In 2000, A Group Of Parents From Silicon Valley Asked:

“WHAT HAPPENED?” WHAT HAPPENED
TO THE AMERICAN PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL?
AND WHAT CAN WE DO TO FIX IT?

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Edwin Avarca

Summit Rainier
San Jose, California

Subject: US History

Education: MA, Stanford Teacher Education Program
BA, History and Comparative American Studies, Oberlin College

WHO WE ARE • TEACHERS » Edwin Avarca

Why Teach History?

I teach history because it gives me the opportunity to teach and discuss social inequities in our society and what different groups have done to address those inequities. In teaching US history, I want my students to focus on the progress already made and the progress that can continue to be made. I want them to think about themselves in that context. I want my students to be able proclaim their own history and while doing so also advocate to change inequities that they may experience.

Why Summit?

I am a firm believer that the community you teach in sets the tone for how students learn.  I was drawn to Summit’s small community where I am able to foster a caring environment while still setting rigorous expectations for students.

What makes Summit different from traditional environments?

At Summit, we prioritize Cognitive Skills and the Habits of Success to support student growth and to prepare them for college. I believe this focus helps students be successful in college or their desired path. The small community that we have is different from the environment at a large, comprehensive high school. The relationships that are formed between faculty and students and their families is unique.  Summit’s mentoring program allows me to build strong relationships with students.  As a mentor to the same group of students over their entire high school career, I’m able to learn about my students and their aspirations.

How does Summit support your professional development?

Summit is an innovative workplace. I’m never bored.  There’s never an opportunity for me to feel fully comfortable, and I’m okay with that. Our Expeditions program is a huge part of our professional development. We devote four, 2-week blocks throughout the school year where our students take elective courses ranging from art to yoga.  During that time, our faculty attends professional development workshops focusing on our school goals or we plan curriculum .  I haven’t heard of another school that takes two weeks every six weeks in the school year to prioritize professional development.  During Expeditions I am able to step back and reflect on my role as a teacher, mentor, and leader and create plans to tackle different parts of those roles.

How do colleagues influence your impact in the classroom?

My colleagues are extremely important to my development as a teacher.  If I wasn’t constantly collaborating with my peers, I would probably be using the same curriculum and teaching moves as I did as a first-year teacher.  When we collaborate on curriculum, it pushes me to think about ways I can teach my students to be self-directed learners and as a result be more college-ready.  Additionally, we also collaborate by making school decisions that impact student learning and our school culture. If teachers are interested in implementing a new program, we go through a teacher-led consensus process in which we work together to draft a proposal, get feedback, revise the plan, and ultimately all agree to implement the proposal . I like that our “crazy” ideas can be “doable.”

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