Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

AVID and Milken Educators: Reinforcing Excellence, Building Relationships

January 23, 2018

AVID Milken Educator panel 1000w

The Milken Educator panel at AVID's national conference: From left, Dr. Manuel Rustin (CA '11), Alexis King (CA '17), Ana Higuera Gonzalez (CA '09) and Frank Iannucci Jr. (NJ '11)

How has the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) experience shaped Milken Educators? In a panel discussion at the AVID national conference in December 2017, four Milken Educator Award recipients shared their AVID journeys and talked about the impact AVID’s college-and-career-readiness strategies have had on their own practices and their students’ success.

The panel was moderated by Frank Iannucci Jr. (NJ '11), who joined AVID full-time as a partner engagement manager for the Eastern Division after nine years as an AVID educator. In his role he works to expand and grow AVID in existing districts and those considering the program. “AVID tremendously improved my teaching practices and how I work with educators and administrators,” he says. “I couldn’t resist the opportunity to bring best practices to teachers and students across the Northeast and Carolinas.” Frank sees tremendous parallels between AVID’s approach and the qualities of Milken Educators: “We train educators to increase rigor and expectations, demonstrate how to create engaging classrooms, and work to reach the whole child,” he says. “The Milken Educator Awards recognize educators for all that, and more.”

Ana Higuera Gonzalez (CA '09), assistant principal at Lynwood High School, believes that the success of AVID at her school led to her recognition as a Milken Educator. “Our school’s and district’s mission is that all our students are college and career ready,” she says. “AVID strategies help ensure that we meet our goal.” As the assistant principal over counseling, college and career, Ana supports the team that makes sure every student has the opportunity to pursue a college education. At the conference, “my main message was that building positive relationships with students and setting high expectations will help students succeed,” she says.

At John Muir High School in Pasadena, social science teacher Dr. Manuel Rustin (CA '11) is working to bring AVID back via a new magnet grant focused on college preparedness and dual enrollment. “Our student population is predominantly made up of low-income students of color who would be the first in their families to attend college,” he says. “Before we lost AVID a few years ago, it helped us prepare several graduating classes for success in college.” Manuel worked as an AVID tutor as an undergraduate, which showed him “a classroom model that was different from what I experienced as a high school student. … AVID provided a framework for establishing positive, collaborative classroom cultures.” For decades, says Manuel, AVID has underscored the importance of building positive relationships with students, training teachers in trauma-informed care, and supporting students’ socioemotional needs as well as their academic skills—concepts that are now finding their way into the mainstream.

AVID’s principles have helped English teacher Alexis King (CA '17) get more invested in the overall character of her students at Ruben S. Ayala High School in Chino Hills. “AVID is a very important part of our school community,” says Alexis. “Being an AVID teacher has helped me take a step back and look at my students in the big picture. I want them to be effective leaders in their lives far beyond high school.” During the Milken Educator panel at the AVID conference, Alexis found herself scribbling away. “My biggest takeaway from the conference was how many great educators are out there,” she says. “Even though I was on the panel, I took tons of notes while everyone was talking—I wanted to capture all the wonderful ideas.”

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