One of my favorite activities as a Board of Education member in Lee County is visiting the schools and spending time in the classrooms with students and staff.
Experiences in the classroom help me stay focused on the children.
They remind me why a strong education system is essential.
Recently, I had the honor of visiting Joanna Perkins, Lee County’s Teacher of the Year for 2014-15 and her AVID class of juniors and seniors at Southern Lee High School. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, and this system teaches students learning strategies to help them succeed in school and throughout life.
The students shared with me how AVID helps them focus on success as well as life goals. They told me of their plans to attend different colleges such as Wake Tech, NC Central, Catawba, UNC Chapel Hill, and Davidson. Makayla McCoy said, “AVID has helped me find out who I am and what I want out of life. I have extra time to get my work done and this class really helps me.” Rebecca Wilkins added, “AVID has helped me speak up more and be a better writer.”Addie Gonzalez, a senior who was a speaker at last year’s national AVID Summer Institute in Philadelphia and a Golden Doors Scholar planning to attend Davidson College said,
“Ever since I was younger, I had goals that I thought I could never accomplish. Mrs. Perkins helped me find my true potential and helped make my goals a reality that I could work toward.”
The class also explained to me how they have grown close over the years and how that relationship has helped them outside of the classroom. Ashley McNeill said, “In AVID I know I am allowed to have an opinion, and I can talk with the class.” Julian Colwell agreed and added, “With AVID we have been together over the years and have gotten closer. It has made it easier to ask for help and get help.”
Mrs. Perkins talked about how the students have grown over the years in high school and how that growth has helped prepare them for success now and beyond high school. “The diversity in AVID ensures that many different views are valued and opportunity is equitable. This group of seniors is finishing strong even though they were perhaps looked down on as in the middle; now they are not invisible.” Jermain McDougald, Lee County’s Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year, put it plainly: “AVID is a support group. If you have a group to support you, you feel understood. That’s why we are family.”
…all the students had different challenges to overcome as they went through school.
Something I noticed right away as we had our discussion was that all the students had different challenges to overcome as they went through school. These are the kind of challenges that could very easily hamper their goals and dreams. I could tell that they have learned to take those challenges and not let these obstacles deter them from their goals.
Most importantly, they have learned to turn those challenges into strengths. Mrs. Perkins added to my insight, “AVID allows students take their perceived disadvantages and turn them into an edge. Academic skills are important, but soft skills are priceless. The AVID family connection allows me to teach soft skills.”
Another obvious aspect of the class was the strong relationship that they have with their teacher, a relationship that has clearly been extremely important for the students and Mrs. Perkins. Ashley Ortega said, “If it was not for Mrs. Perkins and AVID, I would not be in school. She is like my second mom. I was at a point where I did not care about anything, but I feel like I believe in myself now.” AVID also helped strengthen relationships with family. Ashley McNeill added, “AVID has not only helped me believe in myself but also helped my parents believe in me.”
With 142 sites across North Carolina, AVID students represent millions of children throughout North Carolina.
They are the face of public education. They need and deserve a great education system from pre-K to college.
Our students are depending on us to provide them with opportunities and support. With systems like AVID, educators can tackle what Mrs. Perkins said can be difficult as a teacher:
“The most delicate part to inspiring students is not conveying content. It is showing them where to look without telling them what to see.”
Our students and teachers are an inspiration to me, and I am honored to serve them.