Posted in General

Welcome Screens

My son was a fully online learner a couple of years ago before most students were forced to become online learners due to COVID-19. I had chosen to enroll him in an online school for 7th and 8th grades to help with some of the struggles he was facing. I have never regretted that decision. My son made great gains in online school and gained the foundation I hoped he would when transitioning to traditional high school. Those two years were a learning experience not only for my son, but for my family. As I supported him and observed his “live lessons” I noticed a commonality from teacher to teacher that I found comforting. That commonality was how they started their lessons. My son was always to log into his live lessons at least 5 minutes early. He would be admitted to his classroom where he would be presented with a screen his teacher was presenting. That screen could have any number of things on it, but mainly it was a welcome screen. There would be music playing, and a message posted from the teacher. Sometimes it would be a question to think about before diving into a lesson, or a warm up, or a conversation starter for the students to chat about in the chat pod. All of it helped to build that much needed classroom community.

That being said I got to thinking about how the teachers at my school could accomplish the same thing when they don’t have access to the same tools. Considering what they do have access to, I found they could create a welcome screen using their district issued devices using Google Slides, the Bitmoji Chrome extension, Classroomscreen (free version) and Zoom. Here is a sample of the end result:

Sample Welcome Screen

So here is how you create something like my sample for your Zoom classroom.

1. Watch this video on creating your own Bitmoji Virtual Classrom:

2. Save your newly created Bitmoji Virtual Classroom as a PNG

When in Google Slides, click the File menu, then select Download, then PNG image. Why PNG and not JPEG? Image quality.

3. Classroom Screen

I have mentioned Classroomscreen to my teachers before and I am going to mention it again. It really is a wonderful free resource to give you a screen to project to your class that is very customizable. The Classroomscreen website is very user friendly and clearly explains its features. It’s worth a visit and a read. You can do plenty with a free account, so there is no need to subscribe if you don’t want to.

Once you have launched Classroomscreen, you can upload the virtual Bitmoji classroom you created. You do that by clicking the Background button on Classroomscreen:

Classroomscreen comes with many wonderful backgrounds built in.

You will then get a window that looks like this:

Here is where you can click Uploads, and upload the Bitmoji classroom you created. Once you have uploaded it, it will show as an option, click it and it becomes your new background!

Then insert the components you would like to use. I used the text feature, calendar and timer. They are all accessible on a toolbar at the bottom of Classroomscreen.

Once you have set up your Classroomscreen you are ready to use it!

4. Start your Zoom meeting and share your screen

Don’t forget to enable computer audio sharing so you can play your favorite kid friendly music in the background. Students love music and when I was in the classroom I had fun streaming all kinds of school appropriate music for my students. In my sample above I was streaming Kids Radio on Pandora. But you could use your preferred music streaming service or music files saved on your computer. I would make sure whatever you choose to stream is commercial free.

You are now ready to welcome your students with a fun welcome screen when they enter your virtual classroom! You may want to have your own mic muted and camera off while you settle in, but be sure to keep an eye on your class.

I would love to hear how this goes for those who try it. Please share with me in the comments below!

Posted in General

Building the plane…

As this school year gets off to a start, many (if not all) of the educators I work with feel as though it is their first year of teaching all over again. Whether you have 30 years or 3 years in education, welcome to your FIRST year as an online teacher. Many of us have never been (or wanted to be) an online teacher. Unfortunately we didn’t have a choice, so here we are thrust into the world of online teaching and learning.

As a longtime proponent of educational technologies and digital citizenship, I found myself looking forward to making the best of a bad situation. Now is our chance to really harness the power of technology in education. I know there are many educators and families who hate having to be online. I acknowledge and respect that. This post is not about the pros and cons of online learning. We are here now, so let’s make the most of it.

My school has now completed its 2nd week of distance education. I have visited a number of our teachers in their virtual classrooms and I am very proud of all of them. And I am impressed at how well all of our students are doing in managing Zoom and learning new norms, especially our youngest students. I really shouldn’t be amazed that many of our students are handling distance learning rather well, they are what some would call “digital natives” and they have amazing families that support and guide them.

I find myself enjoying the opportunities this situation is creating where I can support my teachers and help them approach teaching in new ways. Distance education is taking me back to my tech coaching days and the days where I wanted to be an instructional technology teacher on assignment. I want to help as many educators as possible, not only those at my current site, but those I have worked with over my 20+ years as an educator. So with that being said, I will begin to share out some of the things I hope will help. Like my next post about creating a welcome screen for your virtual classroom.

Posted in General

Yet Another Chapter

I suppose books are filled with many chapters and if I am viewing my career as a book, then I should not be surprised to find some chapters are longer than others.

My last post here was when I began my career as an administrator with the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District. When I joined YCJUSD I was fully prepared to spend many years there, just as I had done in the Fontana Unified School District before them, where I spent 18 years. Sadly, declining enrollment and budget issues made it so the decision was made to eliminate my position as elementary assistant principal at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. It was that experience coupled with my own experiences as a classroom teacher at the elementary level that reminded me what a luxury it is to have an assistant principal at the elementary level even a few days a week.

Being the assistant principal for Valley Elementary & Chapman Heights Elementary schools in Yucaipa was an amazing experience, and a very positive one. I had two amazing principals with very different leadership styles who served as excellent mentors and role models. I also had two amazing staffs, brimming with talented professionals at all levels that enriched each and every day I spent with them. I couldn’t have asked for or dreamed of better.

When I was informed that I would be losing my position, I was offered a classroom placement. I served as a classroom teacher for 15.5 years, I chose the administration path and as a result I chose to remain on that path. It didn’t take much looking at all before I happened upon the Central School District in Rancho Cucamonga, and it wasn’t long before I was offered a position.

March 2020 kicked off a whirlwind for me like no other. I was leaving my job in Yucaipa much sooner than I could have ever guessed, there is a global pandemic resulting in closures of all the things we are used to and enjoy as a society, I was job hunting, I was participating in numerous Zoom interviews… I am grateful and feel very fortunate to have been invited to join the Central School District as one of their newest assistant principals, and more specifically to join the community of Coyote Canyon Elementary School.

Thank you to all those who have supported me, mentored me, encouraged me and loved me through all of this. Without you I don’t know where I would be.

Posted in General

A New Chapter


I have been quiet on my blog for many reasons, but the main one being that I was working toward another shift in my career as an educator. I became aware that my position as a Teacher on Assignment was not going to be continued into the next school year, so I was looking at going back into the classroom. That prospect was exciting to me. I am an educator, how could it not be?

For the past 2.5 years as a teacher on assignment working out of the central office, I realized that I missed being at a school site. I missed being a part of a school community. I missed seeing the kids each day, collaborating with my fellow educators, talking with school staff, celebrating successes, and addressing challenges. Since I am working on my doctorate in educational leadership, it made sense to me that I would look to return to a school site as an administrator. I had been interviewing for months with no offers so I had figured my return to a school site would be in the classroom. Since I wanted my return to a school site to be a new adventure for me, I asked Human Resources to place me at a middle school since I was well aware my credential would permit me to teach at that level. I had been placed at a wonderful middle school, even toured the room I would have to teach 8th grade Language Arts and Social Studies, spoke with the principal several times, and met staff members. I did make the principal aware I was still interviewing for administrator positions, but those were coming to a close.  Soon after I finished my final interviews, I was offered a position as an assistant principal at two elementary schools by my new district. I was excited to accept and am thrilled to be a part of something new. It wasn’t until I had to resign my position with my former district of 18 years that I realized I was truly beginning a new chapter. I suppose signing that resignation made it very real. I have no regrets. My former district taught me so much about being an educator and a leader. They hired me when no one else would and encouraged me when no one else did. I am indebted to them for providing me with such an amazing group of educators to work with and learn from.

When I first left the classroom I struggled with what to do with this site. While I posted some over my tenure as a teacher on assignment, I did not post as much as I would have liked. Now that I am returning to not one, but two school sites, I would like to think I could blog more regularly. I can’t promise that as I know how busy school administrators are, but I would like to try. It is my intent to share as much as I can as I transition from educator to administrator.

Posted in Edublogs, General

The Places I Work

prompt-2This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Simply write a post and share it to join in, or sign up to receive email reminders of each new prompt. 

Hello Reader!

Thanks for stopping by. Today’s post is about my work space. The task was laid out as follows:

This week, we want to take a closer look at where we spend the majority of our work days. Our classrooms, our offices, cubes, home offices, coffee shops, or anywhere else where we “get work done”.

Write a post that discusses your classroom or place of work. Some topics you may wish to address include:

  • The physical space – how you approach layout of furniture, technology, etc.
  • The aesthetics – share a photo and/or discuss decorating your space
  • Staying organized – how you do (or don’t) keep organized
  • Tips, tricks, or advice related to the above
  • Anything else you wish to share!

We want just a little window into your daily work life.

I could probably fill this post with various photos of the work spaces I have had. I am not sure any exist of my first classroom. I was teaching 2nd grade at the time at a school that had been built in the 1950s. I was in a room that was primarily brick walls, except for its interior walls that were those accordion wall thingies from back when they did some kind of communal teaching. (Which I actually remember from my own 3rd grade experience at another school in the 80s.) In the center of the building were communal learning spaces that were accessible from the back of the classroom (there was no door and the accordon wall did not close all the way). These spaces were clearly no longer used for any useful purpose other than exposed and cluttered storage. It was a sad sight. In my classroom there were a few high narrow windows on the exterior wall and that was it. I did my best with that space, but it was a challenge.  When I think back on that room I wonder if the teachers there now have made better use of those center spaces…they would be perfect to make over for more innovative learning spaces. I would love to go back and see. After that classroom I became a “roving” teacher. I had a 4/5 combo class, 4 rolling cabinets, and no classroom of my  own. It was my district’s solution to a multi-track year round school calendar. I moved another teacher’s room every 6 or 8 weeks when they went “off track.” It was quite the experience.

My second classroom was a portable at another school in the same district. I was teaching 5th grade now. I got to experience the joy of a portable (no sarcasm intended!) and my own space. I really did enjoy it. Every wall in a portable is a bulletin board! My only complaint about portables is the floor and heavy footed students. 😉

Outside one of my classrooms at my last school.

A lovely day on the playground.

One of the school computer labs.

Then I transferred to my last school where I had a few rooms based on grade level assignment.  The school was only a year old when I arrived and I was thrilled. All my previous schools had been old…and I don’t mean just schools I taught at. ALL my schools had been old…from K to college. It seems they suddenly got fancy new makeovers once I had long been through. So it was a real treat to work at a new facility. I had several rooms with nice built in cabinets and shelves and SOLID floors! Oh the little things in life. In my last year at this school I ended up in a portable again, which I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the lack of the built ins because it allowed me freedom to place furniture where I liked. It was a brand new portable to the school (one pulled from another site where it wasn’t needed and brought over so it wasn’t a NEW portable, just new to the school.) I got all new furniture which was nice, but the district was slow in getting it to the school and it didn’t arrive until just a few days before the school year. It was a mad race to beat the clock in getting it ready. I worked a few VERY late nights, but in the end it was good enough to go the first day of school. I loved it.

Inside my new portable the night before the first day of school.

I was encouraged to apply for my current position as an Instructional Coach by my principal and ultimately by the director of the department I work in. I really didn’t want to leave mid-year but that is the way it happened. I had to pack up right before winter break 2015. I came over to the district office only to find they had no place for me and the 2 others they had hired for the department. So I was roving again, but in a much smaller way. I had my own devices and hotspot so I could do work anywhere (I have long been that way). Myself and my two colleagues spent several weeks huddled around our new director’s table in his office before they finally got us a small room of our own off site at the adult school. I was there for a fair amount of time before real estate (cubicles) opened up at the district office and we were summoned back, where I claimed a spot for myself, and I have been there ever since. It has been an experience scaling down from an entire classroom to myself (and 30+ students) to sharing a cubicle with one other person. All my classroom stuff lives in a storage unit now. I can’t let it go just yet because…you never know! I do wish I had at least an office with a door than a part of a cubicle…oh and a window would be nice.

Moving into a temporary space at the adult school.

Another angle of the adult school space.

My new space at the district office.

My desk at the district office.

At home I have an office which I am always changing. Because I am prone to WAY TOO MUCH screen time, I removed any actual desk and put in my treadmill (which I turned into a treadmill desk with a wood shelf and some clamps) along with a bike desk. So if I am going to be on the computer for hours at a time doing coursework for my doctorate or gaming or otherwise entertaining myself, then I am going to be moving!

My office right after I moved my desk out and my equipment in.

My desks: treadmill desk & bike desk!

The view from my bike desk.

I also make pretty much anywhere a work space if I need it to be. I never go on a trip without my laptop or my Windows tablet. Even now, I made a work space at the dealership while waiting for my husband’s car to have it’s battery replaced!

Me using the “customer business” table as my work space.

It even has a window!

So this post turned more into “The History and Eccentricity of Mrs. Ruiz’s Work Spaces” than addressing much about the prompt blogging points, but I suppose that is alright. I am sure some of you can identify with me.

Posted in General

Claiming My Blog


As I work toward using my class website in new ways related to my work as an educator and parent of a 6th grader, I am using a tool I have used in the past with my Second Life blog, Bloglovin. It’s a great tool to follow blogs with as well as to easily read all the blogs I follow. I am currently building it up with my favorite blogs and “claiming” my blog. The “claiming” process required I make this post to show that I am the owner of this blog. If you are an avid blog reader or want to be one, Bloglovin’s is a great tool.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Posted in General

SBAC Test Practice

testing My class will be taking the state test (SBAC) on:

  • Friday, April 10th
  • Monday, April 13th
  • Tuesday, April 14th
  • Wednesday, April 15th
  • Friday, April 24th
  • Tuesday, April 28th
  • Wednesday, April 29th

Please make sure your child is at school and on time, have had a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast. There are practice tests online which we will be using in class and in the lab. You are welcome to use them with your child at home. You do not need to input any information, you can use the practice tests with “GUEST” in the fields. All you will need is to select your child’s grade level.

Posted in General


Hello Parents and Families,

I am curious as to your thoughts on homework for the last 13 days of school.  Please reply to this survey.  If you would like to make a comment on the subject, please do so in the comments area of this post.  Thank you! ~Mrs. Ruiz

Posted in General

Multiplication Monsters

I have been a bit late in getting this going, but I finally have had enough time to set it up so I present MULTIPLICATION MONSTERS!

photo 2

Having basic multiplication (0-12) committed to memory is HUGE in third grade.  It isn’t uncommon for teachers to make some sort of visual incentive to motivate their students.  I am a heavy user of Class Dojo (which I may write about at another time) and on this behavior management system the avatars used to represent my students are “monsters” which I find amusingly and affectionately appropriate.  So when I saw these Trend Enterprises Furry Friends Mini Accents in a pack of 36 (yes having 36 is a big deal…I am often quite irritated at packs of 20 or some nonsense when class size is always on the rise..I presently have 32 students and have been told I could have 33 at most…but this is a rant for another post) I knew they were perfect.

photo 3

So I picked them up along with some lil stars and made a simple table in Word for each lil monster to hold.  Each one of my students has their very own Multiplication Monster for them to track their progress on. (click photos to enlarge)

photo 1

I have never been one for flashy bulletin boards.  I rather prefer the clean and non-time consuming approach.  So I was rather pleased with the way it turned out and I know my students will be thrilled to see their new monsters and will be excited about their multiplication quizzes.  The “party” I use most is what I call a reward lunch where top point earners in Class Dojo are invited to lunch with me in the classroom where they can watch a movie (as much as a 40 minute lunch will allow).  They LOVE this and it has been a huge hit.  So I will be having a special lunch for those students who successfully reach their twelves.

Thanks for reading!

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”  
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Posted in General

Winter Party

(Here is the body of a note I sent home today.  This post will be updated with the items parents will be bringing.)

December 16, 2013

Dear Parents,

We will be having a winter party in class this Friday, December 20th beginning at 11:30 am.  I would like to have a potluck, so if you are willing to bring in food for the class (32 students), please let me know by sending me an email with what you would like to send to class with your child.  Students are welcome to bring gifts for classmates on Friday to give out during our party.  If you have any questions about this at all, please email me.


Mrs. Ruiz

Items being brought:

Mrs. Ruiz – plates and napkins

Joseph – chips

Ivan – Capri Sun

Chelsea – fruit platter

Anahi – pizza

Jacob T – juice boxes

Matthew – cheese popcorn

Jenna – water bottles

Mia – cookies & chocolate covered strawberries

Isabel – Christmas cookies & candy canes

Jacob F – Rice Crispy Treats

Jazmin – Fruit by the Foot

Emily – Christmas cupcakes

Suzette – pizza

Alyssa – Christmas cookies