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Interview: Belvidere School District

Meeting the Needs of All Learners in New Jersey’s K-2 Classrooms

“Very rarely do you get to make the students and the staff happy with the same thing. This is one of those rare occasions where everybody likes it.”

New Jersey’s Belvidere School District is using eSpark to support and challenge every learner in K-2 classrooms at Third Street Elementary. We sat down with Technology Director Caralee Gately and Principal Brian Staples to learn about the breakthroughs students and teachers are seeing in math and ELA classrooms that use eSpark.

 
 
 
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Q: Why did Belvidere school district initially partner with eSpark?

Caralee Gately: Belvidere School District partnered with eSpark because we were looking for a way to make technology meaningful in our schools. We wanted to find a way to incorporate technology in a way that would make it a tool for learning, and we wanted to do it in the easiest way possible for the teachers. We also wanted to find ways to really differentiate instruction for our students. When we came across this platform, it became an awesome tool for us to provide differentiation, use technology, and really meet the needs of our students.

Brian Staples: We were looking for “extensions” to our everyday curriculum and eSpark was one of the best and easiest tools that we found. After doing a demo, teachers fell in love, and it was pretty much a homerun.

 
 
 
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Q: How has eSpark supported effective teaching and learning at your district?

Brian Staples: The easiest answer is using eSpark in centers-based instruction. That’s where our school district uses it at least once a day. Whether it’s math or language arts, (eSpark) makes our teachers lives a little easier. They don’t have to plan ten to twelve centers a week. Instead they plan five or six and eSpark becomes an automatic center. It also helps us with our different leveled kids. Our higher level kids get to move on with things without being isolated from the class, and our lower level kids experience the same type of thing. They’re the only ones that know what level they’re on in eSpark - other students don’t know that they’re working on letter recognition while someone else is reading passages and answering questions.

Caralee Gately: The data that eSpark has provided has enabled our teachers to be able to know how many standards their students are actually addressing.

 

Q: How have you seen students and teachers grow while using eSpark?

Brian Staples: The teacher growth has been exceptional. Teachers are starting to use eSpark to further their use of technology in the classroom. It’s almost been like a diving board to get teachers started and jump in the water. eSpark is now their everyday go-to and they’re much more apt to try different things that aren’t necessarily given to them in the regular curriculum.

Caralee Gately: I also think it’s not just about the language arts or math piece. eSpark has given a lot of other elements that teachers can work into their classroom like social-emotional data… When kids get excited about the platform, teachers get excited too. Teachers are embracing the technology because it’s meaningful. As a librarian, I really love eSpark because the other day we were doing a project on Caldecott winning books. All the students were like, “Oh my gosh I read that on eSpark!” And they had all read different Caldecott winning books so it led to an awesome conversation about why certain books won the award and the art element of the books that they saw come alive on eSpark. That was really cool!

 

Q: What do you like most about eSpark?

Caralee Gately: What I like most about eSpark is the ability to reach all levels of learners because it’s so self-paced and so individualized. Everyone can find something to get out of it because it meets the needs of all learners - from resource room to gifted students to everyone!

 

Q: Would you recommend eSpark to other districts or teachers in New Jersey?

Caralee Gately: I would highly recommend eSpark because I think it’s just so user friendly for both teachers and students. It’s engaging, and it just brings another element to your centers to be able to offer differentiation and individualization.

Brian Staples: As the building principal, it’s a homerun for me. Very rarely do you get to make the students and the staff happy with the same thing. This is one of those rare occasions where everybody likes it.

Location

Warren County, New Jersey

Student Population

16% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch

Technology

iPads used in centers-based model

Implementation

K-2 students at Third Street Elementary use eSpark in math and ELA classrooms

Ready to see what eSpark could look in your district?