Slice of Life: Harlingen school administrator passionate about education

Jessica Hruska has worn many hats during her 13 years working for the Harlingen school district. Hruska’s latest title is “blended learning specialist”, in which she is helping change the landscape of student instruction. (Courtesy: Harlingen CISD)

HARLINGEN — It’s a blended thing and so beautiful to understand.

That’s why Jessica Hruska’s latest title with the Harlingen school district is “blended learning specialist”, in which she is helping change the landscape of student instruction.

“Our focus is really around building relationship with students, being data driven, personalizing learning for our kids, and providing voice and choice in learning, all the while leveraging technology,” said Hruska, 39, a 2001 graduate of Harlingen High School South.

Hruska has worn many hats during her 13 years working for the district: teacher, special projects and grants specialist and coordinator of technology and special projects.

Outside the district, she’s also been an instructional coach and consultant for Educate Texas.

Curiously, Hruska started out wanting to be a veterinarian.

It was 2005, and she’d just graduated from Texas A&M University – College Station with a degree in animal science when someone suggested a different direction.

“Someone said, ‘Have you thought about teaching?’” she recalled. “I said, ‘You know, I haven’t.’ I tested it actually as a substitute for HCISD, and I just really enjoyed it. And so, my pathway changed from that point on.”

So powerful is her passion for the field of education that in 2018 she earned her doctorate in curriculum and education from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She spoke enthusiastically now about her current position.

“What we are doing with blended learning, we are rolling out something this year called the Teaching and Learning Framework 2.0,” said the married mother of two children.

One of the cornerstones to this framework – there are five – is data driven instruction.

“What that means is we sit there and asses the students and say like, ‘What is it that they really know?’ and kiddos being able to articulate what they know through things like student data trackers,” she said. “So, we’re looking at the data, we’re determining from that data what that kiddo still needs to master, and then we go into the next cornerstone which is personalized learning.”

That personalized learning extends into learning styles – auditory, visual, tactile, etc. – and endless avenues of learning in new and innovative ways.

And it’s all building on past initiatives that seem to have served as building blocks, or foundations, on which to construct more structures of learning.

Perhaps these are the same rungs of an ever-increasing ladder in her own trajectory as an educator.

“I enjoy building relationships with our campuses and our teachers,” she said. “I have many teachers that have been role models tome when I was a product of HCISD. One of the best parts of my job is I get to pay that forward and serve as a role model to others within the district and even within the community.”

When she’s not working, she and her family enjoy hunting and offshore fishing.

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