By Sandy Husk, CEO, AVID Center
We are fortunate in AVID that we interact with thousands of dedicated teachers who serve a wide variety of students across the U.S., and indeed, around the globe. We read and hear a lot in the media about how other countries value teachers more than we do in the U.S., but in my world, teachers have always been valued.
Having great teachers was important to me because our family moved quite a bit when I was growing up. My father was a civil engineer, and we followed him to his many jobs across the U.S. Whether I was attending school in Ohio, New York, or Georgia, my best teachers offered a combination of stability, creativity, and support. I guess it isn’t surprising that I knew in the fourth grade that I wanted to be a teacher. My teacher that year was motivating and allowed me to ask a lot of questions—even those that didn’t have an immediate answer.
It is true that I always did pretty well in school. My mom and dad both valued education—my dad has both engineering and law degrees—and demonstrated hard work and high expectations. My mom worked hard to raise three kids, and with some vocational training, was able to secure good jobs. Whatever my successes in school, I still needed strong teachers, and when we moved to Georgia for high school, I met Carolyn Vaughn, my French teacher at Sequoyah High School. I was typically a good student, who wasn’t used to struggling to get good grades. I was even a bit ahead of my Sequoyah classmates in foreign language because of my experience in New York—where foreign language was introduced in the fifth and sixth grades—but I was challenged in Mrs. Vaughn’s French class. She never accepted a mediocre performance and gave constant and affirming messages to try harder. Mrs. Vaughn also led our school’s drill team, where I was an active participant. This was where I got to see another side of her, one which our AVID teachers consistently demonstrate. She was fun and creative, and she taught us leadership skills. Research tells us that students benefit tremendously from a committed and consistent relationship with a key adult in the school system.
Ultimately, when I moved on to college—thanks to my parents and my teachers—I was well prepared. I completed the University of Georgia in three years—working at the same time to save money for my Master’s program at the University of Colorado Boulder, and then my PhD from the University of Colorado, Denver. I was again fortunate in my graduate experience that I had excellent professors—like Dr. Mike Martin, my committee chair—who challenged and encouraged me to complete my dissertation.
I began teaching in 1977 in Jonesboro, Georgia, and found great joy in the experience. Ultimately, I became a counselor, a principal, and a district administrator. Eventually, I served as a superintendent in three states. No matter what the situation, I saw it as my primary responsibility to provide all students with the best teachers possible and to provide the teachers with as much support and professional learning as we could manage.
I am proud to work for an organization that was founded by a teacher, Mary Catherine Swanson. Because of her vision and expertise, AVID is serving nearly a million students.
Thanks to all our AVID teachers for what you do.