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OnCUE Chats with Michael Vollmert

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Gold Disks are CUE’s oldest recognition program. A Gold Disk is a recognition of the recipient’s contributions to CUE and to technology in learning. What does it mean to be a Gold Disk Award winner? Find out from one in the following interview.

What does winning the CUE Gold Disk Award for Gold Coast CUE board president mean to you?

The Gold Disk Award is humbling, and I’m honored that I’ve been considered along with such an esteemed group of past winners. I guess in a sense there’s some personal satisfaction that the work I’ve done has garnered some recognition, but my measuring stick for that has always been the end result with students and teachers. I’ve never really been comfortable being recognized or “in the limelight.”

Tell me about your position at the Rio School District and your scope of responsibilities?

I’m retired, but when I was with Rio, I was the director of technology. I worked with the superintendent and the rest of the leadership team to integrate technology with student-centered pedagogy to build inquiry-based learning environments for kids and teachers. And, I worked directly with students and teachers on various projects—making a video about a scale model view of the solar system that spanned the entire city, for example, setting up collaborative projects between students in Finland or at other schools in the U.S. and our students, or tracking the length of the sun’s shadow over an entire school year and building math skills around the results.

Why did you choose to become an educator?

My career path did not follow a planned track. I started teaching after working in industry for several years. I wanted to make a difference and help students build skills they need to fulfill their dreams. After teaching for a long time, I became an administrator, worked at a few high schools, then went to the district office and ultimately wound up as a technology director.

What is the biggest challenge facing California schools today, and how can it be overcome?

The biggest challenge has to do with pedagogy. In education, we’re at a crossroads where traditional education has focused primarily on content and skills, while modern needs require empowered skills in learning, communicating, and collaborating. Teachers like those who have joined CUE and similar organizations are fully engaged in these conversations, but that’s a small percentage of teachers across the state. We need to engage all teachers and administrators in this conversation and move toward a new pedagogical framework—much in the way Finland has.

When did you join CUE and why?

I joined CUE when I was a teacher back in the late ’80s /early ’90s because it was a place where teachers were having great conversations about improving teaching and learning for students and were using tools that made it possible to do things that otherwise would not be possible.

Where does CUE need to grow?

CUE’s main growth needs to be in engaging more teachers across the state, especially at a local level, in conversations about teaching and learning and how we can effectively empower all students to be capable, nimble learners regardless of the content or field of study.

Picture of Mike Vollmert

Mike Vollmert

Where are you from and what do you like to do in your limited spare time?

I was born and raised in Oxnard and still live there. My spare time is less limited now than when I had a full-time job, and I’m working hard to make the best use of the time I have. I still work with teachers and students in a few schools and districts, as well as doing some work with CUE (I chair the Affiliate/Learning Network Committee, work as a Lead Learner, and do JET Reviews for various schools and districts). Outside of that, I build acoustic and electric guitars and do projects in my woodshop; I’m taking guitar and piano lessons; I do a good deal of off-road exploring of the Southwest U.S.; and I try to get in workouts every day by riding my road or mountain bike, hiking, or hitting the gym. My wife is a first-grade teacher. When she has breaks, we try to travel somewhere.

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Kristina Allison

Kristina Allison is currently teaching language arts and computer science at the middle school level. She holds a masters in educational technology, teaches as a Lead Learner for CUE and serves as a director on the CapCue board, the Sacramento area affiliate. Kristina is also a proud teacher consultant for the Area 3 Writing Project. Find her at http://figurativelyteaching.com

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