We're always looking for examples of schools that are AVID school wide. Last month, Stephanie and I were lucky enough to be invited to tour Pinion Hills Elementary School to see what school wide AVID looks like on the elementary level. We were 100% floored by what we saw. There was AVID happening everywhere, every nook and cranny on that campus you can find AVID, every classroom, every hallway, the cafeteria. Everywhere you look, there's evidence of a college going culture, and this is at an elementary school. It is truly school wide AVID. Our guest today is Shannon Avery, who is the principal at this fantastic school. And we are so excited to hear about the magic.
AVID, teachers, staff, pandemic, persevere, students, learning, school, year, shannon, people, talk, board, kids, complete sentence, system, pieces, gradual release, notes, plc
Kelli, Stephanie, Shannon
You know my, actually, my superintendents have asked me through the years you know what's your number one priority and most people think is instruction because I just absolutely love instruction. But it truly is culture it's my school culture because if we if I can maintain that anything is possible and I've seen it
Hey, AVID family this is Stephanie Downy.
And Kelly Hogan-Flowers
from RIMS AVID and you're listening to the RIMS AVID Roundtable, the podcast where we discuss all things AVID. Twice each month on this podcast, we'll get together with a special guest to talk about their AVID journey. They will tell their story and explain what makes them an AVID Rockstar. They will share their ideas, best practices and strategies that they've learned along the way.
So this week, we're going to start with a story on the RIMS AVID team. We're always looking for examples of schools that are AVID school wide. And last month, Stephanie and I were lucky enough to be invited to tour Pinion Hills Elementary School to see what school wide AVID looks like on the elementary level. We were 100% floored by what we saw. There was AVID happening everywhere, every nook and cranny on that campus you can find AVID, every classroom, every hallway, the cafeteria. Everywhere you look, there's evidence of a college going culture, and this is at an elementary school. When we talked to the students, they were able to tell us all about wicker and what it means. Even the littles, the staff and students all speak a common academic language of AVID. It is truly schoolwide AVID. Our guest today is Shannon Avery, who is the principal at this fantastic school. And we are so excited to hear about the magic. So welcome, Shannon, and thanks for being with us today. And we're excited to hear what you are bringing to the table.
Thank you for having me.
Of course. So our little warm up question just to get to know you a little bit. Tell us where you went to school. And what do you have in common with your college mascot?
Well, I kind of have a journey when it came to college. I went to Long Beach City College for two years and majored in Liberal Studies, then continued on to Cal State Dominguez Hills to get my bachelor's in Liberal Studies. And then I went to Pepperdine and got my masters and teaching credential. And I took a year off, I decided I wanted to go back I wanted to do make a greater impact. And so I went back again to Pepperdine and got my master's in Administration. And then my final stop was at USC where I got my doctorate degree in K-12 Urban Leadership. And the mascot I guess I would say I live by after all those schools would we fight on? I definitely believe in perseverance. If you ask our students what my favorite P word is, it's perseverance. I think that really shined through during the pandemic too, because boy, did we have to persevere in education.
Still are Yes. So I think that's great. And that and just a little bit that we've known you we can definitely see that, that fight on spirit that you have.
Yeah, so we saw so many great AVID things at your school. So I think a good place to start off to is what your history is with AVID. So where did you start? How was it going?
Ours is quite unique. So I actually my career mainly was an Ontario Montclair and then I moved up into snowline unified. And you know, most schools that I've worked in had AVID or came from a middle school that had AVID and so I was surprised that a K-12 district did not have AVID but you know, that wasn't in my control. But about 10 years ago, I started up in Snowline as a principal at Pinion Hills. And I think it was two years in. The superintendent asked the assistant superintendent to ask me to pilot AVID elementary school if I would be interested not to ask me but if I would be interested. And I didn't really know much about AVID Elementary, actually I knew nothing except by knew the foundation of AVID especially from the middle school perspective. And in Snowline AVID did not exist in secondary at all and not at the high school or the middle schools. So I presented it to my teachers and said, You know, I think this is a great opportunity for us. They asked us why do you what they asked me Why do you think we're getting this opportunity per se? And I said I think it's because we have strong PLCs. That was one of the first things I worked on with my, my teams. And they're very collaborative. And once that was strong, I just truly believed that we were going to be able to implement AVID Elementary, I didn't know that. At the time, we would be as successful as we are now. But boy, it's powerful. So that's where that started. And we went out to a school in Victorville to observe. So they can get a gist and even myself again, like I didn't have that experience. And they, they were on board, they're like, We can do this. And so we went to summer Institute. And I would say that, that time spent planning and really, putting all our pieces together is what I think in hindsight, had us stand out pretty quickly. We didn't go in AVID as a separate thing. And me as the leader there, I couldn't imagine. And I told my team since I did not want to start with oh, you fifth grade, you get to be AVID Coyotes ease but TK through fourth grade does not. And you fifth grade teachers get to talk AVID but your colleagues in fourth or kindergarten cannot. that just didn't make any sense to me, alignment is a foundation at my school, I think it should be at all schools. So and that would go against our strong PLC process. So they were in agreement. And we went in and all our different pieces. And that summer institute, we sat down, we call it our AVID action plan that what you put together in that template. And we incorporated PBIS, our PLC processes, were very strong in the Gradual Release of Responsibility. So we use that as a foundation to directly teach AVID tools and systems across the board. Because my logic was that it doesn't matter what you're doing learning to ride a bike or bake a cookie, whatever it might be, or teaching a fluency lesson, you have to use the Gradual Release of Responsibility. So that's the foundation that was a framework, how we taught our students AVID and how we taught each other AVID.
And then I would say across the board, that's how that's what we use. So and to sustain it, I think in long term. That gradual release is now built in through the teachers that have already experienced it. So I have brand new teachers on my campus, including long term subs, that have never been trained per se, but my staff trains each other year after year. And that comes through their demonstration lessons, their collaboration, their PLC processes, observing each other. It's just a cycle. And we've sustained sustained it this whole time.
And we got to see that when there was a long term sub when we went in and we had no idea that was a sub. It's like, Wait, how did you train your sub? And you said that the staff did that? Yeah, it wasn't even as obviously that wasn't anybody who attended Summer Institute. But it really is, is amazing. And so normally we would ask about, you know, if you if AVID was school wide, what do you think that would look like? But AVID is schoolwide?
So can you share a little bit about what that looks like? I think one of our highlights of the whole our whole visit was we were in I think a kindergarten class. And they were so anxious to show us their folders and one said, this is a learning tool. But they everyone speaks that same academic language of AVID. And so just for those who have not had the privilege to be there and see it in action, can you just talk about what does it look like? You know, from from the littles to the bigs, what does it look like? That it's school wide AVID on your campus?
So we're very systemized and I use that language very intensely because I do not want people to think or my colleagues or who want to learn about AVID, AVID is not a program. It is truly a system and they use that word a lot in the conferences and your trainings in it, there's a reason for that. Because they're not going to hand you anything you're new and you're not going to get a little you know, your te and you're going to say this is how you're teaching kindergarten or about Abbott. So it and again, our planning during the our AVID action plan, we definitely looked at vertical alignment, and the gradual release across T K through fifth grade. And the gradual release, we landed on how we were going use which different learning tools how, what AVID notes would look like, across the board. So for example, the commitment for T K through second is that it's more of a guided practice in your gradual release your, you know, you're directly teaching the learning target, how to set the notes up the start process, um, that and again, that is across all across the board in all grade levels, because you have new students, if new new students come in, and you will tell that they're not an AVID Coyote, because the rigorous so different when you're an systemise, AVID school, we see it in we always have. So for T-K through s econd grade, the gradually stops at guided practice, the students are engaged through the teacher, they might have shared pencil to pin, but they're not necessarily writing the notes we might have. Through the years, we've gotten a little bit more advanced, though, we might have some scaffolded notes that the kids put in their binder, and they might fill in, you know, say the word is habitat, they might draw, there might be the word habitat already prepared there by the teacher, but part of their gradually says to fill in a habitat that they might have been learning about. And then third, through fifth, the commitment was gradually getting them to independent practice. But then, you know, there's partner practice in that there's the guided practice in the partner practice, and then individual, and again, it might be scaffolded. It's not, you know, just spend an hour writing notes. And so that's one example, the binders the same, I think, in the gradual release, and I use that a lot, but it's true. gradually releasing the understanding of AVID to parents, that is a huge culture shock to parents, especially in a community that has never spoken. So it was really important for me as the leader there that my academic language in the language that I use was very purposeful. That was just my personal logic about it. So everything I write about, it says AVID coyotes are AVID families, it's AVID, AVID, AVID. And understanding that, you know, parents needed to learn that, yes, it is important to have a conversation with your child about their agenda, even your little ones and that are four, you know, they have something to tell you about their learning day. And that you need to sign their agenda about that. So we had that conversation across the board. I mean, those are the academic pieces, the same thing with WICOR and what that would look like, again, it's T- K through second is more of the guided practice with the teacher, and then third through fifth, because they've had that experience. They take on more responsibility and a lot more collaborative responsibility, because we also incorporate Kagan structures within her school as well. So
And just getting to see the kids have those conversations. And even not just with the teacher, but talking to each other. You know, we heard them use their academic language at all times, you know, and one of the kids had to I hear you say, it's like, you are six years old. How did you, you know, how do you know how to do that, but that they're speaking in complete sentences. And there was no, absolutely no baby talk? No, and no baby talk to them?
Which was hard for me because you know, I come with it. But just that academic language piece was really so surprising and heartwarming. And we, you know, we talked, we've been talking about it for for weeks now about how impressed we were.
Yeah, there's hearing them even talk to each other, like you said, they're using, you know, they're talking about evidence in the third grade. And they're looking through article together, and they're just sharing their knowledge. And they just they have the words, you know that it's not a show that's been put on that this is just what they do every day. This is just part of their normal their day, and they've learned how to talk to each other how to share when we talk to them. It was great to they're showing us their binders and asking them if it helps them they're saying that yes, it does. They love having their agenda, they know what to do. And so it's just great seeing all ages, and in the you know, sped classes even like everything across the board, like it's there.
Every nook and cranny.
Yes, like everywhere that we went and the kids just were able to share and there was the teachers were involved, but enough to where the kids were able to kind of shine on their own too.
I absolutely agree with you. And one of the other pieces along with that is we try to reinforce that no matter where they are not just in the classroom setting. So if they're on the playground, you know, talking in one word sentences or a couple phrases No, that's not a complete sentence that's talking a complete sentence coming to the front office. Nurse. Nurse. No. Why are you here? Tell me in a complete sentence. reinforcing it because it's a life skill.
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And I think one of the things that leads into this next question too, is like everything is so you could tell like you said, your PLC model. Everyone knows what's expected. And the teachers all had their Friday shirts on and there's this like theme that runs through your whole school. I think it's Disney right now.
This Yeah. Every year, we vote on a theme. It's a big deal. Yeah. Next year, it's Charlie Brown.
All of their classrooms are a little are different. Yeah, but the theme is running through it. And there's just there's stuff on the walls to see. But it doesn't feel like overwhelming, but you could see what the kids have been working on. There's a lot of different skills put up on the wall. So you can see that. And I know you're you talked about having a lot of veteran teachers, but then having new teachers come in. So what advice would you give these new teachers as they're entering? Your staff?
I think that's a good question. Actually, through our interview process, when it gets to the phase where it's a little bit more personal, kind of like this setting. We have a little bit more realistic conversations, not more like interview questions and, and kind of letting them know how we run our school, what is a culture, you've seen it. And we're proud of that culture. But that culture takes a lot of high expectations from each other, a lot of accountability from each other. One of the things that my staff will tell incoming people, whether you'd be a veteran person from a different school and coming in new to my site, I'm not really the top one there, the accountability comes for each other, on their teams, and vertically as well, because they believe in the work they're doing. And I'll tell new staff, if your colleague or your teammate or whoever told you this, this is what we're going to do trust that I support that. Because we all have the same expectations from each other because we all I don't necessarily like the word buy in it, we have a commitment to the work, the commitment to it, and we believe in it. And we have, like I said, high expectations of ourselves, each other and the kids and parents
And I can imagine to that when the new teachers are coming in and they see what's happening on campus, there's that commitment, like, well, it's working, like I can walk into this classroom, I can walk in that classroom, and you're seeing not that the lessons are the same, but the systems are there.
You can still have your own style, you you, you're gonna have the same focus, you're gonna have the same academic language for your notes, and you're learning target and whatever you're working on. But at the end of the day, you get to be with that teacher, you want to be that AVID staff member and shine in your own way. But as colleagues, you're going to have the same language when you come back to that PLC because you're aligned.
And I like that commitment rather than buy in.
because it is it's not just Okay, I'll do it, but
I'm not paying anybody to do this. For their job, but this is this is what we stand for. This is who we are at pinion hills.
So kind of following up with that, you know, I think that we may have to make this episode. You know, mandatory listening for administrators because it really is a how to so if you're giving advice to a first time admin, what would you tell them?
I definitely would say that you have to look at your current, your current systems and your current initiatives. Most districts have initiatives like PLC KAIGAN, your RTI model, MTSS those are all wrapped up together whatever those initiatives are your PLC processes look at all of it, put it all on a table with your team who and classified get classified involved and have that conversation so we know these are the the four pillars of AVID now let's put these initiatives in those pillars. So now we have a comprehensive system. That becomes an AVID school it really is. It's not one more thing it really early on, we would always say it's, it's this bow, it wrapped everything up in this nice little package. And it's a bow and anytime there is a new initiative for for example, Kagan is recent in my district, and it it didn't bother anybody because it just embeds right in with the academic language, the accountable talk the Socratic seminar, all of those things. You just if you have a proper system in place, anything that comes at you will fit right in.
And we always say that WICOR is just good teaching
Anything you know brand new or fancy newfangled, it's just just good teaching.
So in a perfect world, what would a TK- 12 system look like in a district? Right? How would that work? What would we see? Like if someone was walking into this for the first time? Like, what should they be looking for? What would that system look like to you?
I would love to see that. I would say obviously, it would be a vertical alignment across the elementary, the middle and the high school. And of course, things might gradually get more and more advanced, and you have different pieces involved, the tutors and secondary, all those pieces. But students from elementary to middle to high school wouldn't have to be retaught, how to use a binder, how to use agenda, the whys behind it, of course, you have your new students and you know, you're going to teach them and you have to, but students can teach each other as well. And so that piece would be there, the the the language of the discipline would be there across the system. Administrators, understanding the why behind AVID. And that it's, it truly is a lifelong skill that is going to benefit children. And the understanding that ultimately it's giving them access all kids students in STC all students accessed if they so choose to college and career.
I think that's super important too, that when students have those systems in place, they can focus on the learning more like they don't have to worry about what's expected of me in this classroom. This teacher wants me Yes, and this teacher wants me to do this and get when they have to adjust specially when they get into secondary to six different teachers, you know, but when it's school wide, and there's the systems that teachers may have different personalities and different styles, but they know what to expect. And then the kids can just focus on what they need to do, they can learn.
Absolutely, and that goes along with parents too. They're not confused from you know, math teacher A and then you know, the language arts teacher and middle school, whatever it might be, that the expectation would be across the board the same when it comes to those learnings, tools and those study skills that are important. And that doesn't mean that a note can't eventually change or a student eventually gets it right. Because we have children that get it already. If they want to study differently that's on them. But they understand the process of why note taking is important or if you prefer to draw a picture instead. I don't see the problem with that, because they've learned it they've learned the purpose behind doing that.
Right. And the system.
You know, it's not about, you know, necessarily what I write down but it's about going back and revisiting and making internalizing the material and really making the notes their's.
All right, so we asked earlier we we told you that we wanted you to wanted to hear about the magic that you've done. So
Team effort, truly is team effort.
Can you give us your favorite little piece of AVID magic that you've experienced? So an AVID story, a success story, an experience, a favorite AVID memory.
There really are so many I get like I'm teary eyed right now I get teary eyed just because I know the work that was behind our school and where we started and where we are now. I mean, really early on, within three months, we were in a RIMS AVID showcase school. And we were like, Whoa, because we, we just again they don't tell you what to do. I mean, they give you bits and pieces, you have to figure out how to put it together. And I think that was a big honor, knowing that our logic and the teamwork that we put in really was being showcased, like, because that is the big question we constantly get have. How did you do that? How are you doing that? How did you get everybody to do it? How do you get new teachers on board? There's a lot of questions on how do we do things and truly, it's a team effort. But I think something else that really is stands out to me is during the pandemic. I will tell you when the ball dropped on that day, I will never forget that next week, I just sat there and stared at the news and you know, just like feeling punched in my stomach. You know, and really being a leader and trying to dig deep and persevere and go, What are we going to do? I can't imagine letting go of this work because I see we see the impact of it. So I would say as a leader, that was my fear that we were going to go backwards. And I also knew I couldn't push that is not fair to my teachers or any educator right now I in my opinion. And so I just sat back and you know was a support to them. Um, but then there were little bits and pieces that they did virtually try to do with the kids. There was note taking and things like that. Maybe not at the level we were we were accustomed to, of course, nothing in education at that time was. But we persevered. And then we came back. And I didn't have to explain the why I didn't have to say, oh, no, no, no, you need to do that, you know, third grade teacher or kindergarten teacher. It was there it is our roots. It is what Pinion Hills is it is our foundation. That is their teaching framework. And so they carried it on. Yes. Did we have to fine tune it a little bit here and there? Like, oh, yeah, we used to do that, didn't we? And you know, of course, because you forget. But absolutely it is. P It's my favorite word, perseverance. They persevered. And I think that is our shining moment. Because it proved to me that this work is important to my staff.
It is, and you know what, I love? The emotion.
A lot of people cry in that chair.
Because you're proud, you know,
Dealing with kids, I mean,
it is. And just, you know, because I remember that, you know, not putting you on blast. But when we went to your site, and turned around, and there were these big tears, because you were so proud of them.
And yes, I know what we all went through it, they could have easily just said not now Shannon not now.
We were in we were on your campus, and it was, I think was the first place we were allowed to visit post pandemic. And, and it was amazing. And just your pride in, you know, not what you have done. But who your your staff has become, and the environment that has been created by you by your staff. And it really was just we were enthralled.
It didn't feel like a school after a pandemic at all, other than running around in a mask, you know, I mean, it wasn't, there wasn't that feel like, oh, they need to kind of wrench it up a little bit like this isn't where they probably normally are. Like, it felt like this is where you are like the kids have adjusted, the teachers have figured out how to kind of make this work. And there's just a lot of, I don't know, like you just, it felt like a regular year there. You know, I didn't feel like it was like, oh, man, like, look at the effects the pandemic has had on the school, like you can't see it, really. And maybe you see it because you're in it, and you're every day. But when you look at the school mean, we visited every single class, and it wasn't one we missed.
You never would have known there'd been a pandemic, except for the, you know, the kids and the masks. Otherwise, we wouldn't even have known it was.
And I think that, you know, for those who don't understand AVID, elementary, you know, it's one of those pillars, it's our culture, it is our deep roots, it is our values. And we're just, we and I always say we because it truly isn't me it is a team effort. It is our values, and we're going to uphold them. And they they prove that to be true.
I think that shows to how important culture is that something like that can't knock it out. Right? You know that you're going to have to adjust like, yeah, there's adjustments. But that foundation was there. And so you just had to kind of fix some things. You weren't starting from scratch again.
Not at all. No.
And so I feel like we probably kind of covered this a little bit, but how do you feel like you demonstrate your Individual Determination, right, that core AVID.
Again, I feel like I'm repeating myself, that the perseverance piece, I really tried to model that I model my own perseverance, I model making mistakes I model. Not even model owning, you know, you know, mistakes are gonna happen. And that no matter what if you put your best foot forward and you have high expectations for yourself, you can persevere and you can make a difference for children and each other as colleagues. Again, I think because the pandemic is so recent and new during that time, one of the big in that first week where I felt punched in the stomach. I couldn't imagine not coming back to my culture where there were people there was nobody there. I People always ask me or, you know, my actually my super gymnasts have asked me through the years, you know, what's your number one priority, and most people think it's instruction because I just absolutely love instruction. But it truly is culture. It's my school culture. Because if, if I can maintain that anything is possible. And I've seen it and so that's where I dug deep in myself for my own individual determination. And that week, I'll never forget I was up all night going, what am I going to do? How can I sustain this? What can I do? What can I do? And it was new to all of us. I didn't even really understand what was happening. But I was up at four o'clock in the morning, and I came up with an idea. And I sent it to all my staff. And I cc'd, my superintendents and came up with a virtual, sounds silly, but it was virtual morning announcements, a daily dose with Dr. Avery and I have a set and every morning, I tried to sustain everything, even if it was a virtual whatever, all our traditions that we did, I still talked about AVID, I used some language, and all our silly things. I went did Pie in the Face virtually. I did. Um, so that ended up becoming a way for me to stay connected with my AVID coyotes. And my staff and it worked.
Obviously, yeah. Because they are. I just I keep thinking about just the lives that are being changed, in that, you know, and that's not a huge community. No, the lives that are being changed, though, because those, those kids are getting those skills. And I, I don't even think they realize, you know, what, what's happened? Because it just is, like you said, it's part of the culture, it's who they are when they walk on that campus. That's who they are. And that there, it's not, this is not, you know, a we're gonna perform because people are here to see us. It's just, you know, they're AVID coyotes. No pandemic is gonna slow their roll,
And so that, you know, kudos to your staff for that, but also your kudos to you, Shannon. Because that's, that's amazing, when what you and your staff have done is, is truly amazing.
Thank you. And it's, and I thought it was going to be done with this little morning and ultimate thing, my five minutes of glory. And every morning, but my staff actually, at the beginning of the year said, No, we don't want you to go back to the phone announcements every morning, we want you to continue it because the kids really are even more connected to you and more like they're listening. So there if there's things I need to talk about, like boys or girls, I have, you know, I've noticed a lot of first graders are going to AVID accountability and wanting don't forget, though, you have to get your binder signed, it corrects a lot of things along the way and gives my staff reminders to So it's another way of maintaining our systems.
Which is which is a huge, and so many people struggle with that. I mean, that's that's the understatement of the year is people struggled during the pandemic, but really, you know, schools school struggled, and they're still trying fighting to get back to where they were two years ago. And, you know, you guys just stepped right in and kept it moving. And that, that comes from the top. Dr. Shannon,
I appreciate that in an in perspective, I guess, you know, when you step away, and you hear other people's journeys and what they went through, because you know, I'm sure I'm not the only one in tears. Yeah. Because it was real. But you know, hearing that it just makes me even more proud of the work and how much I appreciate the team that I have
No You have an amazing team
And great kids and I think you've you've created like this home there.
So I'm sure them knowing that they come home and this is what it's expected of them and it's just comfortable and they just be through cute little selves.
Alright, so Shannon finished the sentence because of AVID. What do you got?
Because of AVID, I'm a stronger leader. I have stronger teachers and I have stronger learner s.
And we love that
I know, mike drop right there
That's good. I love that. I'm so going off of that. What is your best piece of AVID advice so to be successful in AVID you need to do this one thing like what is that one thing to you?
I think I'm gonna go back to the reason why we were afforded the opportunity is you have to have strong collaboration.
That's the pillar of AVID, right there.
That's a that's a great one. Well, thank you, Shannon, thank you for being here with us today and, you know, just for being a absolute shining beacon of what we can achieve when we set our sights on the AVID school wide. Thank you for persevering and encouraging that. And the people around you, we really, we really appreciate that.
Thank you for having me. It's been an honor. And I told my staff and my students that I would come in and honor of them and represent them well.
Well, you sure did.
Very well. So that's it for this episode of The RIMS, AVID Roundtable. I'm Stephanie. And I'm Kelly. If you have any questions, feedback on today's episode or an idea for future show, please tweet us @rimsavid or email firstname.lastname@example.org We'd love to hear from you. And be sure to check out our website rimsavid.org for all the latest news and events.
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