The following article appeared in the Arizona Daily Star, on Monday, August 24th, as an opinion piece by TVHS Principal, Amy Cislak. We are very excited about the energy and enthusiasm Ms. Cislak brings to our Tanque Verde High School community, and the great strides she is already making toward the design of our new, work-force aligned, high school academy model.
As Principal Cislak states in her op-ed, “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to serving our students during the Coronavirus pandemic. It requires an 'all of the above' solution! At Tanque Verde High, we are facing the now and preparing for the future.”
Amy Cislak, Special to the Arizona Daily Star, Monday, 24 August 2020
We are in unprecedented and unpredictable times never thought imaginable. Yet even during this uncertainty, I remain optimistic about the future and the school year ahead. I am hopeful for a variety of reasons, but chief among them are the innovative, dynamic, and driven education leaders across the state and especially at Tanque Verde High.
Students cannot afford to have a subpar education this year but we must also prioritize their health, social and emotional well-being.
The same goes for our teachers. Our teachers deserve safe and productive working environments to focus on the needs of our students. These are not mutually exclusive goals. At Tanque Verde, we are focusing on an all-inclusive educational approach. Instead of 'winging it' and asking teachers to double the work for themselves and kids, we purchased an online curriculum this year that is rigorous and aligned to state standards. We found what works and we are training our teachers rather than reinventing the wheel. We are also prioritizing flexibility. We will return to in-person instruction when we can, but are confident that we will meet student learning expectations for all students with no learning gaps for when students return to our physical locations.
Not only have we adapted to our current circumstances, but we have also planned for when students return in person. Students will follow a full block schedule that allows for them to be exposed to half of their peers in a normal day and other safeguards like handwashing stations at every door as well as reduced passing periods that eliminate opportunities for gathering in large groups. Students who choose not to return to the classroom right away or this school year can stay online and stay connected with peers and teachers.
Outside of a normal school day, we must think about what we are asking our teachers to do. To protect teacher time, some part of the day is dedicated solely to teacher planning and collaboration. Taking these steps will allow us to support, energize and develop our teachers to be the most successful with students. With our development plans and teacher flexibility, teachers won't feel pressured to learn how to be an online teacher in the spur of a moment. We need our teachers to be supported and valued.
At Tanque Verde, we know it is important to focus on the whole student. We need to provide support during these difficult times. That is why we are instituting an advisory period focused on social and emotional skills, like mindfulness, planning for the future, and managing any lingering anxiety due to COVID-19. This time will support school culture, school spirit, and college and career planning.
We are using this opportunity to think ahead to the future. We are working with partners to provide engaging professional development on how to maximize block schedules while keeping students safe and increasing the rigor and relevance of our existing classes.
Just because things are hard right now doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for excellence.
We are also taking advantage of this time to strategically plan for the 2021-2022 school year to entirely redesign our campus into a workforce-aligned academy model by engaging industry, our community and higher education partners. We also won't stop expanding our reach and are building additional square footage that will support more students while keeping small class sizes and students socially distanced as needed.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to serving our students during the Coronavirus pandemic. It requires an 'all of the above' solution! At Tanque Verde High, we are facing the now and preparing for the future.
Amy Cislak is the principal of Tanque Verde High School.