Slice of life: Harlingen school administrator with a passion for education

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

HARLINGEN – It’s a mixed 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 to change the landscape of student education.

“Our goal is really to build relationships with students, to be data-driven, to personalize learning for our children, and to give voice and choice in learning, all while leveraging technology. “said Hruska, 39, a 2001 graduate of Harlingen High School South.

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

Outside of the district, she has also served as an educational coach and consultant for Educate Texas.

Curiously, Hruska started out wanting to be a veterinarian.

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

“Someone said, ‘Have you thought about teaching?’ “, she recalls. “I said, ‘You know, I didn’t. I tested it as a substitute for HCISD, and really liked it. And so, my journey changed from that point on.

Her passion for the field of education is so powerful that in 2018 she earned her PhD in Curriculum and Education from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She was now talking enthusiastically about her current position.

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

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

“What that means is we sit there and assess the students and say, ‘What do they really know? and kids are able to articulate what they know through things like student data trackers,” she said. “So we look at the data, we determine from that data what this kid still needs to master, and then we move on to the next building block which is personalized learning.”

This personalized learning extends to learning styles – auditory, visual, tactile, etc. – and endless possibilities for learning in new and innovative ways.

And all of this builds on past initiatives that seem to have served as building blocks, or foundations, upon which to build more learning structures.

These are perhaps the same rungs on an ever-increasing ladder in her own trajectory as an educator.

“I love building relationships with our campuses and our teachers,” she said. “I have many teachers who were role models for me when I was a product of HCISD. One of the best things about my job is that I can give back and be a role model to others in the district and even in the community.

When not working, she and her family enjoy hunting and deep-sea fishing.

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Martha K. Merrill