By Michelle Luna, AVID and English Teacher, Americas High School
All I heard from people who had attended an AVID Summer Institute was that it was a life-changing experience. I remember thinking that my life was pretty good and that I could not imagine a training being life altering.
And then it happened: I heard the student speakers at Summer Institute, and I felt that I might be missing something when I set out to teach. At the time, I was teaching pre-AP and AP® courses. I had a good time teaching those and was actually successful at it, but listening to those young speakers, I realized that none of my kids were anything like the kids speaking before me. I remembered thinking: Do we really offer access to all our kids at my school?
I have always believed in the value of education. I was lucky because my grandparents did everything in their power to make certain that I would graduate with a degree. I firmly believed that we all, as teachers, worked towards that goal. AVID made me realize that we did not, for everyone. I struggled as a content teacher to get this access right for all.
My first AVID cohort that I was fortunate to follow for four years just graduated. We have come from a place where we struggled to find tutors their first year and still found a way to learn the value in a Tutorial Request Form. We found that with support and encouragement, all of them could successfully give a speech, that Philosophical Chairs was not really about cutting each other off at the knees, and most importantly, we discovered the value of Socratic Seminar and the ability to listen and always use inquiry to add to our knowledge. Among them, we had two who received the AP honor award for their outstanding work on the exams, as juniors. We had three in the top 10 and multiples in the top 10%. Four received our school’s Trailblazer award, another was named All-Americas, and we had a recipient of a Gates Millennium scholarship. When they graduated, they left behind a legacy that ensures a college readiness system where their younger “siblings” freely discuss how they love math and have been investigating college programs that will be best suited for them.
A part of my AVID family and a huge part of my heart will go forth and earn their college degrees. They will join the others from my first year, who are graduating from college this year, because of their hard work in dual credit classes, and the ones who have gone before them, and while in college, have been hired as AVID tutors. They will take all of their beautiful experiences on their journey and continue to make us proud and give back to their community, who gave them so much so that they might have the opportunity to pursue higher education and live a great life.
In closing, I want to leave you with a final thought. Some of my kids will tell you that AVID saved them. Some will say it was me that saved them. For all of the work that we have done together as a family, my life is proof that because of all the lessons we learned together, we saved each other.
Michelle is an AVID and English teacher from Americas High School in El Paso, Texas. She’s been teaching for 22 years and has been involved with AVID for the past nine. In addition to teaching AVID 2–4, Michelle is the site coordinator. 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. Her brother, Samuel, is attending Summer Institute. He’s also an AVID Elective teacher at her school.