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Thursday
Jul052012

Dreamers, Bridge Builders and a Coach

By: Rudolph Keeth Matheny, AVID Teacher, Austin High School

Rudolph was the teacher speaker at this year’s Dallas 2 Summer Institute.  Below is his speech.

Hello AVID dreamers! Each of us is in some phase of making our dreams and the dreams of others a reality. And each time we dream these we naturally move toward them and they move closer to us. AVID people are constant dreamers.

We visualize college achievement and a better education that leads to a great career. Many of these dreams were started by parents and nurtured over the years so that their child might be the first to get a college degree and create a family breakthrough. But it is the students who, with support, carry that torch. AVID teachers are the guides and mentors who help them make these dreams a reality. Summer Institute is about encouraging and celebrating those efforts and building our skills to help students reach those dreams.

Being an AVID teacher is a very different experience from the traditional classroom experience. Your class becomes a family; a support group of achievers who are always encouraging each other. You become a mentor, a drill sergeant, a cheerleader, a nag, well, basically a second parent. The amazing thing for me was, after 20 years of coaching football, the most rewarding victories I have experienced outside my own children, Truman and Carter, have been those of my AVID kids. I have more pride and emotion behind their success stories and college acceptances than even the big game victories in front of large crowds.

What a paradigm shift! It has led me to new ways of defining myself and my purpose. I find myself spending more time and energy on helping students pursue college dreams and loving every minute of it. I often get asked what I do for a living and my longtime answer of football coach has changed. I now proudly answer I am an AVID teacher. Instead of talking about first downs, touchdowns and the story of our football season, we talk about my AVID kids, their breakthroughs, their dreams, the colleges they are deciding between and the scholarships they have won. I smile ear to ear the whole time. I choke up a little as I talk about the texts I get from excited students opening their first college acceptance letter, the calls I get from students who have won a scholarship, but most of all the stories of the breakthrough these kids represent.

Students, like Andrew, who is the son of an immigrant minister and is realizing the American dream for his family. The day he got his first acceptance letter his mother cried and his father announced to the whole congregation, “my son is going to college!”

Students, like Darien, who was so sure she would not make it to college, she tried to get out of my AVID class before her senior year because she did not want to be embarrassed when she could not get into any four-year university. I would not let her. She could barely speak clearly enough to tell me when she got her letter of acceptance to her first choice.

Students, like Javier, who leads an inspirational life of overcoming obstacles. He battles significant health issues including cerebral palsy and a congenital heart defect. He overcomes those obstacles every day, keeps his grades up, and is involved in many other extracurricular activities. He got his first acceptance letter while in the hospital recovery room after getting his pacemaker replaced. He has won over $100,000 in scholarships and has been accepted to seven colleges. These stories are my inspiration and I love to tell them.

The first question I always get asked when I talk about being an AVID teacher is “What is AVID?” Well, I will close with my answer:

AVID is advancement – It is moving toward college dreams every day through extra work, organized notes, advanced classes, college research and AVID support. We AVID members dream in color! We keep college dreams always right in front of our students’ eyes and we help them advance toward them daily.

AVID is a launching pad – It is a bridge to support those crossing a challenging gap. It is built with a tremendous national program, district support, school administrators, teachers and families.

AVID is individual – Each of us is here by choice. We come from a variety of backgrounds and represent a variety of goals. We believe we determine our fate and we can create a greater future by making the right choices and joining positive programs like AVID.

Most of all, AVID is determination – To boldly move in pursuit of our dreams. To be willing to be the first to breakthrough to college. To hold ourselves to a higher standard that we might sharpen our saw to cut down bigger trees and bigger dreams. To knock on college and scholarship door after door after door after door, until someone welcomes us in.

AVID is Advancement – Moving toward college dreams daily.

AVID is Via – It is the bridge we use to make the jump.

AVID is Individual – Choice, responsibility and diversity.

AVID is Determination – to be willing to get knocked down seven times but get up eight.

ADVANCEMENT VIA INDIVIDUAL DETERMINATION: that is who we are!

And I challenge you all to make the most of this opportunity. It can be so rewarding. Most of all AVID nation, I encourage you to dream on. Thank you.

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