Jennifer Passi

Jennifer Passi
River Ridge Elementary
Leander Independent School District
Austin, Texas, USA

An educator whose students become teachers in the classroom

Jennifer Passi is the Instructional Coach at River Ridge Elementary in Austin, Texas. She works alongside teachers and students with the goal of enhancing the curriculum and integrating technology and content across all subjects.

Jennifer believes that subjects shouldn’t be taught in isolation, but taught by integration of other content areas. An example of this mindshift would be in the subject of science: there is a huge opportunity in science classes to promote cross-curriculum skills such as reading, writing and using technology. She says that using SAM Labs during this instruction enhances, excites, and elevates the engagement and instruction.

“We want our teachers to be using technology in all subject areas! Integration helps the teachers to create better lessons and more engaging activities for their students in order to stay current with what’s happening in the world.”

It is important for Jennifer to be giving back to the community, as teacher and Instructional Coach. She originally wanted to become an engineer or a doctor, but the teaching profession was something that eventually won her over.

Jennifer was eager to start her career early, so during her junior and senior years in high school, she leveraged the opportunity to work as a teacher’s aide in a local elementary school. During her time there, Jennifer realized that she worked well with the children and that they were responding to what she was teaching them. She has always loved learning and this is now her 29th year in teaching. Way to go, Jennifer!

The most rewarding aspect for Jennifer is when her students come back to share their favorite memories of what she’s taught or let her know how they’re doing later on.

One vivid example makes Jennifer light up:

“One of my students – who actually struggled to read when I was teaching him - is now doing his residency becoming a pediatrician. I really got to know his family and make these connections with them and followed him all the way through college and getting married and now becoming a doctor and having his own children. Watching that perseverance that I taught him, that is probably the most inspiring thing for me - watching the kids that I’ve taught, give back and serve other people.”

STEAM, coding and technology are vital aspects of our future. Jennifer understands that as our world is changing and we are able to connect to different people on a global level, it’s important that we start looking at other languages. This might be a modern foreign language or a coding language. She also encourages out of the box thinking, changing your mindshift from a fixed mindset to an open mindset.

“Students become broader in the way that they think and our world is not just going to stay stagnant. We’ve got great minds working and if we don’t encourage our students to become those thinkers, then we’re not actually helping ourselves eventually. I think we have to begin to challenge them in a way that encourages out of the box thinking.”

Jennifer explains that students nowadays are incredibly tech-savvy and often become teachers in the classroom themselves. They’ve got a real advantage over the older generation since they aren’t afraid to try out new things. She adds that teachers shouldn’t be afraid of becoming learners in the classroom, because there is so much to learn from their students.

“Students are not scared or nervous when technology is around, especially every time I use SAM Labs kits with them. They're so used to figuring things out and have that mindset of ‘Why not try it? If this doesn’t work, then I’ll just keep on trying!’”

This is one of the reasons Jennifer is attracted to SAM Labs and adds that it is extremely easy to integrate SAM Labs into the curriculum. She advises that teachers will have the best experience if they make the onboarding process as organic as possible and create an environment where everyone can learn from each other.

Jennifer has high hopes for the future as her students love SAM Labs.

“The students are jumping in and wanting to use it, to express themselves, and to show people that they know how to make things work. SAM Labs is taking their thinking to the next level. Some of her students take the initiative to find webinars with SAM Labs and watch them with friends and work out their thinking, it is amazing to watch!”

Jennifer’s students are now thinking of projects they could create that would benefit someone else. They are thinking how they can use the design process so that another person would be able to understand the directions that they have written and use them. They’re working on writing the curriculum and the projects - the students have now become the teachers.