By Michelle Luna, AVID Elective Teacher and Coordinator, Americas High School
What we are asked to do as AVID Elective teachers and coordinators can feel so daunting. I really did not think I could do it when I first started. I needed to become comfortable with the curriculum, recruit other educators for my AVID site team, recruit students for my AVID Elective class, manage an AVID budget, plan college field trips, and the list goes on. It honestly wasn’t until the end of my first semester teaching AVID that I saw things click with the kids and realized how AVID works. Once my colleagues and I saw my students succeeding, I knew AVID had become my greatest tool for affecting change in my students and on my campus. I was hooked!
Here’s my best advice for thriving as an AVID Elective teacher and/or coordinator, especially in the first year!
You are not alone. When people offer their help, take it! You need all of it that you can get! When you have questions, ask. Tim Bugno and Susan Roberts were my AVID Implementation staff developers, and every time that I had a question, they were just an email away. They always answered me, usually in the same day. Your AVID administrator and district director are also great resources; they believe in you, so of course they are going to help.
Your AVID site team is your magic ticket! I have put my faith in my team. Think about this: Our collective goal is for the best-practice strategies to spread schoolwide. All kids are not in the AVID Elective, but all kids can do amazing things with what this system can do to transform not only student learning, but the way that teachers teach. Our success at my school is due to my phenomenal colleagues on the site team. They never let me or my kids down. We do some awesome things for all of our kids, but no one can do AVID alone; it’s not meant to be that way and won’t succeed without your site team, their leadership, and their support. AVID can’t just be you, so be sure to call on your site team for help.
Your students are your best testimony and advocates. As they develop academically, they also evolve as leaders. On my campus, our AVID Club is our best proof of what AVID can do. Your AVID students will help out your AVID program immensely because you believe in them, they believe in you, and they won’t let you down. The more our cohorts grew, the more responsibilities my kids took on. Because of AVID, my students shine, and because they are so bright, more and more people want to be involved with our program.
Connect your kids so that they are able to feel safe and belong to a supportive community. Many of our kids have disconnected families that because of so many hardships don’t find a place where they may thrive. The more safe they feel in your class, the more likely they are to reach for more and push themselves to a place where they will find they can do more than they originally thought possible.
Celebrate everyone’s success, no matter how big or small. I was so far removed from my kids’ personal lives that when we started celebrating birthdays, I was shocked to find that not all families made a huge deal about them. If I have time, I bake; if not, then something is store bought. Anything to mark the occasion is more than some kids ever get. Would you be surprised to know that my kids started to emulate my actions?
Lastly, just breathe. It doesn’t happen overnight. And most importantly, do not be so hard on yourself. Be the best you, and I promise it will all fall into place. Remember, this is a journey for you and your kids. You will go to some amazing places together. Have a great school year, and if anyone needs any help, there are many people, including me, ready and willing to lend a hand.
What kept me going during those first months teaching AVID, despite my fears, was knowing that the kids we work with might never find their way if AVID did not exist. I believe that AVID not only builds on the academic habits and skills that are so very crucial, but the whole idea of an AVID family helps the kids feel comfortable and gives them a place to belong so that they might find a way to let down their barriers and try to find that success that we know they are capable of, given the opportunity.
Michelle is an AVID and English teacher and coordinator from Americas High School in El Paso, Texas. She’s been teaching for 23 years and has been involved with AVID for the past ten. Over the span of her career, she has taught 8th through 12th grade English, including Pre-AP and AP.
Michelle is one of five siblings, and the FIRST in her family to attend college and complete her degree, though she is proud that all four of her siblings have completed their degrees too. Her brother Samuel is also an AVID Elective teacher at her school.