RIMS AVID Roundtable

Tommy Stokes, AVID Program Specialist

April 10, 2024 Kelly Hogan-Flowers and Stephanie Downey
Tommy Stokes, AVID Program Specialist
RIMS AVID Roundtable
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RIMS AVID Roundtable
Tommy Stokes, AVID Program Specialist
Apr 10, 2024
Kelly Hogan-Flowers and Stephanie Downey

Our guest today is an incredibly popular and knowledgeable member of the RIMS AVID team. Tommy Stokes has known since sixth grade that he was going to be a teacher when Miss Finney taught him AVID stuff before there was even AVID. In seventh grade Mr. Fratt made him want to be a history teacher. And in 11th grade he met Mr. Tibbels, who helped shape him into the teacher who knew every student and their stories. He started teaching at Moreno Valley High School in 1998, where he was a baseball coach, an AVID teacher, and an AVID coordinator. 

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 an incredibly popular and knowledgeable member of the RIMS AVID team. Tommy Stokes has known since sixth grade that he was going to be a teacher when Miss Finney taught him AVID stuff before there was even AVID. In seventh grade Mr. Fratt made him want to be a history teacher. And in 11th grade he met Mr. Tibbels, who helped shape him into the teacher who knew every student and their stories. He started teaching at Moreno Valley High School in 1998, where he was a baseball coach, an AVID teacher, and an AVID coordinator. 

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


Stephanie  00:10

Hey, AVID family, this is Stephanie Downy.


Kelli  00:11

and I'm Kelly Hogan-Flowers from RIMS, AVID 


Stephanie  00:14

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 Rockstar. They will share their ideas, best practices, and strategies that they've learned along the way.


Kelli  00:32

Our guest today is an incredibly popular and knowledgeable member of the RIMS AVID team. Tommy Stokes has known since sixth grade that he was going to be a teacher when Miss Finney taught him AVID stuff before there was even AVID. In seventh grade Mr. Fratt made him want to be a history teacher. And in 11th grade he met Mr. Tibbels, who helped shape him into the teacher who knew every student and their stories. He started teaching at Moreno Valley High School in 1998, where he was a baseball coach, an AVID teacher, and an AVID coordinator. Under his leadership, Moreno Valley High School was named an AVID national demonstration school in 2009. In 2012, Tommy was named a riverside county Teacher of the Year, becoming the first educator in the history of Riverside County to be named both a county Coach of the Year and Teacher of the Year. Tommy has been married to Marysol the most patient woman alive for almost 26 years. They have three sons, Thomas, who's 25, Matthew is 21, and Luke who is 19. When he's not enjoying family, road trips, and baseball games are golfing and multiple tournaments. You will find him doing all things AVID. Welcome to the podcast, Tommy Stokes. 


Tommy  01:46

Thank you. 


Kelli  01:47

All right, Tommy. So we start off every episode with our intro question, just kind of a an icebreaker question. And it is, where did you go to school? And what do you have in common with your college mascot? Okay, so for example, I went to CSU, CSU F, and our mascot was the Titan. And so like a Titan. I'm a formidable opponent. I am strong and passionate and slow to anger. But once I'm mad, you already know forget about it. So where did you go? And what do you have in common with your college mascot?


Tommy  02:22

So I got my bachelor's degree at Cal State San Bernardino, go Yotes, and as a coyote. So coyotes are I mean, they're scavengers. Yeah, they're scrappy. You know, they're I think coyotes are very aware of their surroundings. And I would say that I'm very aware of my surroundings. And you know, I like to see what's going on all around me. So I would say that that would be my, my, my relationship to a coyote.


Kelli  03:08

And you'll fight somebody if you need to,


Tommy  03:09

 If I had to. Yes. 


Kelli  03:10

And work well as a team. I work


Tommy  03:13

in a pack. Yeah.


Stephanie  03:15

we need to add up how many yotes, we've had on the show so far? A lot. Pretty sure it's like, 80% of the people. So we're everywhere. Go Yotes. That's right.


Kelli  03:23

So Tommy, let's back up a little bit. And let's talk about your AVID journey. So we really want to know your AVID story, you know, how did it? How did it start? How did you become part of AVID? You're smiling already. So, you know, where did it start? 


Tommy  03:41

as you said, in the introduction, I was the head baseball coach, I coached for five years. And during the season of 2004, we found out we were pregnant with Luke, our third child within five years. And so I knew at that point, baseball, you know, coaching was was really becoming a year round job. And as we know, coaching doesn't put the food on the table. And so I made the difficult decision at that time to, you know, 2004 would be my last season, I had a good group of kids that year that were also graduating had 10 Seniors, many of them that I'm still friends with today. And I made the decision that I would resign as the baseball coach. And then a couple of weeks after that, the AVID coordinator came to me and said, Hey, since you're not coaching baseball anymore, why don't you teach AVID, I was like, Well, I'm given a baseball so I can spend more time at home. Oh, I have. There's not it's a class, you know, there's no beyond three o'clock. And so I said, Well, let me think about it. And then a week later, the coordinator came back to me and asked me what I thought I was like, I you know, I just don't know. And she said, Well, I pulled some of the seniors that I have in class, some of the seniors that you've had in economics and Why don't you just read through these and they gave me she gave me a stack of about a dozen student recommendations on who they thought would be be a good AVID teacher because AVID was starting to grow within the school and they needed to bring on more elective teachers. And I think 11 Out of the 12 of them listed me as a teacher and why. And so when I read the student testimonials on why they felt I would be a good AVID teacher, how can I turn that down? Right? And so I went home and I talked to Marisol about it. And I knew I had to go to this summer institute, which back in the day was was five days. So hey, you know, a week's paid vacation, right? to San Diego, why not? And that was back on. When on Wednesday, they had the luncheon and the student speakers. And the students speaker that year was a young lady who was caught her her trailer park out in eastern San Diego County was caught up in a wildfire. And she spoke about the only thing that she could think about getting was her her AVID binder. And so of course, I'm thinking okay, here's the used car salesman pitch, right. But then when she went through everything that was in that AVID binder from all of her usernames and passwords to the college apps, and to the FAFSA and all of that I drank the Kool Aid. Yeah, she she was like, I need to do this, you know, because I could see, when I looked at her I saw in my students I saw her right. And I know some of the environments that are in family situations that my students grew up in. And so that's when I drank the Kool Aid. And that first year, I taught one section of AVID nine. And then the following year, I had three sections of AVID nine. And then mid year is when I took over as AVID coordinator. I inherited the seniors mid year, they weren't very happy with me. There were some circumstances on what happened with the previous coordinator and the senior teacher and they loved her. And now they're coming into Mr. Stokes. And that was back in the day when finals occurred after Christmas break, we came back on a couple of weeks and then finals. And so that's when I took over at the end of January. And I'll never forget, my first day as an AVID coordinator and senior teacher, the old coordinator and senior teacher came in and dropped a stack of EOP applications. I was back in the day when we would do EOP by paper, and she's like, these are due Friday. And I'm like, what are those, like, I had no idea what I was doing. And if it wasn't for Phil being, you know, the counselor and really helping me and, you know, teaching me the methods of of the college application process, FAFSA process and the senior deadlines, really, in the next year and a half, it really took me a year and a half where I really felt like I knew what I was doing. So that was kind of kind of my journey. And then within a couple of years, you know, AVID continued to grow and Moreno Valley. And you know, I had three sections of seniors one section of freshmen, and then eventually, by the time I left in 2015, all four sections I taught were seniors.


Kelli  08:18

Wow. And, you know, kind of handy having your bestie be a counselor on campus. 


Tommy  08:25

It is yeah, Yeah. Not only, you know, not only my best friend, but two minds that think alike. You know, we have the same. We have the same mindset, we have the same dreams and aspirations for our students. Right. And so I if I had a dime for every time I was called Peoples or he was called Stokes, I would be retired by now because really, we, you know, we were two peas in a pod and in an a great, a great team working together for our students.


Stephanie  08:59

Oh, right. So we talked in your intro about you coming from a national demonstration school, and that's a big deal. Especially you're the first one in that district that had that. Can you tell us the process for becoming a demo what it takes to get there how you did it?


Tommy  09:17

Well, the funny part about it was my first year teaching AVID when we went through our certification meeting with our RIMS AVID coach at the time, Eileen potterton, rest in peace. She went through beyond certification at that time, there were a series of qualifications to be very similar to our site of distinction nowadays. And we didn't meet any of them. But she wanted us to go through them just to say here's, you know what we could do. And so as she was going through them, and she said, we're not there yet. And I said, Well, what about next year and she kind of laughed and said, Well, I don't know if you can get there that quickly. And I said she Oh, exactly. And that following year is when I took over as coordinator. So in the middle of the 05-06 school year, I took over as coordinator. And instantly, I accepted the challenge. And it was on my radar to become a national demonstration school and it wasn't for, you know, adding another feather in my cap, it was for the school. When I first started teaching in Moreno Valley High School, that first year in 98-99, there were only six kids that qualified to go to a four year college in the graduating class. And so the school was one of the lowest performing schools in Riverside County. And so luckily, I had a very strong team around me, my principal, Mrs. Maddix, my counselor, my best friend, Phillip Peoples. And I, we, we took the challenge, because if we became a national demonstration school, then we knew that we were doing what was best for kids. And so that was our path. And we worked hard. We worked hard with Wanda Schneider and Vivian Shaw with RIMS to do what needed to be done to become a Demonsaw demonstration school. And one example was one of the hiccups that we were facing is that we had no science classes that were honors or AP. And so that was a big deal. Deal Breaker. Yeah. And so when we went to the science department about it, they said, well, we don't have that. And this is the quote from the department chair are, our kids can't do AP science. And so that got back to some of our students. I don't know how they found out about it, but they did, and strategic planning. And one of our students, DAVID Shin, who was a sophomore at the time, and wanted to be a doctor, and knew that he needed honors and AP courses to get into his dream school of Stanford. He took it upon himself and got a group of students together. And they did a petition of over 40 students that wanted honors, and AP took it to the school board. And what do you know, the next year, we had honors and AP courses. And so again, those are, that's another reason to become a national national demonstration school is it gave the kids the agency to fight for themselves. So again, it wasn't just the fact we can hang a banner over the school, it was what was best for kids. 


Kelli  12:37



Stephanie  12:37

Great. So tell us about AVID through your lens, what does or should AVID school school wide look like?


Tommy  12:48

So AVID school wide, you know, naturally, you know, at a secondary, in the secondary schools, you've got your elective classes, you know, so I think that explains itself on on what it should look like. But as far as the school wide piece is just getting more and more teachers trained. And just using those AVID strategies, and I think a lot of times, our teachers, you know, they they stress when we're adding one more thing to their play. One more training, oh, my gosh, you know, we've been through so many trainings over my years, and it's something else. But really, our AVID strategies are just best first teaching practices. And so if our, if our teachers see that and believe that, then I think if they go to the training with an open mind and see that, then they're going, Hey, I'm already doing this, it's just called something different. And maybe, to advertise it, it just adds an extra layer to what I'm doing. But it's really not. It's not completely changing my teaching style. And then at the elementary level, of course, as we know, you know, it's, again, best first teaching practices that our teachers are already doing. And so it's happening all day, every day, when you know when you're in an elementary classroom, so shout out to my good friend and corona Norco who Dr. Greubel, who said, you know that AVID isn't adding something else to the plate? It is the plate. 


Stephanie  14:25

Yeah. Nice. 


Tommy  14:25

And so, you know, using that analogy, when I'm working with new teachers or nor new schools that are onboarding really seems to help.


Kelli  14:34

And I always say that wicker is just good teaching. It really is. It's just it's just good teaching. So Tommy, you talked about best practices. So can you share some best practices or strategies that you've either tried when you were teaching are seen? I mean, you've been in the game for a little bit. So something you know, something good that you've seen, that you could share with our listeners?


Tommy  14:58

Well, I mean, I think for tutorials the the idea behind the the different colors, the color system. So I ran across an article, right around the time we were becoming a demo school actually like in 08-09, I ran across an article that talked about 21st century learning and our students, and they're spending so much time on video games, and they're spending so much time on their phones, even though back then the phones weren't anywhere near what they are today. When I was growing up, video games had like four colors, right? And the video games in the 21st century, there were colors everywhere. And the article talked about how students can differentiate between between things based on colors. And then they talked a little bit about learning. And, you know, as they're taking notes, maybe using different colors. And so I just kind of took that article. And I added it to the tutorial process where we did our tutorials with four different colors on the board. And what's really cool now is that it's kind of blossomed to we and RIMS use it as a strategy across the board now with all of our schools to make a recommendation, because it really different differentiates the parts of the tutorial, my biggest reason for wanting to do it is I would always make my students number their steps within the work because we know that 99% of our tutorials are math or science, right? So I would always make them go back and mark their steps within the work well, when you're doing nothing but black marker. First of all, you already have a blob of black, right? Can't get rid of the the old streak marks. And then they've got all their writing on there. And then when they're going back in and numbering their steps, the steps looks like part of the map. There's already numbers and Right, right. And so that was the biggest reason why I really at minimum is due to colors, where the steps is that second color. But it went with that article in in the four different colors, you know, if our schools can, you know, budget wise afford, you know, four different color Expo markers, that's really the way to go. So I think that that's my favorite strategy. That, you know, based on this article, just kind of, you know, modified it to fit the tutorial model.


Stephanie  17:35

I remember start, obviously, I know you started that. But I remember doing that for the first time at Rancho verde because we weren't doing it at first. And so either our coach said it because they got it from you or for something else. And it was such it just I don't know, it just made everything so much easier as a teacher to to see where the kids were, what they were doing, where they just kind of running through it real fast and sitting down. And so I feel like that was just, I don't know, just one of the best things I feel like I added to that, once we heard about doing it, I think I use the exact same colors even that you were using. But um, so everywhere I go, because I think it's an easy thing for people, the kids will learn it fast. And a lot of them will even have it up on the board. So they remember what colors or what and there's an example. And so it's an easy refinement thing that I think makes a huge difference.


Tommy  18:17

And what's really funny as when I was introducing that to the kids, it was so much work to put a cap on the black and then take the cap off the blue. I mean, it was like, it was like I was asking him to run a marathon. But yet as soon as tutorials were done, they could use 16 Different colors to color on the board. You know, and so I was like, Well, wait a minute, if you could do that, and it was a couple of weeks. But once they got used to it, then, you know, it went really good. And I think that I'm glad that I discovered the article as we were kind of going through the demo process because all in man our tutorials weren't like, amazing at that time. And I think what really what really transformed our tutorials to being modeled tutorials for you know, worthy of a demo school was the colors and also the using of the tag activity, the tutorial Analysis Guide Yeah, that really because now my tutors could read this, first of all the students had to, you know, reflect upon why they have good grades and why they don't. So they are now reflecting upon themselves. And I have to admit why I have an F in such and such class. Whereas if the teacher is telling me hey, you need to do better, it's different. But then also my tutors would were part of that process. And so we were making sure that our students were in the appropriate groups that they needed to be in and that happened I discovered the tag at the same time. I don't remember who introduced that to me it was probably Wanda or Vivian but between the tag and the four colors at the same time, it really just notched our tutorials up not one notch but Many right where they were really rocking.


Kelli  20:03

That's you know, and that's continued. Because I, you know, Steph you coached Moreno Valley to didnt you. So we both coach Moreno Valley High School, or shall I say the the, Moreno Valley High School, and, and that still continues, you know, those tutorials, those strategies, they're still there. So you made your mark.


Stephanie  20:23

With Phil being principal over there now it's still in there fighting the good fight over there. Um, so we all know that I mean, as we've all obviously been first year AVID teachers at some point, and that's a really, I feel like that's always a very difficult thing. The first year is AVID teacher, I feel like it's sometimes harder than just being a first year teacher, because it's so different. You're learning, there's so many things to do. And you're just trying to figure out how this whole thing works. So what advice would you give to a first year AVID teacher?


Tommy  20:51

Well, thinking back to my first year, where at the end of summer institute, when I agreed to teach AVID nine, and I was brought three inch binder that had about six inches worth of papers, just all stuffed in and struggling and hanging out and said, Here's your year, figure it out, you know, there was no system. And so the weeks at a glance now that AVID offers is a phenomenal resource for first year teachers to really utilize and help them navigate through the year and figure out what's best for them and their students. So I would say that, I would say, take advantage of our NEATO. Yes, yeah. You know, our NEATO is a fantastic training that really helps our first year AVID teachers, because you go to summer institute, and you're you're taking level one implementing and as a facilitator for that it really is the fire hose effect, where we're just, we just open up that fire hose at full blast, and they're trying to take in as much as they can. But it's a lot. And then between Summer Institute and the starter school, they're thinking, Oh, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that, oh, that thing. And then school starts and other things happen and get in the way. And so neato really helps support our teachers throughout the year. And I think we've done a great job from originally neato was just offered twice a year, once in the fall, and once in the winter, and now we we have our series throughout the year, we're doing it in person and in virtual. So I think with the hybrid, it really helps and allows us an opportunity for the teachers just to, you know, touch in with us and make sure that if they have any questions or anything of that sort that they're they're doing good. And then the last thing I would say just ask for help at school, you know, unless you're a brand new AVID school, you've got someone there that has taught AVID, whether it's one year or 20 years, you can tap into those resources in that experience.


Kelli  23:03

So Tommy, you have a real passion for financial literacy. So can you tell us, you know, where does that come from? How does that affect your work? And then what is, you know, what's the most important piece of advice that you can give to, you know, to parents and to students about that, planning, and paying for college?


Tommy  23:26

So I think we're, it's kind of a two prong on where my passion started from growing up. I never knew about FAFSA. It was there, it existed. But my my high school counselor never told me about it. When I was in college, I never was informed about it. And it wasn't until my senior year in college, when a friend of mine asked, Hey, how much did you get in financial aid like, What are you talking about? She's like, Oh, I got you know, X amount of 1000s of dollars. I don't know what that is. And so I found out about it, I filled it out. And lo and behold, I got some money. I got some grant money to help pay for college, but then I also got a loan opportunity and I honestly really didn't need the loan. But to pay for college, I deliver pizzas $4.40 An hour and counting on those tips. Couldn't really save a whole lot of money for an engagement ring. So the story I always tell is my only college loan I took out was to buy Marisol's engagement. So you know, so she got something better than what she would have gotten, which would have been something from her crackerjack box based off of my salary. So


Kelli  24:42

money well spent, I'd say it was worth it.


Tommy  24:45

So that's the first prong of but the really the second one was my my second or third year on this job. I was at Home gardens Academy which is a K-8 school in Corona Norco, and I was in the middle school, observing a tutorial and There was this young man he was he was just, he was just a cool dude. He was very articulate for seventh grade. You know, a lot of times those middle school kids, you know, when a stranger's and you know, they're a little shy this guy was, was not that he was, you know, very articulate, I was talking to him. Hey, what do you want to be when you grew up all Mr. I want to be a doctor. I said, Oh, that's great. Where are you? Where do you want to go to college? Oh, Mr. I can't go to college. I said, you know, you got to go to college, to be a doctor. Mr. my, my parents say we can't afford it. So what do you mean, you can't afford it, you're in seventh grade, you have plenty of time to scholarships. And I thought about it on the drive home, like, here's a seventh grade young man whose parents unfortunately didn't know the system. And that's what's so great about AVID. That's why we're here to support those first generation college students. And because their parents didn't know they were teaching him, we can't afford it. So that door was slammed in seventh grade. And who knows what path or whose path you would across right High School, hopefully, someone would have redirected them. But at that time, I took it on, you know, that I need to, I need to teach our parents about financial literacy and financial aid and what's out there. And the scary number is that, you know, in the last couple of years, there's been between three and $4 billion of free financial aid not claimed by our students. And there's various reasons FAFSA wasn't completed correctly, names don't match social security numbers student didn't turn in a verification form to the college. They qualified and then wind up not going through summer melt. I mean, there's a multitude of reasons, but that's a lot of money. It is. And so I did I did a presentation, I put a presentation together with a lot. It's all research based and and, you know, just on what all is out there for our students. And so I share it with as many people as I can you guys all have it to share with your schools. I share it with our coordinators to share it parent nights, and I've even now started going to some of the back to school nights and sharing with parents because if I can just get one more family to know what's out there, then, you know, we're slowly making progress.


Kelli  27:31

Making a difference. Yeah, one kid at a time, right?


Stephanie  27:34

So in a perfect world, what would TK-12 AVID look like? Like that system of TK-12? You know, in a district? Like how? How would that work? What would you see if you're walking into places you're like, Okay, this is like a Model TK-12 system. 


Tommy  27:49

You know, we actually started implementing a dream, TK 12 model in Corona Norco this year, and we came across a few hiccups. And mainly what we wanted to do is we wanted to create a system of common markings. So that little four year old Johnny, whatever he's circling or underlining in a story 12th grade Susie is circling or underlining for the same reason. And the hiccup that we discovered was that the benchmark books and some of the books that the schools use, they have their own system of markings already identified within the book. So once we discovered that we're like, okay, fine, but what what can we agree on? Are there three things that we can agree on? So we've been working on that? For two years now, we've been working on TK 12 collaborations. So all 30 schools are together with their principal, and we're doing a multitude of things, we're looking at data, we're looking at field trips, how can we norm field trips, so that if elementary school and middle school and high school are all going to Cal State San Bernardino, I could see Cal State San Bernardino, you know, three times but never see CSU Fullerton, right. So working on that we're working on budgets, you know, we do all kinds of just great, valuable work behind the scenes, that's taking place, but then within the schools and within the classrooms. It's just seeing that the training of the teachers and the strategies that they've learned and the resources that they can tap into are being utilized.


Kelli  29:40

So much, it's like, a lot to take in. And there's a lot to take in. ,


Stephanie  29:44

Well I think too with that. I mean, it takes a district to be ready to do that as well like a deal that's going to support that principles that are supporting that because it's so much work like so there's a lot of things that go into that there's a lot of all the people to help with those moving parts. It can just be the to coach you can't just be a coordinator. Correct? You know.


Tommy  30:02

You're looking at, you're looking at budget, because we got to pay for subs, we're looking at subs, we know right now there's a huge sub shortage. And so we're fortunate that we can pick days where there's a large sub pool. So we lock in and we freeze those 35 subs for that particular day, finding space, right? You got to find space where you can host 65 to 80 people. And so there's a lot of moving parts. But you're right, it really it starts from the top. And if you've got the district in the in the DL that's supporting this, then it's very easy, then you know, where the pieces fall into place for those schools to believe in it. And you have to you have to, you have to get the schools to believe in to, you know, am I giving up three days of my year, just to come together and meet for meeting sake, are we really doing valuable work, and I feel in the two years in the six collaborations that we've had in Corona Norco. We've done a lot of really good work.


Kelli  31:06

So speaking of your good works, so if you're looking back over your AVID career that is not done yet, so don't get any ideas. But looking back over that AVID career, if you're thinking about a favorite, AVID success story, or AVID memory, just what what stands out for you is one of your you know, if you had to give you your one AVID story, or your one AVID success, students success, what would you what would you choose?


Tommy  31:32

 Well, if I started talking about students, we'd be here all day. So I really, I really have two. One is, you know, the the all male class in 2008, everything kind of happened around 2008- 2009, ironically, but in the summer of 2008, we were done at Summer Institute. And we were planning for the year and I had my senior list to be and I had 84 seniors that following year, and 67 of them were girls. So 17 Boys, I was like what what is happening with our boys. So we started talking about, you know, when we need more male teachers, we need more male tutors that are role models, etc, etc. And I jokingly threw out there to Mrs. Maddix. Our principal, well, why can I just do an all male class thinking there's, you can't do that, right? And she's like, Well, why can't you? I said, Are we allowed to she's like, Yeah, you're allowed to do something like that, as long as there's another option. So if you only had one, AVID nine, all male, and there was nowhere else for them to go, you can't do it. But but because we had four or five different sections. And they could go to, you know, not be in it. We can do it. So Phil and I were like, Whoa, and we ran with it. And we went looked at all the freshmen and we started picking you know, we didn't have we couldn't recruit because it was literally like three weeks before school started. So we went to the the AVID nine to be male. And we just started looking at, you know, test scores, and free and reduced lunch rates, et cetera, et cetera, to try to find a group of kids that we felt that needed to be in there. And I taught it. And I really taught it, like, like, I coached I taught, I taught it like they were a team. And I put I put more responsibility on them. But what I could do in that classroom that I could never do in a in a mixed gender classroom is I could talk to them like, like a dude. Yeah, you know, but I could also if they were dropping the ball, I could call them out. And that's not something you can do with ninth grade boys in front of girls. Because you're going to lose them, you're going to lose them not only that day, but forever. And so we took that, that first that first class was phenomenal. We recruited for that class, you know, the AVID nine class all male, from there on in and in the in from 2008 to 2015. When I left, every boy that signed up stayed in that class except one. And the only reason why that young man left is because he wanted to be in ROTC. And we didn't we couldn't do both right, as a as a ninth grader, so and then seeing that happen throughout our region and even throughout the country. Now I know there's some schools that have done it. It's like, really cool to know that Moreno Valley High School was the first and and then the other thing that just popped in my mind when you asked me that question. Probably my favorite story of all time was the great prank of 2012 when we we pranked our kids on the junior road trip. And you know, they thought their luggage had gotten stolen and we had we were at UC. We were at UC Santa Cruz. No. We were at This might need to be edited. Trying to we weren't at Santa Cruz. We're at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. We're at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. So the prank of 2012 We were at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. And we got the campus police involved with her blinking lights and the bus driver involved with the open bay and we we went on the tour and a couple of teachers snuck away and took out the luggage. And then Phil and I had it all worked out where, you know, he pretended like he got a call in. And something happened to the bus and he went and left and the kids were all panic, like what happened to the bus, you know? And we made it look like the luggage was stolen. And so I'll never forget. Rhea crying because her she thought her jeans got stolen. She had just bought brand new jeans in San Francisco, so she thought they got stolen. DAVID Herrera using every cuss word up and down, because he thought his bag had gotten stolen. I pretend to like my stuff had gotten stolen to really add to it. And we had a camera we were like snapping pictures. And so I have all the kids reactions and the look on their faces when they realized they were pranked was just priceless. And every year when it comes up on my Facebook memories, just like oh man, this was the best. And when I read I read speaking of Rhea, Rhea and my oldest son ran into each other at a restaurant. And that was a first thing they talked about, your dad pranked me. Yeah, it was. That was great. And they do talk about that anytime I you know, run into those kids. And they say, Oh, you had Mr. Stokes. Oh, he's he pranked us so bad one time, legendary,


Stephanie  36:11

with the all male class to like, there's a bunch of a few schools with Moreno Valley that are still doing that, like they're doing that now. Because you guys started that we started Ranch have already started doing that. And so I feel like you doing and I Oh, whenever you talk to those kids, too, there is a difference in how those classes and those kids feel. And like building them up and getting them to stay in. And so I feel like that's just a great, I don't know, I love when I see those classes, and then they're running smoothly. Because the kids there's that connection, you know, where they just love. I think at REV two, there's one a teacher, they do it there. And he's just brand new teacher and they're the kids, they made T shirts of his face. They just like, Oh, love him. And he's just they've built that family there. And those boys need that, right. And so they have that place to be where they can be themselves. But they can also be called out when they need to be called out. And they help kind of build them up, you know, to be who they need to be. And so I think it's great that that's still happening in places. ,


Tommy  37:46

Well the funny thing is, other than that first year, like I said, the following years they were recruited, so they knew what they were signing up for. But of course, the first week, they're like, Wait, where are the girls? Wait, why am I in here? They're, they're mad about it, but then they get over, they get over it. Then at the end of the year, can we do this again next year? Right? You know, and they wanted to stay together the next year. And we didn't do that because at that time I felt hopefully I you know, ingrained in them what I wanted, you know, I wanted them to open the door for anybody, not just the lady but for anybody. I wanted them to learn how to tie a tie, you know, those are all the things that we write we did. And so then after that I wanted them to go out and just be mainstreamed, you know, and hopefully take what they learned, you know, as ninth graders in that class and then infused it, you know, and spread the love, you know, across their their next three years of AVID


Stephanie  38:43

so when you were in school, would you have been an AVID student? And how would that have made a difference for you?


Tommy  38:49

Absolutely. 100%. So my dad was a high school dropout. He was a truck driver his whole life. My mom graduated high school and was planning on going to nursing school. And then she had a knee injury that kept her from doing that. And then she met my dad her her girlfriend, best friend was back east she went back east to visit her met my dad and six weeks later they were married. And so that kind of pushed the nursing school piece off on you know, off. And so you know, growing up I I didn't you know, really know economically, you know what was happening, but really we were living paycheck to paycheck and my mom and dad did everything they could to provide for us. And equally you know if if my sister got $98.65 of Christmas gifts, I got $90.65 I mean they were really meticulous on making sure that we were treated equally. We both had cars before we were 16 So, I mean, they did everything that they could economically for us, but I was a first generation college student, my parents didn't know the process that it took, you know, to go into college. And even though I was a high performing student in regard to grades, Tina always makes fun of me. I in high school, I just wasn't challenged. And so I didn't, I didn't like going to school, because I was bored, right. And so, every couple of weeks, I got a tummy ache Mom, I need to stay home, you know, because I just the only reason why I went to school as often as I did is because of, you know, being on the baseball team, and you know, being in yearbook, junior and senior years. So I think AVID would have been that connection, besides the baseball team, but I knew but for baseball, I really didn't need to be to school until three o'clock for practice. So what about from eight to three? AVID would have been that connection. I shared the story all the time. I was at Ramona High School, when Wanda brought AVID out of San Diego to be the very first school. And I remember the announcements, hey, do you want to go to college? Are you the first in your family and I went to the meeting. And sweet little one that told me I couldn't because she was starting with just freshman grassroots. I was a junior. So I couldn't be in in the program. But I remember that. And I have video I have a we did a video yearbook my junior year. And there's video of Wanda and a couple of the girls doing a rap about AVID. You know, so I was there. When it started. I just wasn't a part of it. But I think as I shared, my counselor didn't really teach me about FAFSA. Being an AVID would have definitely helped me through that, that process to see and also maybe see what else was out there. Like I was so blinded about colleges outside of the Inland Empire. out of high school, I was offered one scholarship to play baseball at Portland State, but leaving the Inland Empire like I couldn't leave mommy and daddy, right. But had I been an AVID and had I gone on all these field trips. And had I gone on the road trip to see what was out there. Maybe I would have, you know, taken that, you know that scholarship and gone up to Oregon. But here we are. And glad about that. Yeah, who knows what path would happen after that.


Kelli  42:41

So let's talk about your AVID legacy. So let's say again, hypothetically, that you retire tomorrow, and we're having the banquet and your former students and your former colleagues come? What would it what is it that you would like them to say about you about your AVID legacy? Right,


Tommy  43:02

I think my students, you know, I believed in every single one of them. You know, I believe that every single one of them had an opportunity to do whatever they wanted to do. And I hope that you talked a little bit earlier in the intro about Mr. Tibbels. You know, John, John and I are still friends today. And he still and I, I think I'm the same way we know our kids. You know, we're out at Costco, we run into a kid from 2005. And I'm like, Hey, I remember, you know, Sammy, you sat next to Susie and you know, and I wanted to know, my kids, I wanted to know my kids stories. And I think that that is what helped this. If I believed in the students, the students believed in me, and I think it was a partnership that really helped our, you know, I talked about how my first year teaching only six students qualified to go to a four year college. And when I left there in 2015, it was over 250 Seniors, you know, so I think that the students believed in us as the AVID team and the counselors and the administrators because we believed in them, right. And so that partnership really helped propel our students to go to Harvard to go to brown to go in the US Air Force Academy, I mean, schools that most of our students had never sniffed an application, let alone get accepted and go there.


Kelli  44:39

S o just changing what was on the radar for changing


Tommy  44:42

changing their, their lives changing. I think not only changing the students lives, but really generationally. Like I'm thinking of, you know, one family right now. You know, the Garcia girls, you know, with Anie and and Jasmine and Emily, all first generation college students and seeing what they're doing after graduating from college in in, that's going to change. There's their their kids, you know, and it already is teaching and already has two kids. And so hopefully those kids are going to see what mommy and the and the aunt's doing and want to you know, follow in those footsteps, changes families, but it also changes communities. It really does.


Stephanie  45:35

So finish the sentence because of AVID


Tommy  45:41

because of AVID, I am a better educator. 


Stephanie  45:46

I love it.


Kelli  45:48

That's just good. And right there. Period. Yeah.


Tommy  45:51

I share this all the time that I knew I wanted to teach since sixth grade. And then as I got older and playing baseball, and then I started coaching, in high school, I was 17 and already coaching softball. And really from 17 to 32. I coached high school sports 15 years. Before AVID it was I wanted once I figured out I liked I enjoyed coaching, I it was almost like I'm teaching because I want to coach even though I knew like I said earlier, teaching is what put the food on the table. But I have to teach so that I could coach. And then it wasn't once I started doing AVID it was like, that's where I really think I found my niche as an educator. And I love my coaching time, but I don't I get asked all the time if I miss it if I regret not coaching anymore. When I talked to my guys, you know, that played for me. And I'm like, I I haven't missed it for one day since I since I stopped coaching. And I think it's because of AVID,


Kelli  46:59

AVID is coaching. Really?


Tommy  47:03

Yeah, it is, but I'm impacting so many more. So many more kids. You know, in baseball, I just had my 40 guys on my three teams. And I mean, we're, we're impacting tens of thousands of kids a day, you know, in our region.


Kelli  47:22

Which is kind of mind boggling. Alright, Tommy last question. We want to hear your best piece of advice. So to be successful and AVID, you need to do this one thing, what is the one thing the one piece of advice just to be the best?


Tommy  47:39

Student or teacher?  You choose.  Okay, say it again, 


Kelli  47:45

Your best piece of advice. So what's the one thing that someone would need to be successful in AVID and you can do a teacher you can do it administrator


Tommy  47:54

in any role, I would say just believe the system. I mean, it's been around for 40 plus years, it works. AVID is not a fly by night. You know, we have a lot of things in education that come and go. And AVID is here. So just believe in the system. So whether you're an administrator or teacher, believe in your training. You know, if you're a student I know it's hard for you to understand that what we're teaching you in seventh grade is going to help you in 12th grade is going to help you in college and or career. But, but it is so just believe in the system. And I think that everyone will be successful. 


Kelli  48:42

Awesome! Trust the process, trust the process.


Stephanie  48:47

Well, thank you Tommy. And 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 for email RIMSAVID@sbcss.net we'd love to hear from you. Please be sure to check out our website RIMSAVID.org For all the latest news and events.


Kelli  49:08

Thank you Tommy for coming in today and sharing your AVID excellence. You are such an important part of the RIMS AVID family and we appreciate you ever so much. And thanks to all of you for listening. Don't forget to follow us on 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!