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A Hero’s Journey to CUE Rock Star Chico

Think about a character in your favorite movie, and the journey they go on. Listen for the call to adventure, accept the challenge, conquer fears, and claim the treasure they seek. My journey in being a faculty member for CUE Rock Star Chico follows this very outline.

My journey with CUE started about three years ago, when I was sent to attend National CUE. I was a kid in a candy shop. The innovative mindset that the presenters were focusing on made me change my perspective of how I ran my classroom. I stumbled upon a booth at CUE called, CUE Rock Star. By the name, I was easily intrigued….(who wouldn’t want to be a Rock Star?). After listening to the presentation, I knew I had to ask my Assistant Principal to see if he would let me go, and I was sent to my very first CUE Rock Star in Manhattan Beach. I was amazed to meet some phenomenal teachers (@nowatechie @LS_Karl @Jstevens009 @JenRoberts1 @MsVictoriaOlson @CoffeeNancy) The CUE Rock Star set up during these camps was much smaller and allowed for: one on one communication, hands on time, and an exciting atmosphere. Needless to say after my first Rock Star, I was hooked. I knew that I wanted to attend one every summer, but I also felt this urge of, “You’re going to do this one day.” The first I was sure of, I’ve been to a Rock Star camp every summer, but I was greatly unsure of the second.

My journey into presenting and leading trainings didn’t fully start until about two years ago. I would lead small sessions and discussions within my school site, but never wanted to go past that. One would say I’m pretty extroverted, however it does not come naturally to me. I have to fight my own insecurities to be outgoing. However, as I led small trainings at my site and later my district, I began to feel comfortable with my knowledge. It wasn’t until February of this year, that I discussed with my Tech Sister (my sounding board & tech best buddy) that it would be a great thing to start presenting at larger conferences, such as CUE. I initially was scared, did I have what it takes to be successful?

To my surprise, I was accepted to teach at CUE Rock Star Chico. After being accepted, I went through all the stages of emotion. The main emotion and thought that would run through my head was, “Am I going to bomb this?” However, I carried the support of my summer school office staff and their positive words of affirmation with me to the airport.

I tell you all of this backstory to tell you about my journey as a CUE Rock Star Faculty Member….

If you are familiar with the CUE Rock Star camps you will know that there is a component called the “Shred Sessions.” If you are a camp attendee it’s the time to hear about all the fun and engaging opportunities you will experience during a faculty members session. As a presenter it was one of the most scariest time of my life. I can be humorous and fun, but I am not a singer, dancer or performer. As I was watching my fellow faculty members rock their sessions, I was dying on the inside. When it was my turn, I went up, don’t really remember what I said, but was excited I was done with the shred. Unsure of what I said made any sense, I was ecstatic to see attendees come to my “episodes”.

The theme for this year’s CUE Rock Star camps was “A Hero’s Journey”. As I reflect on my experience as a faculty member I can see relate my story so much to a journey.

The stages of a hero’s journey are as follows:

  1. Listen for your call to adventure
  2. Accept the challenge
  3. Conquer your fear
  4. Claim the treasure you seek

The call to adventure that was presented to me was taking the step out of my comfort zone and applying to teach outside of my district. I wanted to spread my passion to other educators ready for a challenge. So once I found my adventure, I took the step and applied. Let me just say applying to speak at conferences or for things in general really takes a toll of a woman’s psyche. I questioned everything! Even from the littlest things, such as whether or not to add a bitmoji to the slide. Overall, through the process I had an amazing support team, constantly encouraging me and reassuring me, I can do this! Then as I said before, I conquered my fear. Those shred sessions were the biggest hurdle. Actually teaching the episode was the best part! The definite treasure in my journey: being able to share and interact with teachers. Watching them learn how to do tips, tricks or redesign their lessons is so rewarding.

As I walk away from an absolute blessing, I tell you to find what can be your own Hero’s Journey. Find your adventure, accept the challenge, conquer your fear, and claim the treasure you seek. So many of you, educators and people, have so much to offer the world. We often limit ourselves to reach our full potential due to fear, doubt and insecurities. I can speak about that first hand. But seriously, you have so much to give, why not give freely. I can’t wait to hear how you are using your talents to give back. Be the hero!

Ed. Note- Registration is still open for summer Rock Star Camps and Fall Specialty Rock Star Camps.


Jennifer Calderon is Google for Education Certified Educator and Trainer from Oak Hills, California. She is currently an AP Biology, Honors Biology and Freshmen Focus teacher. Alongside being a teacher she is a Team Technology Leader as well as the ASB Advisor. Jennifer enjoys incorporating G Suite for Education tools to meet the various curriculum standards. She has a passion for teaching students and other educators to become 21st Century learners. In 2013, 2015 and 2017, Jennifer was selected as Teacher of the Year for Oak Hills High School. In 2015, Jennifer was named Secondary Teacher of the Year for H.U.S.D. She blogs at lifelearningpassion.com.

The jury is in. Building relationships matters. In fact, it may be the thing that matters most in teaching and learning.  If you want to build relationships, you’ve got to go where the people are. In my neck of the woods, the people are on Facebook , which means so am I, and I am one thumbs-upping gal.

Reading Ambassador

I am the librarian at an elementary school that serves over 400 students in grades K through four. I am also the self-appointed community ambassador for reading and writing. Recently, my husband shared a study with me that showed that the brains of folks who read and write every day are a third healthier in old age  than those who didn’t  (Leslie, 2014). That, coupled with the evidence I’ve gathered in over 20 years of teaching, leads me to take my role as the unofficial literacy ambassador very seriously. I think every community should have an ambassador and social media should be at the heart of their work.  I use Facebook to communicate, collaborate, and celebrate with the wider community.

Wired For Sound

This year, like every year, teachers in my school worked to engage the community in several school-wide literacy activities. For example, the IditaREAD Family Reading Challenge calls on families to read together while racing an Iditarod musher to get to 1, 049 minutes of reading, an equivalent to the miles Iditarod mushers race to Nome, Alaska.  Another example, Books Without Borders, helps students and their families learn about the world by reading diverse stories. I heavily promote participation in both of these events on Facebook. Each day I post a variety of reminders, encouragements, links to materials, and short informational videos. The participation levels are better than I’ve ever seen and community members comment frequently about how helpful the posts are.

Have a peek at the three short videos below.  Notice that they are not perfect! That’s okay. Quick and frequent is better than perfect and rare.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

My cell phone is my best friend. Well, maybe not my best, best friend, but it’s in the top five for sure. I use it to collaborate with parents and the community somewhere around a million times a day. Johnny forgot his homework? I message his mom. Shanquin needs a little help with his spelling words? I message his dad. My class needs more books on owls for a research project? I message the public librarian. I need a petting zoo for a Family Fun Night? I put out a call for volunteers to bring their animals. The community always comes through.

This type of collaboration is simple but it packs a powerful punch. Surveys of stakeholders show that our community feels cared about and confident that the school is doing the right thing. They also show that families are aware of and invested in the literacy lives of their children. That goes a long way.

Celebrate Good Times

My favorite way to use social media is to celebrate! I post pictures all day every day. I take snapshots of the work students are doing, the books they are reading, the projects they’ve completed and upload them to our school Facebook page. I text or message parents pictures of their kids with captions like, “Look who met her goal!”, “Azalea is reading a huge book! She can’t wait to talk to you about it!”, “Wait until Hector tells you the theme for Moby Dick he came up with, it’s BRILLIANT!” Sometimes, I even take short videos of students at work reading, writing, talking, or even playing at recess. These get posted with fun and nurturing comments as well.

Students beam with pride and parents comment on the posts in droves, proud of their babies and encouraged by how responsive our school is.  

Nominate Yourself Ambassador!

Every school needs an ambassador for literacy. Getting information out to collaborate with the community and celebrate school successes is more important than ever. It doesn’t have to be a formal role. Post often. Share good news. Be informal. Have fun! In a time when public education is increasingly maligned and public trust is dwindling, sharing our good news on social media  is a must.  

Facebook is the main vehicle I use but it’s important to chat with your community to find out what works best. If everyone is using Twitter, you use Twitter. All on Instagram? That’s where you go too.  What probably doesn’t work is a webpage, people just don’t go to bookmarked sites like they once did. The digital world changes fast and teachers have to keep up.

For more ideas and information, check out my webinar on Engaging the Community in Reading through the Ed Collaborative.

CYB – Cover Your Bases

Not ready for social media? Try making positive phone calls, they are like money in the relationship bank.

If you’re looking for a great read that can help you use social media as a leverage to build community, try Your School Rocks! By Ryan McClain.

Before you launch a social media blitz, check on your school/district policy. At my school, we ask parents to sign a permission slip. I keep a note on my ipad that lists students that are on the “no photo” list and make sure I don’t post their pictures. It’s that simple.

Whatever platform you choose to use, focusing school communities on literacy with social media will make a difference. I promise.  Smiley face emoji. Thumbs up!

Leslie, I. (2015). Curious: the desire to know and why your future depends on it. New York, NY: Basic Books.


Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a Nationally Board Certified teacher with master’s degrees in reading, library, and leadership. Her experience includes teaching learners in remote Alaskan villages, inner cities, and rural communities. She currently is a teacher-librarian, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, consults for local school districts, and writes for We Teach We Learn.

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