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Such a Simple Answer to Such a Difficult Question

By Jim Nelson, Executive Director, AVID Center

The answer to our education troubles/ problems/ issues/ failures, whatever you’d like to call them, is really very simple.  It’s the teachers.  They are the boots on the ground, the front line; they can either make, or break, a student.  They can inspire success or they can crush a dream; they can open doors no one ever thought possible, or they can silence a child for years with just one remark. 

I’ve been in the education business for more than 30 years, and it’s never been clearer to me than it is now… without good teachers and good teaching, the most innovative reform policies, the highest standards, the best assessments, and even the most money, will not move the needle of improvement significantly for student success.  We must recognize that without teachers, the best teachers, our education system will remain status quo.

So what do the best teachers have that separates them from the other teachers?

I’ve learned that even the smartest teachers, with the best lesson plans and brightly decorated rooms don’t stand a chance if they don’t relate to their students in some way.  And not only do they relate to their students, but also to their colleagues and to the families they serve. 

Each year, I hear AVID student speakers at our Summer Institutes tell about how AVID has made a difference in their lives, and not one has failed to say something about their AVID teacher – how that teacher believed in them, encouraged them, listened to them, advised them, reprimanded them, and opened doors for them that were either hidden from sight or stuck shut.  These young people remind me time after time, that it is the adults – not the curriculum, not the activities, not the messages of encouragement painted on the walls – it is the adults in the school who make the difference, and that rests primarily with the teacher in the classroom.

One of the things I am most proud of as executive director of AVID is our ability to train teachers to be good – no, to be great teachers, and to work as a team to become even better.  That is the focus of the AVID site team, and is what sets our work apart.  This summer we trained more than 22,000 educators, teaching and modeling for them proven strategies and ways to connect with students so that their students will truly learn the content/curriculum they are hired to teach.  One of our Summer Institute teachers tweeted, "In 33 years as an educator, I've never gotten more out of a conference than I have this week at @AVID4College."

It is our goal and life’s work at AVID to inspire, to motivate, and to give teachers across the country the skills to teach students and, more importantly, to connect with their students.  The best part?  AVID works.  For more than 30 years, AVID-trained teachers have been making a positive difference in the lives of tens of thousands of students every year.

With a new school year beginning, I thank teachers, all of the teachers, who have visions of success for your students and are working to see that they reach their highest potential.  And I pledge that at AVID, we will continue our work to ensure that you have the tools you need to be the greatest teachers in the world.

Welcome back!

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