Shaping the Future Generation in the Hospitality IndustryAugust 17, 2022
Finding Creative Inspiration from a Flexible Curriculum
A Story of Teacher & Student Success
Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School
“Clay is a very interesting and fundamental material: it’s earth, it’s water, and – with fire – it takes on form and life.” – Rithy Panh
Teachers are artists. They take themes and ideas and develop them into stories. They take concepts and develop them into complex, engaging plans. They take different modalities and weave them into their classroom to reach their students. But where do these artists draw their inspiration? Often it starts with the curriculum, and as educators know, not all curriculums are the same. Curriculums that are research-based, rooted in best practices, and employ a variety of tried-and-true methodologies can make it easier to spark stories, design plans, and implement varied techniques. Creating them also requires an inspired mind and a deft hand of an exceptional teacher. Susannah Azzaro is one of those teachers, and she found eDynamic Learning’s curriculum to be the perfect clay.
Susannah Azzaro is a Career and Technical Education (BCIT/CTE) teacher with Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. Susannah has been leaving her mark on the field of education for nearly 30 years, and because of her background, brings priceless experience to her students as a master educator and to her peers as a pillar of support and inspiration.
Having worked as a Technology Integration Specialist for an ed-tech agency and helped teachers successfully implement technology into their classrooms, and as a teacher in both brick-and-mortar and virtual settings, Susannah has a well-rounded view of what it takes to excel in the classroom. Finding a quality curriculum that can engage students in a virtual setting can be a daunting task. Two years ago, Susannah found the eDynamic Learning curriculum and she hasn’t looked back. eDynamic Learning’s curriculum has allowed her to lean on a single curriculum thanks to its ability to support all of her CTE courses: Hospitality and Tourism: Traveling the Globe, Hospitality and Tourism 2a: Hotel and Restaurant Management, and Hospitality and Tourism 2b: Hotel and Restaurant Management.
Helping Diverse Learners Thrive in a Virtual Setting
Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School is a public cyber charter school that services students across the state of Pennsylvania. With its wide-reaching services, Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School has a great deal of diversity in demographics and circumstances among its students who attend this virtual charter.
“We have about 1,500 students K through 12 from all walks of life and all areas of the state- rural, urban, and suburban. I’ve had kids who have been bullied and who were looking for a safe place to attend school, kids who have extracurriculars that require flexibility, parents who want to homeschool and need structure, and recently, students trying to stay safe during the pandemic. We also have a very high special education population. I think kids find safety and community in our school.”
Because Susannah has students with so many varying needs, environments, circumstances, and abilities, she needed a curriculum that would not only be accessible but one that would be malleable and engaging, to support a wide variety of needs and help her capture the attention of students in a distance learning program. eDynamic Learning’s curriculum helped her not only teach her students about exciting, in-demand industries such hospitality and tourism, but it also gave her the tools to help her students thrive in the often-challenging online environment.
Having an outstanding curriculum certainly helps students thrive; and to best meet each student’s unique needs, it also needs to be pliable while remaining sound in its application. eDynamic Learning’s curriculum gave Susannah this exact combination.
“On the pedagogical side of things, I love the flow in eDynamic Learning, the flexibility, and the ability to think outside of the box. I essentially use the curriculum like a piece of clay, molding it to meet my goals and my students’ needs.”
Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School’s students with special needs require accommodations to ensure equity in their education, and the flexible nature of the eDynamic Learning curriculum was like putty in Susannah’s inspired hands.
“One of my students has significant autism and anxiety. He was fortunate to have his mom there to help, and she was able to tell me right off the bat that he was going to need extreme modification. Being able to take the eDynamic Learning curriculum and move it around and make it work for someone like this student was really, really important to me.”
Susannah was able to rearrange program components, remove content that didn’t align to his IEP, modify curricular requirements, and bring the world of hospitality alive for him. It not only helped her provide content the student was able to connect with, but it also allowed Susannah to easily communicate with this student’s mother, keeping all parties actively engaged and involved.
Supporting Teacher Empowerment and Ownership Through Customization
Having a customizable curriculum is something that is often of the utmost importance to educators. Sometimes, teachers need to modify the curriculum for special needs students to ensure accommodations are met, and other times customization is important for another reason: to allow teachers to take ownership over their classrooms. eDynamic Learning’s curriculum comes structured in a way that innately supports implementation into every classroom, regardless of the instructional model. It enables educators to break the structure apart, rearrange the content, add in activities and assignments they’ve created themselves, and customize it in a way that makes the most sense for their students. Because of this, Susannah has been able to mold her eDynamic courses into exactly what she wants them to be. She has built-in Blended Learning elements, collaborative activities, team building exercises, and in turn, has bridged the gaps that often occur in a virtual environment.
By leveraging both the Buzz Agilix and Schoology platforms, Susannah has personalized her eDynamic Learning curriculum to bring in student voice, choice, and agency. She has adopted new strategies, such as allowing students to complete discussion activities and critical thinking questions- assignments typically completed individually in written form- as a group during her virtual synchronous meetups which further foster collaboration. She has promoted student ownership in her class by building in choice projects and allowing students to decide what and how they want to complete specified assignments in the course. She has incorporated web tools that give students the ability to complete assignments in written form, as directions often indicate, or answer in spoken word using Flipgrid’s discussion board that allows students to work in a way that suits them best. Through strategic best practices, she has even found unique ways to bring in collaborative elements typically reserved for a traditional classroom, such as Socratic Seminars and live small group work, into a virtual learning environment. eDynamic Learning’s flexible and customizable curriculum has also been Susannah’s muse.
“I have found eDynamic Learning to be a source of inspiration for me because for so long I used to be a very “in the box” thinker about using the curriculum. I was very literal. I had to follow it exactly the way it was laid out, and as I’ve grown with eDynamic Learning, I’ve seen how it can be molded.”
Words of Wisdom From an Educational Artist
Taking curriculum and modifying it can seem overwhelming, maybe a little scary, but Susannah has words of encouragement for her peers.
“Think about eDynamic Learning’s curriculum as a piece of clay. Teachers can do with it what suits them best based on the students they have. Let the curriculum and your creativity guide you wherever it leads you. Stretch your wings! You know what your goals are for your students, and you can mold the amazing content eDynamic Learning provides to help students attain those goals. Instead of a ball and chain, think of it like your artistic medium. There’s no way you can’t bend and flex the curriculum because it is extremely flexible. Just… go for it!”
Career Compass Teacher Award Recipient
Susannah was recently recognized by eDynamic Learning as a 2022 Career Compass Teacher Award recipient for her incredible work with her CTE students in helping guide passion to purpose. Through eDynamic Learning’s CTE curriculum, Susannah has found her perfect educational medium to shape and make her own. The curriculum, her own inspired ideas, and her vibrant delivery of the content brings the courses to life for her students. As an educator-founded company, our mission at eDynamic Learning is to support teachers with the best possible curriculum to encourage students to be excited and inspired by learning. eDynamic Learning is grateful to have creative educators like Susannah willing to mold and modify our curriculum to best meet the individual needs of their students.
“Hospitality and Tourism has had quite an impact and influence on my learning. We’ve covered quite a bit of what hospitality and tourism is, some of the sectors, and careers in hospitality and tourism. Ms. Azzaro also covers topics that might not be within the curriculum of our course. For instance, during one of our live learning classes, she taught us about the waste being produced by restaurants, sustainability, and how sustainability itself was implemented into restaurants. Furthermore, Ms. Azzaro asks and accepts feedback from students about what they’d like content-wise. Ms. Azzaro is a dedicated teacher and her teachings are valuable. I’ve experienced effective learning within the hospitality and tourism course.” – Freshman Student, 2022