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James Varlack, SMART Ambassador

Written by: James Varlack, SMART Ambassador

James is a Digital Learning Specialist in McAllen, Texas helping teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. According to James, “Technology is an avenue to do something in your classroom that you have never done before. It promotes creativity, collaboration, and connection. With the right tool and a little bit of learning, passion, and support we can do something new!”


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Focusing on Social & Emotional Learning

Our district is focusing on Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) this year. This means that in my role as a Digital Learning Specialist, I need to find ways to incorporate SEL into my meetings and workshops. I found some cool breathing exercises, celebration activities, and questioning techniques to implement into my workshops. I’ve used the 'Appreciation, Apology, or Aha moment' strategy as well as things like asking a 'juicy' question to start the training session on an engaging note.

Connecting with teachers

When hosting a training session, I don’t always have time to connect with every single teacher in attendance. This year, I’m planning to create more one-on-one opportunities for teachers across the 10 campus sites I support.

One way I like to win teachers over and create a connection right away is to bring food--I make a great dip that everyone loves and bring it to almost every campus I visit. 

I love working with teachers--they’re amazing! My role and the role of people in the district is to support and enable teachers to do the incredible work they are doing, day in and day out. It’s exciting and challenging work, so embrace the change, continue to grow, and we will be here to support you! 

Special thanks to SMART Ambassador James Varlack for this post! Looking to learn more about providing professional learning? Read this post by two of our SMART PD Specialists!

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