Omar Espinoza is training the next generation of digital natives to be skilled and confident content creators. He graduated from the Teacher Education Program in 2016 with a M.Ed. and a multiple subject teaching credential and currently teaches 4th grade at Cleveland Elementary School in Santa Barbara. Espinoza is passionate about filmmaking and started integrating the medium into his lesson plans within his first two years of teaching. He created a YouTube and Instagram account to share his students' work and even helped the school host its first film festival. We made sure to speak with him before the next video goes viral.
GGSE: We can assume some teachers would like to do a YouTube channel or have social media accounts but might be cautious of what parents might think or wary of the process of getting the necessary permissions. Can you speak to the process of getting the YouTube channel up and running?
Espinoza: Today, social media and YouTube platforms have this stigma of popularity for personal use. Sure, we go on these platforms to watch videos for entertainment, but the idea of being a content creator is what makes these platforms a gold mine. Yes, I said it, a gold mine. Not only can you showcase students work to friends and family members, but you can have students create content and be owners of what they put out in the world. Learning this at an early age will open students’ minds to being conscious of what they put out there digitally. This current generation is growing up with cell phones and YouTube, so it’s inevitable that they will experience these platforms, or even newer ones, early on in their childhood.
GGSE: How did you introduce film making into the curriculum? What were some of the first assignments with your students?
Espinoza: The first activity I used to introduce filmmaking to my students was recreating various Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. These comic strips, often having four scenes, were then given to the students during ELA rotations and they were asked to read, analyze the characters, and write a quick summary of the scenario and how the characters were portrayed. Once they understood the character analysis and plot, I coached them in how to act. At first this was difficult, but with practice students became comfortable with portraying character traits that were different from their own.
After students became familiar with the filmmaking process, they were grouped into 5-6 students to develop their own narrative story. From there, they created a storyboard and filmed their movie. At the end of the year, their films were showcased at our first Cleveland School Film Festival event.
GGSE: Congrats on surpassing your goal of reaching 250 subscribers! Do you have other specific goals or milestones that you would like to achieve through the YouTube channel?
Espinoza: Thank you! The specific goal I have for this YouTube channel is to have it fully created and run by the students. In today’s world, students are exposed to social media and YouTube platforms that if we don’t embrace it, we are continuing to distance ourselves from our students. At first, my students had limited excitement when we talked about story plots, but the moment I changed it to, “You are now directors writing movie scripts and you need to decide if the story plot is engaging for someone to watch as a movie.” Students then began to interpret and write story plots through a different lens.
GGSE: Looking back at your time in TEP, what are some things you learned/did that have helped you succeed in your career?
Espinoza: It’s hard to believe that I graduated from TEP almost three years ago! One key lesson that I learned from my time being a teacher candidate was from my supervisor Dennis. It wasn’t a type of lesson, but more of an approach. I had the wild idea that I wanted to have my two week takeover theme to be “History of Hip Hop.” I had created my binder, which to be honest I had to redo a couple times because it was not my best work. I was frustrated, I felt defensive, but what he taught me was how to tie in different, often new things into the Common Core Standards. It was because of this lesson that I learned how to incorporate current trends and ideas into teaching, more specifically filmmaking.
GGSE: What advice do you have for recent TEP graduates as they start their first years of teaching?
Espinoza: Try anything and everything. You will feel nervous, and even intimidated about what others are going to say but try and see what works and what doesn’t. I am, to this day, changing and refining different areas of my instruction because every class has different strengths and needs. I wish you all the best in your teaching journey!