Teacher Feature January 2024: Robert Casas
Robert Casas is a Digital Media Production and Broadcast Journalism teacher at Westview High School in San Diego, California. After graduating from San Diego State University with a degree in history, he started his career teaching 7th-grade humanities. Robert made the jump to Westview High School in 2003, where he spent 19 years teaching AP European History. He took over the newscast program in 2012 and developed it into a full broadcast journalism program. In 2015, Robert expanded the program by introducing Digital Media Production.
Learn about Robert’s favorite StoryMaker lesson, the value he’s found in partnering with a local station, and what he’s currently listening to in our Q&A below.
How long have you been using StoryMaker or SRL resources in your classroom? I have been using SRL resources since 2017. We joined SRL in 2018.
What’s your favorite StoryMaker lesson? My favorite StoryMaker prompt was on Art and Social Change. The story we chose to follow was about a new student-designed mural at one of our local elementary schools, Valley Elementary School. The mural was designed to celebrate the dual-language immersion program at the school and the importance of the indigenous Kumeyaay tribe on whose ancestral land the school is built. The story was more personal for me because I once was a student at Valley Elementary (many moons ago). Watch the full story here.
What’s a media-making tool or resource you can’t live without?
Right now I’m completely geeked out over a new set of wireless microphones we purchased for use in both our Digital Media Production and Broadcast Journalism programs. We have had the Rode Wireless Pro mics for about a month. They have allowed us to wirelessly bridge our on-set mixers with the cameras in the Digital Media classes. This saves us the step of syncing our good on-set audio with the guide track and has increased our productivity. The dual transmitters have opened up new options for interviews in Broadcast Journalism.
What’s a dream story you’d like to report on or a person you’d like to interview?
I’ve been fascinated with motion pictures since I was a kid. The first movie I ever saw in a movie theater was the original Star Wars. That same year, my parents took me to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind. One movie absolutely thrilled me. The other scared me senseless (I was only three years old). That’s the power of good storytelling. So, I’m a bit excited that George Lucas is opening a museum in LA dedicated to the art of storytelling. I would love to produce a documentary that focuses on that art in all of its forms, from movies and television to print and video journalism, to written literature. I would love to highlight the commonalities between them, the essential components of good storytelling.
What’s your advice for teachers and educators just getting started on StoryMaker? The best piece of advice I have for teachers and educators getting started on StoryMaker is to just jump in. Don’t be afraid or intimidated, especially if, like many of us, you don’t have an extensive background in journalism. Don’t be afraid to not be perfect. Give yourself and your students the room to make mistakes that you can all learn from.
We know you’ve recently connected with your local station, KPBS. Can you share how you’ve partnered with them and what’s been most valuable to you and your students from this experience?
Connecting with our local KPBS was one of the most impactful things we have done this year. We were able to set up a station tour where our students were able to learn about the various career opportunities and media outlets at KPBS, from video journalism to radio and podcasting. KPBS is connected to San Diego State University and its Broadcast Journalism program. As a result of our visit, one of our program alums, a current SDSU freshman, was able to tag along with us and connect with the station. She now works as a production assistant at KPBS and has a career in journalism that seems like less of an abstract possibility and more of an attainable goal for all of our students.
What are you currently listening to?
Apparently, I listened to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters in the last year.
You can reach out to Robert directly to learn more about how he’s adapted StoryMaker into her classroom. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org