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In Pursuit of Success: Dream Big!

By Elaina Paredes, AVID Elective Teacher, Waipahu High School

Elaina Paredes was a speaker at this year’s Summer Institute in Hawaii. Below is an edited version of her speech. You can also watch her speech!

In the summer of 2008, I had the privilege of attending my very first AVID Summer Institute.  After the first day, when we met with the rest of the Site Team, I immediately grabbed my principal by the hand and begged her to let me be the first AVID teacher from Waipahu High School.  Needless to say, it didn’t take much for me to get AVIDized. 

The AVID curriculum gave AVID teachers permission to build relationships and trust with AVID students, much like a family member would. I learned that the AVID teacher was an advocate for her students, the class cheerleader, and, at times, the tough love giver.  But, for the students who AVID focused on, these are the ingredients that the adults in their lives needed to have as a major part of their personality.  These three characteristics described me to a tee:  Advocate, Cheerleader, and Aloha. I knew from that point on that there was no doubt—I had to become an AVID teacher for me to get some sort of career satisfaction. 

In the pursuit of success, “regular teachers” often are taught to keep a “professional” distance from students, so that we can be objective when we’re grading them or comparing their achievements and skills with others.  However, this distance was an obstacle for me.  In the pursuit of success for true belief of learning to occur, I had to be okay with being vulnerable with my emotions.  I showed students how much I genuinely cared for them with an understanding ear, answering phone calls at home to help them with school and life questions, or by attending their games or performances.  They were always appreciative of me being there for them and performed the best they could in school because they did not want to let me, their “AVID mom,” down.  In the end, when my students were seniors, it all paid off because we got to celebrate college acceptances, scholarships, awards, and even military achievements. 

After four years of teaching AVID, I witnessed life-changing—and for some, life-saving—impacts on students’ lives.  I will forever remember the student who, with the structure and caring that was inherent in AVID, turned his life around.  Once a hard-core gang-banger, he has since graduated high school, enlisted in the military, excelled in boot-camp, became a full-fledged United States Marine, and is currently on track toward becoming a lawyer!  This is just one example of the 24 students who set precedence by being Waipahu High School’s very first AVID graduating class in 2012.  They indeed pursued success as they earned a total of $800,000 in scholarships.  This year’s 2013 AVID Senior Class pursued success in their own way and earned a total scholarship earnings of over $2.3 million!

Through my years of being an AVID teacher, I have held three basic beliefs in my heart that drive me to do my best, day in and day out.  First, AVID students want to be challenged.  They recognize that the challenging work will prepare them for college in the long run.  AVID students want a sense of family and stability in the classroom.  Oftentimes, the AVID student’s home life is not the typical traditional family, by any standard.  School is where they seek solace, guidance, and unconditional love.  Lastly, AVID students want a better life for themselves than what their parents had. 

When my first AVID class came together in the fall of 2009, I was well prepared to give them the best AVID education I could.  Year after year, it only got better.  Year after year, we grew closer as a family.  And, sadly, in the final year (their senior year), we parted ways.  I was confident that my very first AVID class would spread their wings in this world and infect those around them with the AVID attitude.  They say that teachers have a huge impact on so many lives, especially those who have been teaching many, many years.  For me, it has been 16 years.  I never thought that in just three short years, my AVID students and the AVID way of teaching would have impacted me so much more. 

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