Currently pursuing an online master’s in the Learning Design and Technology (LDT) program, Eric Trujillo (’92) has spent the past two decades inspiring math students at Colorado’s Finest High School of Choice, an Englewood school centered on family-like supportive education. The alternative high school champions connective relationships to flexibly serve its young learners. Connection and flexibility were key factors in Trujillo’s decision to enroll at CU Denver for a second time.
Trujillo first began studying at CU Denver in 1988, and after completing his undergraduate degree he enjoyed a successful career in automotive engineering. When he realized he needed to shift gears in search of more fulfilling work, his love for both math and kids led Trujillo to start a second career in teaching.
Enthusiastically describing his work as an educator, Trujillo conveyed his passion for student success. “I get to know my students very well. I mentor them, hold them accountable, and support them toward graduation. We build a really close relationship, a support system that’s in addition to the standard supports offered by a high school. It’s my favorite part of the job—I’m a family teacher, and I love that.”
However, when the pandemic forced Trujillo and his students to pivot to remote teaching and learning, he found he needed to expand his skillset to continue being the most effective teacher he could be. Though it was his first time in a formal degree program in decades, Trujillo found the same style of close, compassionate support he had worked to provide his own students.
“All of the support in the LDT program has been really helpful to ease me back into that university mindset that I’ve been out of for a while. The processes you have to navigate at a university can be really overwhelming, but I feel I’ve been so supported in navigating those processes successfully.”
As he was still working full-time as a teacher during the pandemic, Trujillo appreciated the program’s online flexibility, too. “It really allows me to balance my time accordingly between my job and my family,” said Trujillo.
Study Learning Design and Technology
The LDT master’s and certificate programs in the School of Education & Human Development provide scholars like Trujillo the opportunity to learn leading-edge methods and best practices applicable to a variety of professional roles and settings.
With explorations through a suite of techniques such as critical digital pedagogy, media and maker projects, digital storytelling, and creative instructional materials design, the stackable courses and certificates adapt to suit each scholar’s unique interests and goals.
No matter the class, all instruction remains grounded in a philosophy of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
CU Denver’s focus on inclusion was something that appealed strongly to Trujillo even years ago as an undergraduate. “There were students from all different life situations, all ages, and from all over the world. The campus was so diverse, and it still is. I just love that it’s kept that.”
Laura Summers, LDT program leader and 2021 recipient of the School of Education and Human Development’s Lynn K. Rhodes Faculty Award, echoes the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the program: “We provide tremendous opportunities for school professionals to gain credentials while celebrating diversity and intersectionality. Our graduates recognize that all learners are affected by a confluence of social location, identity, and implicit bias. School district leaders appreciate the hard and soft skills that graduates gain in the program.”
Sean Michael Morris, a senior instructor who led Trujillo and other students through a critical digital pedagogy summer course, noted how much Trujillo himself contributed to the learning environment: “Eric’s keen mind is an example of the critical consciousness that students develop while part of LDT. He weighs materials and information from the class against his own experience—one of the advantages of being an adult learner—and his contributions to class discussion and collaborations represent an integration of his own knowledge and background with the evolving discourse of the class.”
“This is emergent learning, the kind of learning that LDT prizes in students and teachers. It epitomizes the kind of critical thinking that will be needed in 21st-century schools and businesses,” said Morris.
Bolstered with fresh insights from Morris and other professors, Trujillo immediately worked to integrate his learnings into his own teaching. “One of my goals is to create a social justice math class and apply mathematic concepts to social justice. As a family teacher, I help my students look at the world in new and different ways.”
“I want the best for them, and I will challenge them. It’s all to help them achieve their goals.”