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Lesson Comes to Life During Distance Learning

Students in an eighth-grade class at Bayside Academy are learning about how to make things happen thanks to Senator Jerry Hill, Representative Elmer Martinez and the modeling of their social studies teacher, Mr. Joe Spina. 

During a 45-minute video conference, Senator Hill described the legislative process, talked about the impact COVID-19 is having on our society and answered student questions. It was Mr. Spina’s initiative in reaching out to Rep. Martinez and Sen. Hill, and their generosity, that created an enriching opportunity during Distance Learning.

Bayside Principal John Cosmos who attended the event said, “Thank you Mr. Spina and thank you Senator Hill! Hearing directly from one of our most respected civic leaders was a unique and wonderful opportunity for our students.”

Mr. Spina — Thanks for your initiative and for sharing your story!

Link to Collage of Photos of Sen. Hill, Mr. Cosmos, Mr. Spina

Senator Jerry Hill “Visits” My Social Studies Class

By Mr. Joe Spina

Earlier this year I reached out to Representative Elmer Martinez and invited him to speak with my eighth-grade social studies class. He accepted and shared an amazing discussion with my class: students asked many questions about his responsibilities and he shared great insights about his civic duties as a representative. 

A few weeks ago I reached out to Rep. Martinez in hopes that he would write a few lines of encouragement for the class as the students responded so well to his visit. I asked him if he could share a message of encouragement for the students during Distance Learning and I would post it to our Google Classroom. Rep. Martinez and his boss, Sen. Jerry Hill, took it one step further and offered to be part of a live video conference with the class. We got the Google Meet set up right away!

The live video meeting involved myself, Mr. Cosmos, my sixth-period social studies students, Sen. Hill and Rep. Martinez. The students prepared questions for Sen. Hill ahead time so he was able to address the questions and share his insight and ideas.

Sen. Hill discussed the current state of his district in regards to COVID-19. He shared some bills that are moving through the legislative process in hopes they will be made into laws, including one exciting bill that he is working on to ban store sales of flavored tobacco products. The students really connected with this because they are aware of the harmful effects from these products. 

Sen. Hill shared valuable insight about the thinking behind legislation and the law-making process. The experience was truly amazing given that Sen. Hill oversees a district with one million constituents, yet he dedicated almost one hour with our students. They built on his insight, asked questions and were part of a unique experience. Here’s what they said:

The video call with Senator Hill and Representative Martinez was a significant experience for our class. I was able to connect personally with many of the points brought up in the meeting and discovered many new sides to the COVID-19 problem as well as many others California is facing.”

– Lipi

“[I discovered] that Senator Hill accepts anyone’s ideas for a bill on his website and some of those bills he actually presents to the state legislature. If I am angry about something and want to make a difference by changing something that I dislike, I can just submit my idea for a new bill to Senator Hill, and if he likes it enough to deem it a winner, then it actually will be submitted to the state legislature (maybe even the governor, if it passes through the legislature) to decide whether or not it should become a law. That is really cool, because even as an everyday citizen, I have the chance to make a difference in my community.”

 – Jack

“Thanks to Senator Jerry Hill and Representative Martinez, I learned a lot about the bills that they write, why they are created, and what the State of California does to resolve certain conflicts or problems.”

 – Kate

“Senator Hill also gave a good example of the power that voters can have, with the example about online voting and how San Mateo can now receive all information about their vote, including if it was counted.”

 – Zachary

I will continue to reach out to Rep. Martinez and Sen. Hill in the future as both civic leaders are so generous with their time and support.