By Tina Marie Angel, AVID Teacher, Montgomery High School
When first approached with the opportunity to become one of Montgomery's AVID elective teachers, I was a little hesitant. Not only was I new to the teaching profession, having spent most of my professional career as an engineer, but I was also new to AVID. I attended a Summer Institute in 2007 with my colleague Heather Garcia-Rossi. After becoming acclimated to the program, I quickly fell in love with the idea of an AVID family.
Being the perfectionists that we are, Heather and I were excited and yet a little overwhelmed about embarking on this new AVID adventure. I clearly recall the first day with my freshman class. As I looked out onto their faces, my eyes filled with tears knowing the journey they were about to begin. Together we organized binders, perfected writing Cornell notes and learned how to work as a family. We completed one of our first lessons - the GPA (Goal, Plan, Action) worksheet - that proved particularly important to not only them, but to me as well. Writing down our long, mid-range, and short-term goals made the goal real.
For many of my students, the dream of going to college seemed distant and unattainable. All my life I have used the "Learn by Doing" approach and decided to use this AVID opportunity to write a goal that would parallel their journey through the next four years. I wanted to show my students how writing goals, setting up a plan and completing those actions would not only be fulfilling, but could bring the goal to fruition. My life-long dream had always been to run a marathon - so I shared it with my AVID family. At the time, I was unable to walk long distances without becoming exhausted and in pain due to the seven knee surgeries I had endured. I told the kids that if they fulfilled their A-G requirements and stayed on track, then I would literally stay on track and run a marathon by their senior year. For me, running meant freedom; much as college meant opportunity to my students.
As we moved forward, their baby steps towards college and mine towards running again, we faced triumphs and hurdles together. Sophomore year was tough. They learned that classes were challenging and that grades mattered. Hard work was a necessity. By this time, I had moved into running a few days a week when my family was faced with a devastating emergency - my oldest daughter was misdiagnosed and nearly lost her life to a ruptured appendix. She spent weeks in the hospital and I spend many nights with her. I managed to continue my running; it was just redirected to running to and from the hospital. My AVID family kept me going through these hard times with their support. Shelby eventually healed by the end of the year and I ran my first 10K race. I am proud to say, all the students passed the CAHSEE exams. Graduation was one step closer.
Junior year goals: I will run my first half marathon and my students will complete an academically tough year including: Chemistry, Algebra 2, U.S. History and English. These were challenges, but by working together we would survive. As I approached the date of the half marathon, I was faced with another knee injury and feared that I would have to forgo my plans. Several doctor visits later, and with a clean bill of health, I not only finished the half marathon, but I did so in less than two hours.
Senior year had come. We completed our college applications, the FAFSA, and looked at several scholarships with hope in our eyes. As our time continued to dwindle down, I wondered if I had given my students every opportunity to reach their ultimate goal of going to college. As for my goal - the marathon, although it was difficult, I met my goal and finished in 4 hours 32 minutes and 11 seconds.
I look back at our journey together and am reminded of how we have become a family, caring for each other, sharing experience, and reaching for our dreams. Over the four years, I had pushed my body to its limits, while running through pain, cold and rain, and thus setting an example to my AVID family. Along the way, I was incredibly blessed to have spent four years with an amazing group of students - who will forever be my AVID kids.
Tina Marie Angel was born in Norwich, Connecticut. She has a Bachelors Degree in Electronic Engineering from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Tina was the first and only one in her family to go and graduate from college. She worked as an engineer and Production Manager for 13 years before changing careers and teaching mathematics in high school. Tina has been teaching for eight years at Montgomery High School where she and a colleague started the AVID program, completely changing the way they teach.