Video + Story: Canyon Hills Middle Debuts Cobra New Tech Classroom Wing

December 10, 2016
El-Paso Herald Post

Canyon Hills Middle School buzzed with excitement this week as the campus prepared to inaugurate the school’s Cobra Tech Academy wing with a pep rally and ribbon cutting ceremony.

The remodeled classrooms are larger than traditional classrooms, and they featured large windows to the hallways designed to let passersby see the work that is happening at the Academy. The larger and more open classrooms also allow for better cooperation among teachers and students in separate parts of the building.

unnamed (30)“Our students and teachers are super excited,” said Canyon Hills Principal Jennifer DeGraaf. “This wing will better compliment the wonderful work that our New Tech students and teachers have already been doing this semester. It’s part of a greater plan to offer our students more opportunities to learn.”

Canyon Hills and Brown are the only two New Tech middle schools in Texas. They join the existing high-school programs at Irvin, Franklin, Bowie and Austin.

Students and parents cheered New Tech teachers as they introduced themselves and talked about why they wanted to be part of the Cobra Tech Academy.

Math and science teacher Phillips Riggins, who has been teaching for 15 years, will co-teach with teacher Justin Armsworth.

“When I was introduced to this program I knew it was going to very innovative and interesting,” Riggins said. “It’s really exciting to be in the place we need to be.”

Both teachers are enthusiastic about diving into the project-based learning that is the basis of the New Tech program.

“For me as a teacher you never expect anything like this. This is pretty amazing.

We are finally adapting education to fit our students,” Armsworth said. “We are personalizing learning for them. We are taking what they are learning, and we are connecting it to real-life applications.”

Sixth-grader Laila Adama and about 100 other New Tech students walked through the classrooms taking in the sights of the newly renovated learning spaces.

“I feel happy and excited. The classrooms are huge,” Adama said. “I feel so grateful to be part of this program.”

The wing includes two large classrooms and one work conference room for targeted lessons. Upgrades include a double broadband network, whiteboards and media stations for group work.

“Students will be able to use this media stations to work in groups within the classroom,” teacher Jayne Pynes said. “They can hook their laptops up to the station and work on anything from podcasts to project presentations.”

unnamed (31)Students also will have access to digital cameras and printers, among other technology, in addition to their own individual laptop computers.

The New Tech program, which officially kicked off in August, has already made an impact on student Brylan Owen.

“My favorite project so far is the salt-water aquarium,” Owen said. “We each had to present on the kind of fish we wanted to go in the tank. It’s going to each us how to take care of them and allow us to observe them in their habitat.”

Owen was blown away by the size of the classrooms, especially the integrated math and science class, which used to be two classrooms and a storage room.

“I think the classrooms are amazing. They couldn’t have done a better job,” Owen said. “I really like how they are open to each other. I am looking forward to all the learning that will happen in here.”

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