James Hogg Elementary’s language and technology programs could entice private-school-minded parents

A Hogg Elementary School student works on a laptop. The school has new Google Chromebooks for every student. (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)
A Hogg Elementary School student works on a laptop. The school has new Google Chromebooks for every student. (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

James Hogg Elementary School emphasizes technology

Principal Jairo Casco keeps no secrets from the Hogg Elementary School community.

Everyone at Hogg is an insider. Teachers, students and parents are all collaborators.

The school has only 26 teachers, one principal, an office manager and a data clerk. Enrollment is expected to reach about 300 students this year.

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It’s a small school, and everyone is on the same page — literally, at times.

Thanks to a private technology grant received last year and funding from Dallas ISD, the school now has a Google Chromebook for every student in kindergarten through fifth grade. They use Google Classroom, where teachers, students and parents can access shared drives, documents and slides, so students can collaborate on projects even though they might be across the room or at home with a cold.

Because there is so much information available at our fingertips, it can be hard to teach children about plagiarism, educators say. But simply offering them creative and spatial ways to organize their ideas, such as using slides instead of text documents, eliminates the idea to plagiarize, they say.

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“There’s no copy and pasting,” says Spanish reading teacher Minerva Faz. “They just start writing.”

The next step in this collaborative shift is “project-based learning,” where lessons are carried out across disciplines. For example, a fourth-grade module on politics grows out of the social studies realm and branches into language arts lessons, math problems and art projects.

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“It’s bringing alive what you’re learning in the classroom,” Casco says.

Hogg teachers are introducing that concept this year in hopes that it will be fully implemented in the next school year.

A bilingual campus

Hogg implemented a two-way dual language program last year, so current kindergarteners and first-graders are in bilingual classrooms. Eventually, Spanish/English dual-language will be offered across all grades.

Math is taught in English only, but otherwise, dual-language students converse in Spanish on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and in English on Tuesday and Thursday.

Hogg Elementary (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)
Hogg Elementary (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

Spanish is the first language of more than half of Hogg students, so the program is a way for students to learn language skills from one another.

Besides that, most of the teachers at Hogg are Spanish/English bilingual, and there are several Mexican immigrants among them.

Yolanda Guerrero is a bilingual social studies teacher from the Texas Rio Grande Valley who has taught at Hogg for three years. She lives 25 miles away from the school, in Carrollton, and sometimes her morning commute takes an hour and a half.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she says. “To me, it’s the perfect school.”

She tutors students after school, and she offers to tutor parents as well.

Almost 89 percent of the students at Hogg are “economically disadvantaged,” according to the State of Texas. Many of the parents work long hours, and some lack education themselves.

“If the parents want help with knowing how to do homework or test prep, I do whatever it takes,” Guerrero says.

Extra-curricular

Aside from academics, Hogg also offers club activities, including robotics and chess.

Corina Gomez, who teaches fifth-grade math and ESL, says as many as 20 students show up for chess club every week, and she takes them to tournaments around the district.

The robotics teams just started last year, but they won two judges awards in tournaments, says club sponsor Maria Teresa Gomez de Cortez, who teaches fourth grade.

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Cortez also started a garden club last year, growing milkweed and selling it at Oak Cliff Earth Day. And she helped students hatch chicken eggs. Only two hatched, Chicken Nugget and Candy, and they found homes with students’ families. She’s applied for a Real School Gardens grant, which offers garden training for teachers and students. This year they plan to try hatching quail eggs.

Her fourth-graders adopted a lion-head rabbit as a class pet, which helps calm students and teaches responsibility and patience. Cortez also will include the bunny in classroom lessons about genetics.

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“It has such an exciting, bright future,” Cortez says of Hogg. “The community supports us with anything we need.”

Assets

Hogg sits on prime real estate near Methodist Dallas Medical Center and has a perfect view of the Dallas skyline. It’s one of the only schools in Dallas that still has its gym in a portable building, and it is slated for a new gym building under the recent DISD bond plan.

It has a federally funded Head Start pre-k program that serves children ages 6 weeks to 4 years old, making it the first public school in Texas with such a program for children that young.

Hogg offers three special-needs classrooms for students with intellectual disabilities or autism. And it’s one of one of nine campuses within DISD’s Regional School for the Deaf, with two classrooms for 18 hearing-impaired students.

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Principal Casco also is working with the school district’s information technology department to offer students wifi at home. By the end of this year, he hopes to make every fifth-grader’s house a wifi hotspot.

“Learning doesn’t happen just within these walls,” he says. “It happens everywhere, all the time.”

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