April Teacher Spotlight: Marla Hilliard

Marla Hilliard teaches in the new Learning Lab in Gore Hall, the FSDB Deaf Elementary School (DES). She was recommended for the April teacher spotlight by DES Math Specialist Billie Jo "BJ" Mayo, who cited Hilliard’s expertise in challenging students with math problem-solving and vocabulary conferencing skills, as well as her work with the campus Positive Behavior Support (PBS) initiative. Hilliard’s classroom is a warm and snuggly place, stocked with sunflowers and stuffed animals to help students relax while they move through robust learning centers.

FSDB DES teacher Marla Hilliard working with two students.

What is entailed in your unique role in the Deaf Elementary School, directing the Learning Lab?

I teach math, reading, writing and technology along with school readiness (time on task, solving problems, goal setting, etc.) and social skills (resolving conflicts, cooperative learning, communicating for social and instructional purposes, etc.) to kindergarten through third grade students on a rotating basis using standards based on Unique Skills: Curriculum and Learning PK-5. What’s unique about this is that I have the opportunity to positively impact learning experiences for students in four different grade levels, which is terrific.

What did you do before that, your career pathway here at FSDB?

Initially, I was hired as a teacher for the Special Needs Department many years ago where I taught students from age five to fifth grade. Five years later, I transferred to the Deaf Elementary School and taught first through second-grade classes before becoming a Learning Lab teacher. All my teaching experiences have been a blessing; however, I must say I thoroughly enjoy my current position as the DES Learning Lab teacher.

What are your passions as an instructor?

To always learn, evaluate, and select the best teaching practices and strategies that will assist students in their academic and social growth and development.

Can you describe your work with the Positive Behavior Support (PBS) program?

I am part of the Deaf Elementary PBS group where we discuss and implement PBS activities for our school and dorm students. I also create and share a web page that displays photos of students demonstrating PBS at school, in the dorm, on the bus, at home, and out and about. A huge thank you goes to parents and staff members who provide me with photos; see https://sites.google.com/a/fsdb.k12.fl.us/pbs-in-deaf-elementary/.

Any "aha" student moments that you want to share?