RIMS AVID Roundtable

Sam Sagar - Coordinator, Serrano Middle School AVID

July 04, 2022 Kelly Hogan-Flowers and Stephanie Downey Season 1 Episode 11
Sam Sagar - Coordinator, Serrano Middle School AVID
RIMS AVID Roundtable
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RIMS AVID Roundtable
Sam Sagar - Coordinator, Serrano Middle School AVID
Jul 04, 2022 Season 1 Episode 11
Kelly Hogan-Flowers and Stephanie Downey

Our guest today is always so much fun. He comes from AVID national demonstration school Serrano Middle School in the Ontario-Montclair School District, where he's been the coordinator for two years. Sam has been at Serrano since 2001. And they became a demo school in 2015. Serrano has been recognized over and over again for the outstanding things they do for their students. 

Tweet us @rimsavid
Just for our high school students @rims_avid
Email: rimsavid@sbcss.net
Check out our website rimsavid.org

Music by ItsWatR from Pixabay - Cali

Show Notes Transcript

Our guest today is always so much fun. He comes from AVID national demonstration school Serrano Middle School in the Ontario-Montclair School District, where he's been the coordinator for two years. Sam has been at Serrano since 2001. And they became a demo school in 2015. Serrano has been recognized over and over again for the outstanding things they do for their students. 

Tweet us @rimsavid
Just for our high school students @rims_avid
Email: rimsavid@sbcss.net
Check out our website rimsavid.org

Music by ItsWatR from Pixabay - Cali


Sam Sagar


AVID, students, teachers, kids, year, serrano, class, strategies, montclair, WICOR, classroom, grades, teaching, coordinator, site, school, collaboration, trust, expectations, good


Kelli, Stephanie, Sam


Sam  00:00

So I'm kind of reframing AVID consistently for students is this is not extra work this is what you're supposed to be doing as a good students in your regular classes anyway.


Stephanie  00:09

Hey AVID family this is Stephanie Downy. 


Kelli  00:21

And I'm Kelly Hogin-Flowers


Stephanie  00:22

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 get together with special guests to talk about their AVID journey. They will tell their story and explain what makes them an AVID rock star. They will share their ideas, best practices and strategies that they've learned along the way.


Kelli  00:41

Our guest today is always so much fun. He comes from AVID national demonstration school Serrano Middle School, where he's been the coordinator for two years. Sam has been at Serrano since 2001. And they became a demo school in 2015. Serrano has been recognized over and over again for the outstanding things they do for their students. And we can't wait to get into it. We're not going to have a lengthy introduction today because we can't wait to dive right in and hear Sam share his story of schoolwide at it. So welcome Sam Sager. 


Sam  01:12

Hi, how are you? 


Kelli  01:13

We're so glad to have you today. 


Sam  01:15

I'm glad to be here. 


Kelli  01:17

All right, we start every episode with our icebreaker question. So, the question is, where did you go to college? And what do you have in common with your college mascot?


Sam  01:27

I went to Loyola Marymount University in West LA


Stephanie  01:31

Coyote. Coyote, maybe it's coyote


Sam  01:33

And Loyola lions, mascot was the lions. And well depends on the mood but lions, fierce fighters, but then again, like to rest, sometimes we need that break. So depends on my mood, what kind of lie my what kind of line I am today.


Kelli  01:54

That works good fits for you.


Stephanie  01:56

All right, so how about you describe for us your current AVID work. So how you got there?


Sam  02:03

Well, today, I'm an AVID coordinator at Serrano. And this is my second year of being an AVID coordinator at Serrano. And really the work that I'm doing right now is really tying in and building that relationship with my administration. In terms of AVID, I've known my administrator for a really long time. But this is her first year as a role with being a principal, and not only principal, but a principal at our site, which she came from from years before. So, I have a good working relationship with her. But I've never had a relationship of admin certificated relationship with her. So navigating that relationship, and then her being a new admin, right having helping navigate her through AVID as well. So that's a lot of our work right now. And the piece of work that I'm most proud of right now is being able to integrate what our school initiatives are, with what our AVID site team goals are. And it's the first year that we've been able to make it. So those two things are absolutely identical. Our, our school site initiatives, our instructional goals are our AVID site team goals, and I've been working on it, tried to work on it last year, and got pretty close. And not even as an AVID coordinator. But as a site team member, I was always advocating to, let's not make AVID goals, something separate, something extra to do, it needs to be and mesh perfectly well, because teachers are going to look at these separate goals and go like it's something different. And that's how you get a disconnect. And that's how you lose teachers. So once there once in the same once you show the entire community that AVID is the instruction and instruction is AVID that they're not different. I think it makes it a lot easier. Number one to track your goals, it makes a lot easier to find evidence for your goals it makes it's just so much easier. So, this is our I'm very proud that the work I'm doing this year was trying to get our site team goals to be our school site initiatives,


Kelli  03:59

Man, say that again, for the people in the back. You know, we talk about that all the time. Because what like you said, when they're separate, then it becomes one more thing to do, right? But when it's all encompassing, then it's this is who we are. This is what we do. And it's not just oh AVID is another thing to do no AVID is who we are. It's how we teach. It's how we deal with our kids. So, I'm just writing a little note that when we have our K-12 conference, and we need a presenter, I think he just got nominated because that is you know, and you heard him say he'd be happy to.


Sam  04:38

And I think too, like when you're talking about teachers and you're talking about initiatives, you're talking about new things. And it's like, I'm a type of thinker. I see connections between everything right? So if I see two different goals, I'm gonna find the connections between the goals and realize they're not so far apart, right? But they're also types of people who when they see a goal and it's not directly connected to it. It's something different in something separate and something I have to isolate. And I think that in order to help that type of thinker, I think we as a, as a site team and as an admin, as administration, and as coordinators, and his team, as teacher leaders, we need to show that these things aren't different. And I think we just got to do as explicitly as we could.


Kelli  05:24

And you think about how much we say that to the kids, that this is not, you know, AVID is not something separate from school, it is how you do school. And we spend so much time telling our kids to make those connections. And sometimes we're not making those connections. So, I've had an aha already today. But you're right, that is, if it's all connected, then it makes more sense. 


Sam  05:47

And I think that kind of ties in with another Aha I had this year as well, having first year back with kids in school, it's been two years, a year and a half since these students. I've been in school. So I teach seventh grade on seventh grade elective teacher, and a seventh grade math science teacher. And so the last time these kids were in school, they were fifth graders. And it's kind of like, so they are fifth graders at an elementary school, and they're popping and as a seventh grader, as a middle schooler, that's a jarring experience for these kids. And not only that, but now they're in an AVID program with high expectations. And our school is strong, and we have high academic expectations across the board anyway. So, there are a lot of growing pains for a lot of a lot of students, right. And a lot of our AVID students felt those growing pains more than other students as well. And I think one of the message to them was, is that AVID'S not extra work, AVID is holding you accountable, and rewarding you for doing those good things you're supposed to be doing your class anyway. So, it's like you're supposed to be taking notes in class. So, notes aren't an AVID thing, but just check to make sure that you're taking them in class. And if you didn't naturally predisposed, predisposed yourself to taking them, we're not pushing you right accountable for that good study habit. You're not supposed to study extra AVID you're supposed to study in your regular class. And we're just rewarding you for doing that good study habit and holding accountable for that good study habit. Same with buying organized binders writing in your agendas, tutorial, even tutorials, it's like, yes, we go through the process of tutorials in the classroom. But that tutorials, you're supposed to have that question in class, and you're supposed to be going the next day and asking your teacher that question. But now you have a group of peers that you can do it with. And so, I'm kind of reframing AVID consistently for students is, this is not extra work. This is what you're supposed to be doing as a good student in your regular classes anyway.


Kelli  07:48

And that's, that's a great way to frame it for kids. Because so often they see the elective, as you know, outside the regular school day, or that, you know, I do I have all my, all my core classes, and then I have AVID, it's like, no, you have AVID, and that's to help support you through those classes. And I liked that you said that thing about the notes, because I don't you know, kids feel like I have take notes just for AVID, it's like, no, you're taking notes, because that's how you remember things I'm checking them in AVID, but that you're not doing for AVID, you're doing them for you to make you a better student. So, loving it. Alright, so we really want to talk to you about AVID schoolwide. And what that looks like, you know, through your lens, because Serrano really is a fantastic example of AVID school wide. You know, we and we were joking earlier that people say it's school wide, but it really isn't. But Serrano, it is school wide. So, what does that look like on your campus? And how the heck did you get there to that point,


Sam  08:52

I think the very first thing that needs to happen is that expectations have to be higher for students across the board, whether you're an AVID whether you're not an AVID, whether you're an EL student, whether you're an RSP student, whether you are that straight A honor student, like expectations have to be high, right? And we are going to expect you to rise to that expectation. Now, obviously, some students struggle and our jobs is to provide the support and scaffolding to meet that high expectation, right, without having to do the work for you. Like we're gonna give you the ladder, but I'm not going to push you up that ladder. Right. And I think so I think part of going AVID school wide, is setting up that really high academics, right, setting up that really high academic expectation. Now with that really high academic expectations set up. Now we find what strategies do we have to get these kids up to meet that expectation? So, I mean, I could pull out a dog and pony show and do a really cool strategy. But if the learning expectations not there, what's the point of the strategy, it's like, you have to have the thinking, you have to have the goal, you have to have the thinking required to get that goal. And then you have to have the strategy to meet the thinking that's required to meet the goal. So, without that high expectation to begin with, is just kind of spinning your wheels. And I think So that's first step was to across the board, get teachers to trust the learners to meet high expectations. And that happens over time, but happens through trust between teachers sharing data, test scores with each other, coming up with common assessments, sharing strategies and plans with each other, and just working well with your colleagues. And then once we built that culture of collaboration, that culture of high expectations, then we have a drive and desire to want all these kids to do much better right to drive in to meet these expectations. And I think another thing we did, in order to get AVID school wide, is we really had a real big alignment between instruction, what we assess, and what our grades mean, in terms of academic success. Let me give you an example like so, I know that there are situations where a student can be scoring, not so very well on the state test, but be pulling straight A's in the classroom. There's some kind of disconnect right there. What is that grade communicating to the student? And to the parent? Obviously, not academic achievement, at least according to a certain standardized test? Or for some maybe possible certain common assessments? And the vice versa is true that what about that student who is achieving well on that state test or the external criteria, but their grades are showing D's and F's and things that where's that disconnect? So, what we wanted to do is we wanted to get rid of as much as we can that disconnect between what a grade is communicating with what academic achievement is, we wanted the grade to be a communicator of that academic achievement. And to do that, we had to kind of have an alignment of, you know, what are we really assessing? What are we really teaching? And it's really an internal reflection on our practices of Okay, so what exactly? am I teaching a student? Or what are we teaching our students? How are we going to measure that they did? Or didn't do that? And how does that measure align with expectations that are external to our school site, right, whether it be a district test, a Lexile test, a state test, and I think once we have that alignment, and our grades start communicating, and truly communicating academic achievement, as opposed to certain subjective, external, non-academic factors, now maybe soft skills related to academics, but when it's when grades are communicating that very clearly, I think, now we're all speaking the same language, in a in your classes in A in my class, a B in this class has been this class. And we know that when those students are those A's, B's and C's, what level they are of Act, what were they achieving academically? And I think, like I said, this is all foundational to creating AVID school wide. So, you have to have these kind of bigger, heavier conversations, and these trust building conversations and these conversations about what are we communicating? What are we teaching as teachers, then I think once we've got that foundation, laid, right, and that's a lot of foundation building, that's it's a lot of it took us years, to figure out,


Kelli  13:52

I was gonna say, the way you said it made, it sounds so easy. Thank you for saying it takes a long time.


Sam  13:56

It takes a long time. And it takes a staff that's willing to be vulnerable. It's when you first walk into a group of teachers who may be the first time working on a team, I have my state test scores right in front of me, maybe my kids don't do hot, but now we're gonna have a data chat about my kids performance last year, and your kids performance last year. And I have to be bold enough to go like, Guys, I my kids didn't make it, like, Do you know what this is? I, I need to reflect on what I did. I need your help to help me reflect on what I did. And what are your scores and we need to break down those barriers in those silos between those rooms to be able to talk about candidly or data, the data is the data, right? And we as people and a teachers, we put emotional baggage on top of that data, as opposed to realizing Okay, here's the data. Here's what it says. Okay, let's now what do we do with it? And I think it's the now what do we do with it part that people Almost as opposed to the data is me, right? And it's not me. 


Stephanie  15:04

But I think it's hard not to attach that to yourself like this is reflective of my teaching because my kids scored less than your kids when it's not. Right. Most of the time, you know, there's just different factors at play or whatever. But it's like you can pull from what these other teachers are doing. I think that's such an important model.


Sam  15:20

And I think we noticed the transition a few years ago starting to happen. When it's not my kids, my kids, my kids, it's our kids Yes. And it's that our kids, it's kind of like when our team looks about it's can like when I'm as invested in your kids getting proficient in your classes, as I am as my kids getting proficient in my class? 


Stephanie  15:40




So, I mean, that's that was that that trust building and that being willing to be vulnerable in front of your colleagues is huge. And you're not gonna get anywhere schoolwide anything, if you don't have trust with the people around you 


Kelli  16:02



Sam  16:03

And, and trust among colleagues, trust between admin, and colleagues. And I think to another thing that helped get AVID school why two was the relationship between admin and teachers, there's always been a an air of shared leadership. And I think I've always felt like I've had a voice of leadership on my campus, I've always felt that I've been listened to by my administrators, I feel like I have an idea. It may not be a great idea, but I have an idea that I want to propose, and I feel listened to. And I'm also the personality from not listen to I'm gonna be made me. So I mean, so that helps a little bit, but but I feel like I'm listened to and having that back and forth banter and conflict about new ideas and trying things out, and then administrator and be interesting enough to group of teachers like, Okay, try it, go see if it works, and trusting us enough to go do something maybe that's new and a little bit different or kind of crazy. Like I remember, first administrator I worked with, we were trying to figure out, how do we raise language arts achievement, okay, and so we will, right now, one of the things that one of our amazing things that we have at schools, we have a between the bells intervention period. So, every student who needs an intervention, they have an intervention period instead of an elective, and that gets the kids it's very flexible kids cycle through kids move through, and based on specific criteria, and that's built into our master schedule. But before that, that all came from a teacher experiment where we were like, do you know, can we take this group of kids right here that didn't get this thing and pull them out for a period to target that, and take this group of kids out of these periods, and go teach them this and take this group of kids. So, we as a language arts team, about 15-16 plus years ago, wound up pulling about 90 kids out of their current classes, and doing small workshops with them based on their very specific abilities and very specific needs, and then assessing them at the end of that workshop to how well they did. And it showed real progress. And it was the beginnings of what became a between the bells intervention where we realize, hey, if we have kids that have specific needs, pulling these kids out based on that, specifically putting them in a classroom, giving them what they need, and then reassessing them when they're done with it, then putting them back where they need to go after that. And I mean, so it's like, we weren't given enough leeway to experiment, right? And then that experiment turned into an entire master schedule change over the course of a couple years. And that's, it wasn't just a language arts team at the time. But the math team was doing similar things at the time. And we were pulling kids around, it was teachers trusted other teachers to be flexible with their kids and right, have the grace to like, Okay, I'll give you this period, don't do too much. And so like, so having a relationship between teachers, Administrator, will administrators trust the teachers to do things. And the teachers can go do it, and then they have enough respect for each other, go look at the data and go like, hey, this worked, or, Hey, this didn't work. And I think that's, I think that's part two, I think people are afraid of it not working. And like it's things, once you're trying new things and taking risks and innovating, some things aren't going to work and you have to risk it not working. Right. And that's part of I think, the trust. And so again, I keep going back to the deal, the trust and nothing's going to happen school wide without that trust between teachers between admin is that's that's foundational,


Kelli  19:42

Right. And how many times do we say that AVID, the key to AVID is that relational capacity as you build the relationship with the kids, they trust you and then they'll do anything for you. So same thing with, you know, with other teachers administration until there's that relational capacity and that trust, those kinds of things aren't happening. You know, but that you guys were able to work out a system where you're really meeting the kids where they are. And there's a need and you're meeting that need.


Sam  20:18

It works well. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.


Stephanie  20:22

Well, like we've been talking about with within our county the whole intent versus impact. Yes, we've said that there's people always have really good intent, but like, doesn't matter if there's no impact, right, you need to have both. And so, I feel like that's what we're seeing at your school is that you guys had this intent, and you want to try to sing, but then you also have the impact to back it up, like we did this. And this is the result, we're impacting these kids, they're getting better grades, they're getting that intervention that they need. And I feel like that's so, so important. And just tying that into what we've been talking about lately as a team, you know,


Sam  20:53

And I think to ones can like I don't know how many times a student come up to Mr. Sager, what can I do to change my grade? Like, okay, so what have you done so far? Right, crickets, that's like, okay, so it's not gonna change by magic. It's, you're sitting around and waiting for an opportunity to present itself to you, as opposed to taking action and making the opportunity happen for you. And it's gonna like, the grade will change when you make a change. And it's like, I think for teachers, too, it's like, we have that expectations for our students, for them to be active. We as teachers need to make, take our own advice. And like, you know, what, when we want to see something change, we got to get over that initial fear. And I know and again, trust it, you have to have trust with your administrator to be able to risk trying new things. And if you don't have that trust administrator, yeah, that's going to paralyze people, right. And if a administrator is doesn't have that trusting relationship with their, with their staff, they become very authoritarian. And it's not relational. And it's not the shared leadership goes away and to be very frank, if I'm told to do something, and you don't tell me why I'm doing it, I'm not going to do it. But as soon as you tell me, yeah, and as soon as you told me why, and as soon as they understand, it's, it's okay. I may not agree with it. But I get it, I know where you're coming from now. And it's that idea of we're in this together.


Kelli  22:20

Right, which doesn't happen everywhere. And a testament to your culture that you have at that Serrano is that even with admin changes, it doesn't change who your staff who the staff is, and it doesn't change, what happens with the kids. And that's, I think, that to me, is the most telling about the work that you all have done as a staff. Because so often we see situations where things are going great. And then, you know, your coordinator leaves the principal leaves, and then suddenly, it's something completely different. And the fact that it really does sound like it is, all that responsibility is really shared across campus.


Sam  23:12

The last time we were revalidated, it was brand new principal, brand new assistant principal, brand new coordinator. And it's like, we were basically told not, we weren't told we was recommended, hey, maybe you should wait another year, because of all these things, that we didn't even enter our minds, it was a quick conversation. And it was Nope, we're gonna do it. And it's like, and I think, too, it's kind of like, like, through admin changes, like we as teachers are accountable for how our students are doing, and we have a drive to want our students to do better. And I think we would move forward if you if you cycled every new admin every year. Granted, we move a whole lot slower, right? But, but I think, like we are a force, and we are a force to change our students and things on our campus for better,


Stephanie  24:05

Will sounds like it's a culture, it is right. So, people changing shouldn't change the culture when it's already kind of embedded in part of what you do when the new people come on, and they just get on board. 


Sam  24:15



Stephanie  24:15

the hope is that they get on board.


Sam  24:18

And I think after that trust was built, what the next step I think we had to take to get AVID schoolwide was teachers realizing they're already doing really good things in their classroom. And a lot of these WICOR strategies. They're not new, they've been around for a really, really long time. And it's just eating and it's just when we started, when WICOR came along, it just kind of collected them all. And I think, again, again, it's going to that mind of something different, something new, so I need to stop what I'm doing and go do this new thing. Like no, no, no, no, you're already doing it when you do this. That's this when you're doing this, that's this and so it was kind of just reframing and reshaping things. Like we already had a real a lot of really good instructional practices before, that were happening in isolation, right. And it's just like realizing now that we have WICOR talk about it. And it kind of just gives it a, it's a, it's a new framework to look at what we already have in place. And now we have a unified way to look at the strategies that we're using. And as we were already using a lot of these strategies, because they're good teaching strategies. And now that we had a WICOR and the framework to look at this through, we can now talk about these in a little more open. And a little bit more, I don't want to see transparent. It's not that it wasn't transparent. But we're now just using all the same language to talk about it now.


Kelli  25:47

And it's not content areas specific, because it's not well, this is this is a math thing and this isn't a language arts things. And this is the science thing. It's like, No, this is a teaching thing, this is a kid thing. And so, we're talking about writing, you know, it's not exclusive to language arts classes, there should be writing in all your content areas. And, you know, this is what collaboration looks like, you know, across the board. And so really, I like that using it as kind of the the frame for, for good teaching. It is because it really is. And you know, the best example is that teachers who've been teaching for a while before they get into AVID, and you think about your favorite lesson that you taught, and the one where the kids were just on fire and all excited about it. We that was WICORized, right? Whether or not you knew what WICOR was at the time, but that is, you know, what we said all the time that WICOR is just good teaching.


Sam  26:47

And I think too, and it takes a lot of teachers that were naturally doing amazing things and teaching great lessons. And it now gives us now we can look at it be introspective and reflective on it and realize, okay, what made this a good lesson, as opposed to now think it's a good lesson. And now we can start talking about breaking apart. And it's we can just be more reflective and deliberate about those good lessons. So it's not just this amorphous, good lesson now. But now we know this, these are the things that made this a good lesson. And let's find those things to replicate those things. And now we have these things to replicate. Let's take those things. And I don't want to say move those things in another classroom, because that doesn't work always well. But why did you do these things? And these are the reasons why you did these things. So, let's take those why's and put the why's in this classroom. And what are the things you need to make these why's happen in this classroom. And I think when you have the classroom sharing these why's, and how you achieve those may all look different. But the fact you're getting to that same point. I mean, like if we're, one of my favorite things that AVID did recently, and I think it's a testament to AVID evolving is the shift from strictly Cornell notes to focus notes. Like, oh, like we had teachers who were so resistant to Cornell notes, because they had notes systems that worked for them. And I don't want to say they were taking it personally. But it's kinda like, why are they going to wholesale throw away something they've been designing and developing and working for a really long time to make happen and work for their kids, because AVID says come along and do it. And now, I think AVID then came to realization like, there are many paths to good note taking. And all good notes, have these processes, all good notes, we collect information, all good notes, we process the information, all good notes, we've used this information, and doesn't matter what system you're doing. But if you're going through that thought process, and again, there's the why's, like, why are we getting this here? Because we know it all information one place? Okay. Why do we need to process our notes? Well, because we need to think about it. Why do we use them? Well, that's the point of taking them right. So when we get to the same why's, how we execute to get to the why's can all look different. And I think that's one of the another one of the ways we got AVID school wide really well is because we're not looking for classes to be cookie cutter, we're not looking for this exact same strategy to look exactly the same here look exactly the same here look exactly the same here. My personality isn't going to lend to somethings really well as this teacher would. And things that I do would not work for that teacher because of how their teaching style is their dynamic with their kids. And I think it's unrealistic when you have people walk through sites looking for the exact same thing in every single classroom. It's just not going to happen unless you're a Stepford school. It's not gonna work. And it's like, how do you know of niches is not going to work? We copied it from another school without knowing why they did it. They do it there and it works there. So, we're going to do it because it works there. Well, why why did they do that? I don't know if it works there. So, we're gonna try it.


Kelli  29:52

And we're not going to put our own spin on it. We're just gonna do exactly what they do. And it's never going to work. It's it's theirs. Yep. but it is really empowering to say, Okay, this works there with those kids, let's bring it here, you know, tweak it, to work with our kids and what we do, you know, which is one of the one of the things I really like about, about AVID is there are so many different ideas and things that you can do. And I, and it's okay, well, I'm not, you know, my philosophical chairs activity is not going to look, you know, look like Stephanie's did in her class, but it's going to look like what I made for my kids. And are we doing those topical chairs? Yes. Is it happening all the classes? Yes. Is it identical? No. But it shouldn't be your right. It's like a Stepford school, that that's not what you want. And even when we do our WICOR walks, WICOR and every single class is not the same. 


Sam  30:52



Kelli  30:52

and it can't be the same. And when it looks the same in a bunch of classes, it's like, Okay, I'm gonna pump the brakes, because this is not real. 


Sam  31:00

There's some red flag. 


Kelli  31:02

It's not real. 


Sam  31:02



Kelli  31:03

And, you know, every time I've been on your campus, there's, there's definitely AVID, there's definitely WICOR, but it doesn't look the same from class to class to class, which, you know, it's, it's real, and it's really happening there. And that's one of the one of the impressive things. 


Sam  31:21

And I think one of the, one of the WICOR, WICOR strategies, I think that is the most prevalent, prevalent for that, for us is collaboration. And I think, like we have collaboration going on in every single classroom, almost all the time. And it's authentic collaboration. And we don't use a lot of Kagan strategies, we don't use a lot of artificial collaborative structures. Now, granted, we've probably in some cases, use them more often. But we're getting collaboration without those because we get students wanting to talk to each other. When you get students wanting to talk to each other, it's almost impossible to hold them back from talking to each other about this thing. And so it's like, let's capitalize on that social nature of those students. And the way that I can get my students to collaborate is going to look different and is going to be different than any other teacher can too. And it's like, I really am an advocate for authentic collaboration. And I think when you put when you overly structure, collaboration doesn't become collaborative, collaborative anymore, it becomes accountability for talking. And if you have a group of kids who are reluctant to talk, or you have some students who overpower other students, okay, yes, you need to create that situation where you have norms. But when you've created a learning environment where students are engaged, you've created a learning environment where students care about their answers in their work. They start arguing about their answers. And they start, like, no, that's not right here, because it says it right here. My note, no, no, I got I worked out here. And right there, that is my telltale sign of engagement in collaboration, are my students arguing and defending their answers? Respectfully,


Kelli  33:06



Sam  33:07

and it's natural 


Kelli  33:08

because that's how we do as a society. And so I love that, that, you know, you start off with the structured collaboration with the rules and the norms, and just teaching them how to collaborate, because a lot of times, they don't know how to, you know, disagree in an agreeable way. I mean, most grownups are struggling with that today. But we teach them those skills, and then you let them go. Yeah. And then they can have those conversations.


Sam  33:37

It's a scaffold. And at some point, you have to take the scaffold away. Otherwise, like, if you never take the scaffold away, it becomes part of the building.


Kelli  33:47

I like that. I like it. If you just keep with the baby steps, then you know, they never run. So, you're right.


Stephanie  33:55

So speaking of kids, what advice would you give to a first year AVID student?


Sam  34:01

Act? Don't wait. It's so many students, I think get caught up and procrastinate and I want to say become complacent with where they are, because they're waiting for something to happen. I think the students who I think are very successful and AVID are those students who are not spectators of their education, but rather actors of their education. And it's like, I think it's do something now whether that's something works or not, we'll we will give you the strategies that will eventually work over the time. But don't wait for something to happen. You know, go talk to your teacher. You know what, you don't know if you can redo that assignment. Go redo it anyway and try, you know, go ask for that extra credit. You know, what, come up and talk. I think it's just the sheer fact of fear of failure or just inertia of staying still, I think for me, the best advice I can give to any first travel student is act, do something. And it may not be productive and managed, but at least you're attempting, and you're taking charge of it in your own way. And then AVID will give you the strategies that are more effective over time. But act, I think that's the most pressing piece of advice I can give to anyone. 


Kelli  35:22

And that's a good one. That is because, you know, we talked about the kids having their individual determination, but we really have to teach them how to advocate for themselves. Because and not rely on someone else to do that. You know, I love that do the assignment anyway, and see if you can turn it in. And even if you haven't, even if you don't get credit for it, you still have done it. Right, which is what you should have done in the first place.


Sam  35:50

I think to on top that equating that action to determination. Determination is an active it's an active now it's like, it's something you can't you have to do things for I can't be determined sitting in a chair watching TV. Right. I can't be determined, unless I'm being determined to be stubborn, which is something different. But yeah, that I think that there's a relationship between taking action of education and being determined, right? Like that. That determination is tied with that action. Like that.


Kelli  36:22

Take that action. I used to tell


Stephanie  36:24

my students you're they're making moves, you're making excuses. Like which one are you gonna do? Are you getting out there? Are you gonna make up a reason why you didn't get it done? Right. So it's like, you got to pick which side you're gonna be on? 


Sam  36:33



Kelli  36:34

Yeah, taking action toward there on education. I like that. And we didn't you I want to ask about because you are a new coordinator. So how did you and you started, you started during the pandemic?


Sam  36:47

I did. I Start started right in the middle of it. It was a my first year recruitment was all online. And it never happened before.


Kelli  36:56

So how did how did you make it through that first year of coordinator,


Sam  37:05

It helped. I'm very familiar with AVID I've been, I've been an AVID teacher, since we've had AVID at our site for over 15 years. And I've been part of AVID 12 or 13 of those years. And so, I'm very familiar with it. I'm, I've been on committees for AVID I've been going to Summer Institute for that long. So, you pick up stuff along the way. And so it's so I'm not new to AVID but just the coordinator position. So, I didn't have those growing pains. Right. Coming into AVID, as a coordinator, I think what helped me were really three things. One, a very supportive administration. Yeah. Two is your guys's new coordinator workshops. Yes. And it's shout out to absolutely and just if nothing else, in fact, is like, Okay, I know everything that needs to get done as an outsider, but not on the inside or outside. Now. Now I'm the one doing it. It's just like, Okay, here's all the ducks make sure they're in a row. And just it's that it's that making sure that I'm not skipping something or missing something. And it was like it was a good, it was a good set of training wheels. And I liked that. And it was very supportive. And then I think a shout out to Dr. Gara, Charlene Gara is our district AVID liaison coordinator. She's awesome. And we are very lucky to have a district AVID coordinator that works so hard to get AVID running and working on all cylinders across all our middle schools. And she's, she's on top of it. And that helped a lot too. I don't think without those three things, it would have been as easy to transition is as it was.


Kelli  38:48

And that reminds me, why haven't, why isn't Charlene on our list?


Stephanie  38:52

I think I asked her at um, because I went for Paulina to the elementary certification. And I'm pretty sure I dropped it to her then Alright, if not, we'll follow up.  She is amazing.  


Kelli  39:02

Charlene you're going to be in this chair coming up. She is.


Sam  39:05

So she's a big, big help. I'm like just give her a call and say, Hey, I am unsure about this. What's going on with this one? I got an answer right away. Just, or I got an idea, what do you think about this and go for it, Sam. So it's a she's a great sounding board and she's a great coordinator of coordinators. lack of a better term.


Stephanie  39:29

She has her stuff together.


Kelli  39:32

All right.


Stephanie  39:33

So what about your AVID legacy? What would you say is your AVID legacy? It doesn't have to be as a coordinator, as you know,


Sam  39:39

Oh, wow. Two parts to this question. First part, I think imparting AVID as an institution and the culture at our school site. If one person leaves a school site and AVID goes away, it wasn't institutional. And so many times the weight of AVID gets put on one person's shoulder it is that person. And when that person goes away, it means it wasn't spread school wide. It really wasn't embedded into the master schedule, it really wasn't embedded into the Cepsa. And the school site plans, I think, institutionalizing it. So no matter who goes in and out AVID is always there. And like any institution, they breathe, expand, they contract the change. But if somebody goes away, an AVID is a shell of what it was because that one person went away was AVID really there, right. And I think I'm not saying I'm responsible for doing that at Serrano, but I'm one person who is one step closer to getting that to happen, right. And I think my step in that was getting our sight team goals, to align, lock stock barrel with our sight, sight instructional goals. And the fact that those two aren't different, is realized that like, AVID is our good instruction, and our good instruction is AVID. And it's kind of like, I look at it as we need AVID as much as AVID needs us. And we we do good stuff that I think AVID wants to be a part of, and AVID does good stuff that we want to happen on our campus as well.


Kelli  41:11

So speaking of the good stuff, so can you share any, any best practices and share some of your good stuff? What? What do you guys do? What have you tried things in your class things? You know, across the board?


Sam  41:28

Wow, we have, we have six amazing AVID elective teachers, and they're doing some incredible stuff.


Stephanie  41:35

That's big for middle school, how many sections do you have six, it's nice. 


Sam  41:39

And we have we have six sections, and all taught by six different teachers. And so we don't have AVID stacked up with one teacher too much. And again, part of that is spreading it around and say AVID is not one person. Yeah. And so, and I know there are sites that have their AVID teacher, which I think is great. If that works for them. It doesn't work for us, I don't think at this point in time. But I think we, some of the good things we're doing here is like one of my favorite things I do with my students is I do weekly, grade chats. So, I have my students pull up their grades, they write a look at what they're getting on the grades, they write an action plan for any grade that they have C or D or lower in and they have three actionable steps for that class. And they have to go get every week, they have to show me that they did those three steps in their plan and get it signed off by a teacher and come see me. And as part of that, that that theme of take action. So, you wrote a plan, you have a plan of action now go execute your plan of action, and every week. Tuesdays are short day for meetings. So, I do Tuesdays and I call up every student who has one of those great action plans. And they talk to me about hey, what action do you take this week for your rates? I think it's making that connection with their grades, holding students accountable for the grades and know that I'm in your corner I'm trying to get right I'm, I'm trying to get you pushing over there. So, I think that's one of my favorite things that I do with my kids. It's really 


Kelli  42:59

Like mini SMART goals. 


Sam  43:00



Kelli  43:01

Love it. 


Sam  43:02

Yep. And they have one week to, and it's sometimes it's not enough time to change an actual grading class, but at least shows me they're taking steps to get it done. Sure. And if they take those steps, over time, that grade will change. And it does every time. It takes some students a few weeks to figure that out. But if you are doing these steps, it may not be immediate. But I've never had a student who is executed their action plan over the course of time and never had a grade not change for the better. I know we have teachers on campus, doing some amazing college fair projects, just exploring colleges, and specifically are some of our eighth-grade teachers and looking at the very specific things that basically they know enough about these colleges to be these college recruiters. And it's amazing to hear them go into the classrooms and talk about them, and to know what they know about them. And you see the banners that they're making. And you see what's going on. In fact, that stems from a pre pandemic, one of the big things we did and we want to bring back now for coming to post pandemic is we held our first, right the year before we went off off campus due to COVID. We held our first college fair, and it was amazing seventh and eighth grade students both we had the entire school walk through it, we did it for open house. So, parents came and saw it. And it was these kids, it was awesome. And so we didn't have the opportunity to do it again this year because of restrictions, right. We want to get that back in place. So, we have teachers that are keeping that alive through their individual classroom projects and stuff but it's another great specific AVID thing that we've been doing.


Kelli  44:47

Love that. love it love it. You know, I didn't ask earlier about the relationship that that vertical articulation between Serrano and Montclair, 


Sam  45:00



Kelli  45:01

So how does that how does that work?


Sam  45:03

Um, due to COVID times has been more definitely more difficult but the relationship we have with Montclair High School is a very good one and I, it it's so good when I hear that our Serrano AVID students when they go into to do a tutorial as a freshman, and they we get the feedback of yeah, your kids got this. And it feels so good knowing that, that what the expectations we have set out for students for tutorials are the same and it feeds and blends right into what Montclair High has going on. And I think one of the ways that makes that happen is the site team conference, every site team conference, we get to sit down, we sit down with every middle school that feeds into Montclair High and we use like, Okay, where are where are the gaps? Right? What is it that students are saying that they don't do here, but we know they do here that we need to make sure that we reinforce. What, where are where are the holes, and we we have a very frank conversation with Montclair High about where our students need to be and where they actually are. And then we as best we can try to have eighth graders and we can't, I can't wait to bring us back. Our eighth-grade students go visit freshman, AVID classrooms, so they can see, we didn't have that happen this year. But that's why we did it for like three years in a row in the past before we left for COVID. And that's one of the things I'm looking forward to bring him back as well. So, we have a pretty good working relationship with AVID and I like the fact that Montclair High School trusts us that when we say that, here's our eighth graders that are ready for the program, boom, enroll them. And if that student has said yes, they get enrolled in right away, and then we usually that creates a lot more excitement from other eighth graders then who apply and have to go through the traditional interview and application process. So I I like it when Montclair High thinks of us as their pre AVID year, and it's like a fifth year AVID program six year after program from our seventh grade through their senior years of high school.


Kelli  47:10

While so you'll be happy to know that site team conferences back.


Sam  47:14

Yes, yes, I we get very, very helpful. I like our principal he is away from the site, and we get to pin him down together. Okay, here's what we're doing. We get your attention here. Perfect. And the second half of legacy question. First was about that culture. The second half that legacy question was students coming back? Whenever that student comes back, it's like Mr. Sagar, I had you for AVID. Or it's kind of like, what are you doing now? Oh, I'm at UC San Diego, or I'm back out east doing that. I'm like, dang. Awesome. I'm just applied for my master's program. That nothing, nothing makes me feel more prideful than having students come back and go, Yeah, it's like, we touched him. Yep. That's ours.


Kelli  48:03

And that, and that is that's, I think we all feel the same way that that's, that's really when you when you know, you know, when it clicks. When you think about, and I can't even imagine as middle school.


Stephanie  48:17

You don't usually get that same reward as the high school.


Sam  48:21

it usually takes them a little longer to get back to us. But they do. 


Kelli  48:23

Yeah. And just knowing that, you know, when kids send you their college graduation announcements, it's like all look at that. Gosh, I had a fight to get you there.


Sam  48:35

But they got there. That matters.


Stephanie  48:38

All right, so let's give our listeners your best piece of advice. To be successful and AVID, you need to do this one thing.


Sam  48:46

I'm gonna go with old standby that I said previously, act for students, I think for teachers, embrace the mess. And you know, don't be so caught up in it needing to be perfect or look great. You know what, get dirty, is going to be ugly. Make it happen, and then figure it out. afterwards.


Kelli  49:08

Embrace it, embrace the mess because it is it. And we've talked about we've had had that conversation a couple times on the podcast, just that we expect it to be perfect. And then when it isn't, it's like well, it doesn't work.


Sam  49:20

And I think that's an excuse for not to not act I can't make it perfect. So, I'm not going to do it. No, no, no, no, go do it. Embrace the mess. Get dirty, make the mistakes, and learn by doing. You want our students to learn by doing why don't we learn by doing?


Kelli  49:36

That's very true.


Stephanie  49:39

All right. Well, thank you, Sam. That's it for this episode of the RIMS AVID Roundtable. I'm Stephanie. And I'm Kelly. If you have questions, feedback on today's episode or an idea for a future show, please tweet us @rimsavid or email rimsavid@sbcss.net. We'd love to hear from you. And be sure to check out our website rimsavid.org For all the latest news and events.


Kelli  49:59

So, thanks again. And for hanging out with us today and sharing your AVID story, and thank you for really instilling that culture of high expectations for your kids on your campus because it is it is working. And it's working for kids and it's what's best for kids. So, we appreciate that and all your hard work. Thank all of you for listening. Don't forget to follow us in your favorite podcast app, so you don't miss a single episode. Join us again next time for more RIMS AVID roundtable, will save you a seat