’ choice.


The Classroom of the Future Impact Award is but the latest honor VIDA has received. They included Golden Bell awards in 2015 and 2016 from the California School Boards Association. VIDA also was one of only eight schools in the country to receive a grant that provides every student with an iPad to use during the school year.


In 2016, VIDA was one of three schools in San Diego County chosen as the site for an innovation lab sponsored by Qualcomm that replicates the Thinkabit Lab Qualcomm opened in March 2014 at its Sorrento Valley headquarters.


The lab includes a variety of high-tech equipment, including 3-D printers, along with basic arts and crafts material.


Chagala said that VIDA’s goal is to give students the skills they need to succeed in high school, in college, and in careers in an ever-changing work environment that expects people to be flexible, to be able to work collaboratively, and to be creative thinkers.


“All of us, as parents, want our kids to be happy when they grow up, and the only way they’re going to be happy is if they’re secure, and the only way they’re going to be secure is if they find their way in this new economy,” Chagala said.


The Foundation’s Achieve Award comes with a $5,000 grant said Sue Ritchie, project director for Vista.


So far, 68 classroom teachers along with several administrators have been trained in the California K-8 Next Generation Science Standards, and teachers and administrators are training others in the district how to use the standards and the new teaching methods they require, Ritchie said.


The award “really signifies what a great model this has been for building a capacity within the district,” Ritchie said. “We’re taking administrators and teachers, and that group has worked within the district to train more teachers and more administrators,” Ritchie said.


Teaching to the new standards requires teachers to radically change what they do in the classroom and how information is presented.


For example, in the past, students might have simply been required to memorize the periodic table of elements.


“Now, it would be understanding the elements, how the element works, what makes up the elements, why there is a periodic table, how that helps them figure out how certain materials are good for different purposes,” Ritchie said. “It’s a deeper understanding.”

Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District Published:6/5/17
Audience: Homepage and Homepage