It is wise to use social networking and multimedia messaging apps to reach students outside of school. Sharing on social media can include, but is not limited to, building authentic connections, tips and tricks, resources, reports, articles, trends, news, and general information about the subject matter expertise of the educator. Additionally, it helps to build the educators brand to reach a broader audience of other educators and school administrators looking to join groups and forums to share best practices. Furthermore, it is free and easy to use! This circumvents costly alternatives and offers more control over the content shared to a targeted audience.
As a part of my interview series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator”, I had the pleasure to interview Dapzury Valenzuela.
Dapzury Valenzuela is a marketing and design professional with over 20+ years of industry experience and 16 years as an educator in higher-ed. She is the Art Direction Professor at the University of Advancing Technology. She runs the Student Innovation Project for all majors helping them to create, develop and present their tech-based product or service. She teaches classes in business, design, marketing, and special topics.
Dapzury is also a Brand & Marketing Consultant through her business; Dapzury Design & Development, LLC launched a decade ago. She works with individuals, startups and established businesses reach their goals through her extensive knowledge in brand development, inbound marketing, and visual content creation. Her clients range from STEM-based academies to virtual reality in fashion.
Her academic background includes a master’s degree in Visual Communication and a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Arizona State University and a Fashion Design Degree from Brooks College in Los Angeles, CA. She is an avid reader and describes herself as a lifelong learner. Her favorite books to read are self-help, financial and leadership books from thought-leaders in their respective industries.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
My career began as an in-house graphic designer for a sustainable company after completing two undergraduate art degrees. After a few years of learning all aspects of my role, I felt I needed to challenge myself to continue growing. I went back to college for my master’s degree while maintaining my full-time status as a designer. My days and nights were long and had little time for anything other than work and school, but I enjoyed learning and focused on my goal. Shortly after I graduated, I learned of a school that combined my interests in business, marketing, design, and fashion and after teaching one class, I was hooked! I continued working as a designer by day, and as an educator by night. However, ss the classes began to pile up, I realized that teaching was a passion I couldn’t ignore and decided to reverse the roles and teach full-time while continuing my work in industry through freelance work. I truly believe that what has helped me become the educator I am today, is my continued work in industry where I share my experiences in the “real-world” with my students. It’s what I like to call, “from the boardroom to the classroom.” My work as a consultant evolved into a business where I’ve worked with individuals, startups and companies build and grow their brands for the last 20+ years. My current role is Art Direction Professor at the University of Advancing Technology (UAT). I’m proud of the last 16 years teaching in higher-ed and excited about the future of education and industry!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your teaching career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One thing we can all relate to is constant change that is eminent. If you are one to embrace change, it will help you pivot when needed and leverage your new-found knowledge to benefit not only you, but those you lead. Early in my teaching career, I quickly realized that although technology will continue to evolve exponentially, one constant remains; how you treat people. Tech cannot teach you the many soft skills needed to work with young learners. For example, if one of my students in struggling with a concept, I dig deeper to identify what obstacles are present and how we can overcome them. Perhaps a student is going through a tough time at home? Perhaps the student is distracted because they haven’t eaten or slept well? It’s not always a technical issue, but rather a personal one that may be the culprit of a student’s ability to achieve. I’ve learned that building authentic relationships with my students helps them to reach out to me when help is needed. The famous Maya Angelo stated, “people will never forget how you made them feel” and that has remained a source of guidance for me.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
One of the most exciting aspects of my role at UAT is the Student Innovation Project (SIP) which is an equivalent of a master’s thesis, that often results in a leading project in a student’s portfolio when they graduate and enter the workforce. I lead the on-ground SIP program for all majors that include advertising art, artificial intelligence, business technology, computer science, cyber, digital marketing, digital video, game, robotics, and virtual reality. This past semester, our UAT students continued to build technology that entertains, educates, connects, and protects. Projects included, a PC rhythm game, a goal-setting app, a customizable 3D garment interface, a digital course for content creators, an alternative login solution based on steganography, a discord bot, a stealth video game, a secure flash drive, a physical server protector, a multi-player AR game, a reading logbook light for kids, and even a product to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In terms of my industry work, I’m currently helping a certification program build their STEM-based summer camps and another client disrupt the antiquated supply chain of the fashion industry through a cutting-edge application. My NDA doesn’t allow me to disclose details, but it’s a long-term project that will hopefully foster intelligent thinking and solutions about the future of wearable art. Some general information is available on my company website at www.hautepro.com.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?
That is a heavy question and one that requires much more than an interview to address. I am passionate about education and believe it is a tool for upward economic mobility. I am an immigrant and education was a major focus in my upbringing. My parents came to this country when I was a young child and instilled a priority on obtaining an education that would afford us opportunities they didn’t have. The U.S. education system has its purpose; however, I strongly believe that resources must be directed to k-12 schools in order to offer the best resources and tools to teachers, staff members and students. We can do a better job at addressing policies that halter progress and move towards a cross-collaboration between the private and public sector to better prepare students to succeed. Technology must be available to everyone regardless of zip code and bridging the digital divide must take precedence. I just completed developing a special topics course at UAT on this very subject matter so that I can help our students understand the power they have to help bridge the gap.
Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?
While there are many facets to what makes an education system successful, five areas that are currently working include;
- Open-source software and applications that help teachers bring concepts to life through various mediums. This can include basic content delivery, all the way to customizable interfaces to reach students with various learning styles. Teachers can access apps that help them become tech-savvy and leverage the built-in tools to make delivery and assessment easier.
- Parental involvement through multiple communication channels. Many schools have embraced the use of text, email, video, and app-based systems to relate important information to parents about their child. Some schools are leading the way with tech integration which demonstrates how tech can be used in more efficient way. This can be through an in-depth email, web-portal or web service that provide real-time access to information.
- Cross-collaboration between local businesses and schools helps to strengthen communities where they are located. Schools continue to partner with local businesses and larger companies to help supplement and fund vital programs. The U.S. education system and the individual schools who step out of their campuses to articulate and build external relationships with companies, organizations, and institutions, reap the benefits of their support.
- Multi-purpose instructional design made its debut during the pandemic and required to teachers embrace both physical and digital learning experiences. The disruption schools experienced highlighted the commitment by teachers to reach their students at home while they continued to provide quality education. The post-COVID era embraces hybrid models to make learning as accessible as possible and schools that continue on this path will adapt much easier next time.
- Mental wellness moves up in priority amidst the pandemic. Much attention about mental health has been brough to the forefront as restrictions continued and social distancing requirements remained in place. Teachers checked in on students frequently to ensure they were participating and remaining active. Kuddos to the entire educational system including superintendents, principals, teachers, staff, and the parents for helping to remove the stigma of mental health and making it part of their daily conversation.
Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?
- While mental health is important, we can’t ignore the many benefits of physical exercise. I see k12 schools shortening morning and lunch recess which makes it more difficult for students to get the physical activity they need to remain attentive while sitting down. This also applies to college students who are spending more time on their smartphones, computers, tablets, and gaming consoles. The increase of online classes, digital learning platforms, virtual conferencing, collaboration apps, etc. requires many hours of inactivity which can lead to possible negative health effects such as, obesity, insomnia, chronic pain, eye damage, anxiety, depression, and many other issues. The only way to offset screen time is with daily exercise that begins at a young age and becomes habitual.
- Healthy meals are directly attributed to overall physical health and the U.S. education system needs to provide more meals made “from scratch” vs. branded fast-food options. Obesity and diseases are on the rise. Providing nutritious meals with more natural ingredients and less sugar and processed chemicals will positively contribute to the physical and mental wellness of all students.
- Enhanced IT infrastructure and support in all schools is a must! More people are pursuing a career in tech and having skilled technicians helps to ensure the delivery of content is consistent will little interruption. This also includes basic hardware and its corresponding software and upgrades which would require a healthy budget to update old tech as needed. We have to prioritize technology in the classroom to better prepare the next generation of workers and innovators. This leads to the next area that needs to be prioritized, bridging the digital divide.
- A key area of prioritization in education is bridging the Digital Divide which is the unseen boundary between technology haves and have-nots. It is crucial that schools from k12 to higher ed address the factors that hinder or harm the ability of certain classes of citizen to achieve what more privileged sectors of society have. Conversations around this important topic must be had and implementation of programs to reach students regardless of race, class, gender, age or socio-political status.
- As the video game industry reaches $90 billion in annual revenue according to TechJury.net, we should explore the benefits of gamification through interactive games that enhances the overall learning experience. This can also help to incentivize users through reward systems that release endorphins helping them to associate learning with fun.
Super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator?” Please share a story or example for each.
A highly effective educator embraces traditional practices, today’s tech, as well as the technological advancements of the future.
First, we need to embrace change and the more efficient systems, applications and platforms that allow us to deliver content in an engaging manner and assess learning more accurately based on real-time data. Learning management systems (LMS) are customizable and making it your own allow faculty members to creatively express their style while development their own signature look. This becomes important as we build our “digital self” which we can leverage to expand on our content delivery methods.
Second, it is wise to use social networking and multimedia messaging apps to reach students outside of school. Sharing on social media can include, but is not limited to, building authentic connections, tips and tricks, resources, reports, articles, trends, news, and general information about the subject matter expertise of the educator. Additionally, it helps to build the educators brand to reach a broader audience of other educators and school administrators looking to join groups and forums to share best practices. Furthermore, it is free and easy to use! This circumvents costly alternatives and offers more control over the content shared to a targeted audience.
Third, educators must be provided with ways to continue their professional development. Since change is the only constant, we must include training programs that introduce material in advance so that the teacher has time to adjust and test out the new software/hardware. This also includes training in both tech-based and non-technical areas that include classroom management, curriculum development, software testing, gifted children/adults, military veterans, and students that need special accommodations. Being a teacher means being a lifelong learner and schools need to provide development opportunities to help teachers meet the demands of both management and parents.
Next, educators are inherently passionate about their work and helping students succeed. This transcends tech and focuses on being an attentive, compassionate, and understanding individual. Teachers will be faced with a number of challenges as they try to meet the needs of each student with patience and grace. This requires one to be firm but fair, and push students to meet their full potential.
Lastly, the aforementioned wouldn’t be possible if the educator didn’t pay attention to his/her own needs. The demands of meetings, curriculum development, content delivery, grading, and professional development requires energy that needs to be constantly fed. This includes healthy eating, physical exercise, meditation, sleep, and maintaining a stable home life. A hybrid WFT (work from home) model helps high-ed professor balance work and home so they can be more accessible in real-time. K-12 teachers can benefit from on-campus perks that help to maintain mental and physical health. Even social activities that celebrate their accomplishments help to build comradery between peers.
As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?
Attracting top talent to the education field requires that each school build a strong reputation of taking care of its employees. This includes increased salaries, benefits, perks, updated environments, classroom resources, technology, and budgets for programs. Social media is a great way to share wins and promote the culture of each school. Professional development opportunities that include paid-for seminars, workshops, conferences, etc. help to train faculty on new and best practices and technology. This goes beyond simply posting job listings online, but also use the web to ask for alumni testimonials and references from current employees.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is from Les Brown, “If you do what is easy, your life will be hard. If you do what is hard, your life will be easy.” This helps me to relate the fact that if you put in the work and focus on our goals, you will reap the benefits later in your life.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Robert Herjavec who is a successful entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor is someone that I would be honored to have lunch with. His story resonates with me and I admire his ability to read people and determine if he should invest in their startup. I would love to discuss ideas for businesses that help to reach the underrepresented and marginalized communities. There is so much untapped talent in the world that if we created ways to reach them, and have them share their skill, we as a global society would solve many of the challenges we face today.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @dapzury and connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also learn about UAT’s faculty at www.uat.edu/faculty.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!