California Educator

APRIL 2010

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Teachers make Valencia High School awesome Valencia High School has a population that’s bigger than many small “We don’t have a good school — we have a great school,” enthuses Patrick Chung, a junior at Valencia. “The teach- ers are very supportive and very good.” The school’s unofficial motto “We Are Us” is based on the belief that ev- eryone can thrive, be themselves and fit in at Valencia High School. “We have a variety of cultures and races here, and that helps make it a good school,” says Brandon Searcy, a sopho- more with a hairstyle like Marilyn Man- son. “Even special education students don’t get picked on, which I haven’t seen in other places.” “Our school thrives because of its di- versity, not in spite of it,” says teacher Ja- mie Jauch, an Association of Placentia- Linda Educators (APLE) member. “And the thing that makes our school great is a caring, committed and competent staff.” The sense of family is what prompted Luis Garcia, a 1994 graduate of the school, to return and teach English learners. “It just felt like the right thing to do,” he says. The staf f, in fact, includes many alumni. Jim Bell, a Valencia teacher for 20 years, is now principal. Teachers say his high expectat ions and support helped boost student achievement. Despite budget cuts, Valencia still has vocational education, sports, music and art. It has more AP classes than other district schools, and the school’s AP ex- am pass rate — 83 percent last year — is higher than the national average. But this has come at the expense of APLE members, who voted to take pay cuts rather than lose valued programs and teachers. “It was not something we wanted to towns. The campus has 2,500 students of varying ethnicities, languages, academic abilities and styles of hair and dress. Despite their differences, most students share the same opinion of the Placentia campus: They believe it’s a good school. When you ask them why, they say it’s mostly because of the teachers. “A good school has good teachers. They make it easy to learn things and if you can’t understand it, they show it to you.” Khadijah Jackson, sophomore, Anaheim High School do,” says Jauch. “But if we were willing to lose programs it meant losing teach- ers — and the ‘We Are Us’ spirit makes us very protective of one another.” Teachers collaborate every Monday What makes a good school? Gregory McWhorter, language arts and AVID teacher, Tomas Rivera Middle School, Val Verde Teachers Association I think that a good school is one in which the teach- ers truly value their students as young individuals, each with their own abilities and desires. I believe that the teachers at any good school must be life- long learners that are not afraid to challenge their students, regardless of their ability. Teachers that can both care about their students and challenge them are the ones that will make a lasting impact and will ensure a good school, regardless of geographic location and adversity. morning. They share the belief that good teachers can work with every kind of student — and they do. “That way, we aren’t pigeonholed,” says Jauch, who teaches ELD reading courses for English learners as well as English classes in the school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which has a 91 percent student passing rate and is one of the best in Or- ange County. The school recently won a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association for HOPE (House Opportunity Program Endeavor), an in- tervention program that helps strug- gling ninth- and tenth-graders. The Bridge program helps middle schoolers transition to the high school. A program for emotionally disturbed students, run by teacher Michele Lentz, has been suc- cessful in making students feel accepted 10 California Educator | APRIL 2010

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