During his U.S. Marine deployment to strife-torn Falluja, Iraq, in 2005, Justin Lim had a revelation: He wanted to uplift lives through education.
Lim was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and watched as civilians rebuilt their lives from the rubble of war. He returned stateside after his Marine reserve unit was deactivated and moved from the front lines of conflict to the front of lines of education.
“There’s a point where you want to affect lives. Education levels the playing field, so to speak. It’s a great equalizer,” Lim says. “Education is unique in the sense that if you work hard enough you have a chance to better your place in society. That’s part of my obligation to give back to the community.”
He earned his teaching credential from Cal Poly Pomona in 2007, completing the feat in a year by taking classes full time and during the summer. As he was nearing completion of the credential program, he became an intern credential teacher at Rosemead High School. Lim was later offered a full-time position and started a reading program that targeted students who were several grade levels behind.
Lim left the classroom three years ago. He is now an instructional coach based at Rosemead High School who also assists teachers throughout the El Monte Union High School District. Lim trains teachers by providing professional development, holding workshops, creating model lessons, co-teaching classes, telling teachers about resources available to them and offering instructional strategies. He was the district’s first literacy coach. Lim also was named the El Monte Union High School District Teacher of the Year in 2010.
Lim’s mission includes pushing the integration of technology into classroom teaching methods.
“Technology is a game-changer. I really believe that where we are is just a start. We’re just learning. Technology is growing faster than our ability to figure out what to do with it,” Lim says.” We’re at a spot right now where we need to figure out what the right questions are to ask in order for us to better ourselves.”
Lim will share his insights about the burgeoning role of technology in the classroom as a speaker at the inaugural “Better Together: California Teachers Summit” on July 31 in the Bronco Student Center. Cal Poly Pomona is one of 33 sites across the state that will host the event. An estimated 20,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers are expected to participate.
Teachers from more than a dozen school districts throughout the San Gabriel Valley will converge on Cal Poly Pomona for the showcase of ideas, inspiration and classroom success stories. Cal Poly Pomona teacher candidates, graduate students and teacher alumni are welcome to attend the summit.
“Now, education is about the next level. It’s not just about what the student knows. It’s about what they can do, what they can figure out and what they can create,” Lim says. “That’s where technology is really going to be leveraged.”
One of the supporters of Lim’s push to integrate more technology into the classroom was Nick Salerno, the former superintendent of the El Monte Union High School District. Salerno was overseeing the district when Lim started his teaching career. Salerno is now the coordinator of educational partnerships at the College of Education & Integrative Studies.
“I worked closely with Justin for quite some time. Justin was an outstanding classroom teacher and I observed him teaching numerous times,” Salerno says. “He has high energy, truly cares about his students and connects with them, and utilizes outstanding instructional strategies.”
Lim also sees a role for technology in the implementation of Common Core and California’s corresponding standards. Both are expected to be hot topics for discussion at the summit.
“Common Core is a tremendous shift from content knowledge to application of content knowledge and skills,” Lim says. “You can have a great deal of pure content knowledge, but if you cannot apply it and express it and demonstrate it, you’re not going to do well. Common Core tests and standards are trying to take a microcosm of the type of skills that people will need in the real world.”
Designed to develop a strong network of colleagues, the summit will encourage teachers to collaborate and share innovative techniques. In addition, presentations by California teachers titled “EdTalks” and discussions on best practices for teachers also will be featured.
The California Department of Education, the New Teacher Center, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, and the California State University are partnering with nearly a dozen education groups across California to stage the event. The summit is supported by a $3.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“As a teacher, I have to be more of a guide and facilitator as students start to take meaning of their own learning,” Lim says. “This also is a reflection of what society is demanding of individuals.”