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Remember 13,000

By Jeffery Freund, Principal, Coleman Middle School, Wichita, Kansas

Jeff was the teacher speaker at this year's Summer Institute at Dallas 1.  Below is his speech.

13,000; remember that number. There's a test later. Feel free to write it Cornell style so you can review it.

First, let's talk about AVID and how it has come to define my career and impact my life. I wanted to become a teacher in the 5th grade. No doubt about it. The question was not what would I be, but what would I teach. You see, in 5th grade I had a brand new teacher. It was her first class of 25, in Conway springs, Kansas, population 1,200. (Time to review the number you’ve written down – 13,000.)  So, 5th grade showed me the power that one teacher can have on so many lives. So many more than the one, or the 25, she taught that year.

In 1998 I became a teacher in Wichita, Kansas. I started my career in a building where 400 seniors walked in, and only 175 to200 graduated. This is a school where you could have filmed not only Dangerous Minds, Stand and Deliver, and Glee, but also Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. This school, while not an urban big city school, was the toughest school you would find in Kansas. Now I didn’t know it then, but this school had a reputation for not preparing kids for college, but instead simply allowing them a place to stop before prison. I shut my door and taught my new teacher brains out to my 5 classes of 25. That year 125 kids walked into my room, and while I finished with only 100 or so by the end of the year, I think all 100 earned 125% - Rigor was not really a tool in my tool belt.

Timeout-What was that number? 13,000.

Fast forward a few years to one very unplanned, very public, very hard-to-say-no conference call with my principal at the time. After that one call, it all began. I attended my first Summer Institute in San Diego. It was at this time I was introduced to AVID and the tools that it provided. It was with a small band of overly dedicated all-star teachers that I began the steps that would not only shape my career as a teacher and leader, but also shape the future of a school, its students, and my own children. Because what you don’t realize is that AVID is what teaching is all about. It provided me the chance to OPEN that door I kept closed. It gave me a team, a mentor, peers, and friends that would prove to be true Hollywood movie style educators. It has given me a professional development background that allows me to credibly talk about impacting instruction, opening up doors, and leveling the playing fields.  

I attended three Summer Institutes as a site team member. Then in 2003, I taught my first AVID class. In Wichita, we don’t just take an AVID class, we teach them and then hand them on to our trusted peers. We gestate our AVID babies for four years. We meet with them 90 minutes a day, every day, for four years. We become their educator, parent, counselor, probation officer contact, mother, father, uncle, and cousin. We grow our babies in our own little image. I become a new father to one right before I became a new father to 30 AVID babies. I realized that year and ever since, as result of working with these kids, learning from them, pushing them, failing them, catching them, supporting them, and fighting for them, that I needed to expect from EVERY KID in my classroom what I would expect from my own son. No less. My own children have no higher or lower expectation than those we have of our AVID kids- the best.

Our program graduated my class of 27 with $1.5 million in scholarship their senior year. We no longer prepared kids for prison at North High- we prepared them for college.

Remember that number? 13,000.

Remember that 5th grade teacher? That year, her first and only year as a teacher, she taught me something that I had never learned in 13 years in Coleman Middle School Kansas. She taught me I was different. She did this not as a Michelle Pfeiffer or Edward James Olmos would do, no she let me know that people like me, those who looked like me, didn’t go to college. We didn’t do well in school. We didn’t learn. She educated me on the power of not only racism, but on the gatekeepers that AVID so powerfully pushes aside.

Because of AVID, I have worked in an AVID Demonstration school. I have seen a building grow from 1,400 pre-prison dropouts, to 2,100 college-bound bodies. I have become an Assistant Principal in the same school and am now the Principal of a school that is applying for its own Demonstration status. AND, because of the power of one poor teacher, and AVID, I will have taught directly and indirectly as a leader…What’s that number again? 13,000.  13,000 students by the time I get close to retirement. That is the power of AVID. Look around. 13,000 kids- for each one of us....

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