Introducing Digital You

  • Aug 19, 2015


Editor’s note: In late July, AT&T and DIRECTV closed a landmark deal to combine companies. DIRECTV is now part of the AT&T family.

Ask any parent what their primary concern is as they watch kids venture out to explore new horizons—whether it’s crossing the street, or enjoying their first smart phone—and chances are you’ll hear the word “safety.”

Safety is paramount, and the more our lives are lived online the more important it becomes to learn safe practices.

Enter AT&T’s comprehensive new educational program, Digital You.

Launched this summer, Digital You is a free online resource for Internet users of all ages and levels of experience created in collaboration with Common Sense. At you’ll find a robust collection of tools, tips, apps, guidance and community education events that is well put-together and really quite easy to navigate—whether you are a newcomer to the digital environment, or a veteran just looking for smarter, safer ways to do things.

Educators and parents alike will be particularly interested in Digital Compass, the fun, interactive game developed by Common Sense that teaches 6th through 9th graders about the real-world impact of their online decisions. You can play for free online or download the free Digital Compass app for IOS or Android, and reference this handy Educator Guide for lessons in digital literacy & citizenship. Digital Compass is available for complimentary use thanks to AT&T.

Learn more by visiting Digital You today.

And to stay abreast of other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Meet DIRECTV Math Achievement Award Winner Gabe Wooley — a City Year Tutor and Mentor With the Heart of a Teacher

  • Aug 06, 2015


Our 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winners are an impressive group of young people. Beyond the passion for public service that led them to become AmeriCorps Members—devoting a year of their lives to service as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities—what stands out so clearly among them is a recognition of their responsibility to help kids learn the important skills and lessons that they themselves have learned.

This week, we’d like you to meet 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner Gabe Woolley (right).

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to become a Corps Member.

I’m 20 years old, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. I graduated from Broken Arrow high school in 2013, then began working full time for 2 years before working at a summer camp last summer. I ended up loving it so much that I knew I wanted my next job to be something with children. I heard about City Year Tulsa from a friend at church & decided to apply. I joined 2014-2015 City Year Tulsa team and I loved it!

Where did you serve?

I served my first year in City Year at Sequoyah Elementary School with the 4th grade. I worked with an awesome teacher and some amazing students.

What math concept or unit was the most challenging for your students at Sequoyah to grasp, and how did you overcome it?

Several of my students struggled with remembering the steps for math problems. Specifically, multiplication. They would often miss one or two steps and their answers would come out wrong, so I would constantly remind them of the missing steps and walk them through problems using the “Think Aloud” method, which involves doing a problem while talking about each step, and why I was doing it. Then I would have them walk me through one of their problems using the “Think Aloud” method, as if I were then the student.

Was there ever a classic “A-ha” moment when you could just sort of see the lights go on as your students grasped a concept?

I don’t think I had one huge “A-ha” moment, but I had little ones every day—each time a student grasped something that they didn’t get before. It would make me smile every time. So I guess their “A-ha” moments were also my “A-ha” moments, seeing them slowly come to believe in their own capability.

Have math concepts always come easily to you, or did you struggle with the subject? Was there a teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

Growing up, math was always my weakness. My hardest class and my lowest grade. I actually almost failed 4th grade because of my low math grade. By the time I got to high school my math grades slowly started to improve. I still never liked math growing up. I did have two very creative and positive math teachers my freshman year of high school. I would say they were the best math teachers I ever had. They’re really the only ones I remember.

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other Corps Members who work with struggling students?

Keep patience and love for each student and their potential. It will keep you motivated and rewarded. Every student can get to the same place. Some just need a little extra patience and love.

DIRECTV is committed to supporting (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at K-12 schools, with a strong focus on math as the foundation for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM subjects, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

The way things are going shows me more and more each day the importance of STEM subjects. Expanding you’re knowledge of them will only take you further in this world.

 And what about your future? What are your plans?

I plan to serve one more year with City Year and with my students while taking college classes at Tulsa Community College for a Spanish Degree. I am also considering pursuing a degree in Elementary Education.

Fantastic. Best of luck, Gabe!

NOTE: For more information on City Year, visit the organization’s official web site.

And be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


DIRECTV Brings Fun and Learning to a Denver Charter School

  • Jun 12, 2015

5 Grader 1

DIRECTV and FOX visited Denver’s University Prep Elementary School (U Prep) during the last week of their 2014-2015 school year to host a live-action version of the hit TV show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader”. Our guest blogger Steve Demedis (below), who works in DIRECTV’s Communications department, was in attendance, and came away asking himself the same question.

Steve Demedis

I am smarter than a fifth grader.

And I’ve been certain of this since the mid-90s. But as I stood in the back of the gymnasium at University Preparatory School (U Prep) in Denver, Colorado, a spectator at the DIRECTV-sponsored Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader event, my confidence began to waiver. I started to question the education I had received at Plum Point Elementary all those years ago.

What is a trapezoid? How many sides does a heptagon have? Which number is both a factor of 36 and a multiple of 3?

But what truly crushed my self-esteem was the eager enthusiasm, and dare I say swagger, with which the students – or “scholars” as they are called at U Prep – tackled these questions.

In the event, which DIRECTV hosted in partnership with FOX, third and fourth graders took turns taking the podium to answer math questions. They received points for correct answers and had a “panel” of classmates to turn to should they require assistance.

It was all meant to celebrate the school’s success with ST Math, a blended learning software program that was implemented at U Prep thanks to a 2014 grant from DIRECTV.

And this was a celebration. From the moment the students filed into the gymnasium-turned-gameshow-set, there was an energy in the room unlike anything I remembered from my days in elementary school. The kids spontaneously danced to the pop music mashups blaring through booming speakers (yes, U Prep is cooler than your elementary school). They clapped and chanted responses to the school’s energetic principal. And when math questions were posed to the audience, scholars nearly dislocated their arms, wildly thrusting their hands in the air in the hope that they would be called upon.

“This is a great example of how we are supporting STEM education in our local schools, and celebrating the successes of the students at the end of a long school year,” said Ron Hyland, a VP of Customer Care at DIRECTV who shared some remarks to start the event and is most certainly smarter than a fifth grader. “It’s incredible to see the engagement and energy of the students. They are proud to show what they’ve learned and eager to support each other.”

Ron hits on what was probably the most impressive thing I saw at the event. After the first contestant and eventual champion, fourth-grader Nakina Johnson, answered all five questions correctly, the next scholar found himself in the unfortunate position of being the first to answer incorrectly. The disappointment on his face at the sound of the buzzer was quickly washed away by the cheers and clapping of his peers, who picked him up with their unwavering support. He answered the next four questions correctly.

The kids who competed and cheered, along with their teachers, deserve the credit for what I experienced at this event. But I couldn’t help but take pride in being a small part of it as an employee of a company whose Corporate Citizenship mission is to foster K-12 education.

The impact we are having on young people, naturally, has greater meaning when you see it in person. But it really hits home, when you see Billy Milton Jr., a team leader at the Denver Customer Care Center, in attendance.

Billy’s daughter Shayla, a third grader at U Prep, had been selected as a panelist to help the contestant from her class answer questions. Billy was there to watch.

“It’s amazing to see. I knew this is a great school, but I didn’t know that DIRECTV was a part of that,” said Billy. “I love that the company recognizes the work this school is doing and promotes it.”

University Prep is a tuition-free public charter school that focuses on college the second a child walks through its doors. It is one of three schools in the Denver metro area we sponsor through the ST Math grant.

“Having a corporate sponsor in DIRECTV is critical to our mission of preparing each of our students to go on to college. It’s not an easy thing to do, but DIRECTV believes in that mission and understands that seeing it to reality takes a real investment of time, money, and resources,” said the school’s headmaster David Singer. “What they do to enhance the education we provide our students is incredible.”

Kudos to the Corporate Citizenship team at DIRECTV for creating an incredible event. I left U Prep on Tuesday afternoon impressed by the scholars and teachers, proud of DIRECTV’s work to improve our local community, and eternally thankful that my paycheck doesn’t hinge on my being able to do fifth grade math.

Just for fun, take a shot at the following math problem from the event, and prove to yourself that you’re smarter than a 5th grader:

There are 100 students in the school. On Valentine’s Day, each student gives every other student one card. How many cards are exchanged in total?

—Steve Demedis

NOTE: For more news and information about free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.


5 Grader 3

Kid-friendly Entertainment in a Kid-friendly APP

  • May 22, 2015


This week, DIRECTV announced the launch of its new DIRECTV Kids APP, which will deliver hundreds of kid-friendly movies and programs to DIRECTV customers’ iPhones or iPads from channels they already subscribe to, at no extra charge.

Designed for children ages 5-10,the app puts a world of curated content at your child’s fingertips. And for parents, there are helpful program ratings and reviews provided by the non-profit child advocacy group Common Sense Media, so you’ll always know everything you need to know about what your kids are watching.

“As our kids become more and more connected through powerful devices like tablets and computers, navigating through the rough terrain of the digital landscape for parents can be an incredibly daunting task,” says Tony Goncalves, senior vice president, Digital Entertainment Products Group, DIRECTV. “The DIRECTV Kids App was designed to take the worry away from watching TV and give kids a simple and safe viewing environment without the need for complicated parental control set up on multiple devices.”

Learn more about the app and download yours today by visiting DIRECTV.

And to stay abreast of other great fun and educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

NOTE: The DIRECTV Kids APP is not available to subscribers who receive DIRECTV through the SCHOOL CHOICE program.



25 Years of Exploration and Wonder

  • Apr 23, 2015


It was 25 years ago today that the Hubble Space Telescope took off for orbit as a passenger aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, carrying with it our hopes and dreams for an unprecedented view of the cosmos.

And the results, as they say, speak for themselves (below).

NASA is celebrating the silver anniversary of this momentous achievement and inviting teachers to do the same via a resource-packed web platform called HubbleSite, which includes a large collection of STEM-based, K-12 classroom materials, free eBooks, high-quality printable posters and much, much more.

Visit HubbleSite today.

And to stay abreast of other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


DIRECTV and Teach for America Celebrate Their Exciting New Education Partnership at MATHx

  • Apr 16, 2015


On April 7, DIRECTV and the nonprofit Teach for America announced the launch of an exciting new partnership designed to expand access to excellent math instruction in high-need communities.

The announcement was made at the Santee Education Complex in Los Angeles during an event dubbed MATHx, where hundreds of students, teachers and representatives of various STEM-based organizations enjoyed a program of energizing talks and interactive demonstrations (pictured, below).

As part of the new partnership, Teach for America, one of the largest and most diverse providers of STEM teachers in the country, will receive $250,000 from DIRECTV in support of its national efforts to recruit, train, and support math educators, with its Los Angeles, Oklahoma, and Colorado regions receiving dedicated funding. Oklahoma and Colorado will also be the next states to host MATHx events.

“DIRECTV is excited to partner with Teach for America to create math opportunities for students across the country,” says Mike White (pictured, above, third from right), chairman, president and CEO of DIRECTV, and also a featured speaker at MATHx. “As a technology company, math is at the heart of everything we do and it is essential to our nation’s ability to thrive in the future. By supporting Teach for America’s national math efforts and bringing together leading voices in math education across three cities, we hope to shine a light on this important subject and inspire the next generation of students to be passionate math learners.”

The education nonprofit will receive $250,000 from DIRECTV to support its national efforts to recruit, train, and support math educators across the country, with its Los Angeles, Oklahoma, and Colorado regions receiving dedicated funding. The partnership reflects the organizations’ joint commitment to ensuring all students cultivate the math skills needed to be successful in college and beyond – in a world which is increasingly digital and defined by math innovation. – See more at:
expand access to excellent math instruction to students in high-need communities, and develop resources that will inspire students to love math. – See more at:
expand access to excellent math instruction to students in high-need communities, and develop resources that will inspire students to love math. – See more at:
expand access to excellent math instruction to students in high-need communities, and develop resources that will inspire students to love math. – See more at:

To receive more information about this exciting new initiative, as well as news about other great educational events and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.


DIRECTV honors Teacher Stories winner Joan Colalillo

  • Nov 13, 2014

Joan Colalillo DirecTV 2

For some time now, we’ve been telling you about DIRECTV’s ongoing engagement with the social action platform TakePart, specifically, their brilliant “Teacher Stories” initiative whereby students were invited to spotlight a teacher who’s had an impact on their lives.

More than 850 teachers have been honored, and last month, of that number, five teachers were selected by DIRECTV as winners for their outstanding achievements in math. Each received free DIRECTV service for a year, and there were also cash prizes for schools as well as sponsorship of a math project and/or a math-related field trip through

We were so intrigued by the praise heaped upon these winning teachers that we decided to learn more.

Meet Joan Colalillo (right), 1st-grade math teacher at Penny Road Elementary in Cary, North Carolina. She’s also taught 3rd and 4th grade and has an infectious enthusiasm for what she does.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What made you want to become a teacher?

When I was younger I was told by my parents that I wasn’t going to be able to go to college, so I entered the business world instead. I worked for a while in corporate America in administrative/marketing areas, even in NYC. However, I began to realize that my passion wasn’t there – it was rooted in my childhood dreams of being a teacher. So, I began going to school at night and worked during the day while raising a family, too. It was a long road but it is a story that I can share with my students about perseverance.

What have been the highlights of your career and maybe some of the biggest challenges?

Once I graduated, I decided that I could, in fact, realize my dreams, so I continued on to finish my Masters of Education degree, with a Reading Specialist certification. Then, I decided to tackle National Boards and passed! I became a National Board Certified teacher last year in Early Middle Childhood literacy. This past year, I surpassed even my own aspirations and was chosen to be a part of NC Governor’s Teacher Network, writing lesson plans for our teachers across the state, while continuing to work full time.

I am now in my 7th year of teaching and I am back in first grade. I love every minute with my “lovebugs” and they know it! Being named Teacher of Year at my previous school was another highlight, however being nominated by parents for this award is just confirmation of the hard work I do every single day to go above and beyond for my students and their families.

My biggest challenge is always finding enough money personally to do all the many fun and engaging things I want to do for them.

 Why do you love to teach math, and why do you think students need a solid foundation in the subject?

I love teaching math because it is so hands-on and really engages all learners. So many students struggling in, say, reading, can find success in math because it is so much more concrete. They can use manipulatives and become tactile learners to problem-solve and be critical thinkers. That is not as easy to do in other subject areas.

I love the confidence, excitement and joy that math success brings to my students. I love to see them get creative in the ways they approach a problem.

When my 3rd and 4th graders didn’t have a solid foundation in number sense and fluency, it truly impacted the curriculum that I needed to teach them and it was very difficult to fill in the gaps for students who missed that earlier foundation years before. Now, back in first grade, I hold high expectations for my students, knowing full well just how important my job is for their future success. It is a responsibility I hold with high regard as I do my job day in and day out.

Tell us about some of the ways in which you’ve engaged your students; how you’ve helped them reach that all-important “A-ha!” moment when they truly grasp a concept.  

I find fun and engaging ways to teach. My philosophy is that learning can be fun. Yes, it’s work, but I want my students to not only learn something for a day or week—I want them to retain it. One way I like to do that is with songs.

For example, students often mix up area and perimeter. But through a fun rap song I found online, my students were able to get up, get dancing and remember that fun song in their heads. I could literally see some of them in their seats bouncing to the rhythm as we took an assessment and they sang the song in their heads!

Then there are the times when students would realize that they were using multiple content areas – like, “WOW, Mrs. C, I just used reading in math!” Or, when we used live worms to investigate how worms react to light, and then we measured the distance the worms traveled on their desks. We had studied how to measure accurately for a while, and then I made them use it. It’s so much more powerful.

With first-graders, it comes in the forms of teaching addends and sums; and helping struggling students to identify the unknown.

After a multitude of math games and fun ways to teach addition and subtraction, something still wasn’t clicking for some students. That’s when I realized I could also use my balance/scale to really emphasize how the “=” sign meant that everything before the equal sign and everything after had to be the same value. We used counters and cubes and realized that we could find the sum by making sure our scale was in balance. Their eyes glistened a little as that spark of recognition hit! I was like, finally, they’ve got it! What a rewarding moment after weeks of work.

Being a math teacher is an effort in dedication, and constantly trying to find a variety of tools and strategies that students can use to help them be problem solvers. It’s games, interactive Smartboard lessons, manipulatives, songs, dancing, physical act-outs (like people ten frames) and so much more!

What have you learned that other teachers might find useful?

No matter what the grade level the most important thing you can do for your students is build relationships with them. If you get to know them, their likes and their dislikes, show how much you love and care for them, they will try ten-times harder to reach your expectations. Whether it’s math, reading or science, I challenge students to “raise the bar” at every turn. I encourage them to continue their learning at home and reward that extra work back at school. I already have around nine first-grade students that complete extra homework on their own almost nightly. Not because I ask them to . . . but because I have tried to inspire that love of learning inside them and they know just how proud I am of them.

Games and creative ways to get your material across are just a daily part of my teaching, making everything authentic and real to their world is even more effective. But nothing provides more of punch than the relationship I work on every single day with my students. None leave at the end of the day without a hug and an “I love you!” It could be the only time some of them hear it or get a hug that day. You just never know!

Do you have a favorite resource or website that you use for lesson planning or professional development?

Honestly, my favorite resource right now is Teacherspayteachers. Teachers that are in the field every day teaching their standards are the best sources for great material. I can often find great ideas on that site, as well as other wonderful teachers sharing their ideas on Pinterest!

I always LOVE a great idea!

Right now our school is implementing Model Drawing through Singapore Math, as well as stressing number bonds, ten frames and compensation to solve and compute. I’ve attended training with my principal, Mary Bohr, who is insightful and research-minded when she brings ideas the staff. I was invited to attend that conference, and the model drawing strategy for problem solving is eye opening. I only wish I had learned this way when I was in school. I highly recommend anyone looking into model drawing to take a workshop. You’ll be glad you did. It’s extremely effective for students that need that Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract representation in math.

Our kids deserve to be top in the world in math, too!


Be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

DIRECTV partners with City Year to honor outstanding math mentors

  • Jul 03, 2014


DIRECTV’s commitment to K-12 schools and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education recently yielded a few proud smiles when the company honored a handful of young people who’ve dedicated a year of their lives to helping at-risk high school students make strides in math.

The five honoreesfour in Los Angeles and one in Denverwere recognized upon “graduation” from twelve months of service with City Year, a volunteer organization that seeks to bridge the education gap in high-poverty communities through tutoring, mentorship and role-modelling. The students were honored with DIRECTV’s  first Math Achievement Awards, selected for both the  grade average and standardized math assessment scores of the students they served. All five received prize packages that included certificates of recognition and a year of free DIRECTV.

“At DIRECTV, we believe that math is the foundation for all STEM learning,” said Brynne Dunn, DIRECTV Corporate Citizenship. “We were thrilled to recognize these City Year Corps Members for their inspiring dedication to student achievement in math.”

Here are their names, along with the schools at which they served:

In Los Angeles: Myeisha Bobo, 116th Elementary School; Paiab Thao, Muir Middle School; Joshua De Bets, Hollenbeck Middle School; and Kayla Webb, UCLA Community School.

In Denver: Michelle Ramirez, CMS Community School.

Over the coming months, be sure to check this space for interviews with each of the winners. They’re an inspiring bunch, eager to share their experiences and explain how they were able to convince struggling students that they could indeed do the math.

And for more information on becoming involved with City Year, visit their web site.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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(l. to r.) City Year Los Angeles Executive Director Mary Jane Stevenson; Myeshia Bobo; Brynne Dunn, DIRECTV Corporate Citizenship; Paiab Thao; Joshua De Bets; and Kayla Webb. Not pictured here is Michelle Ramirez, who was honored at a ceremony in Denver, Colorado.