Belmont secondary teachers Paul Bendall

EDUCATION FEATURE: Teachers teaching teachers

Belmont secondary pair take their enthusiasm for unique post-secondary prep program to the U.S.

Two Langford educators are heading south this summer to teach teachers how to help students better prepare for post-secondary studies.

John Froess and Paul Bendall, teachers at Belmont secondary, have been involved with the Advancement Via Individual Determination education system since 2008 and will instruct other educators in the techniques in California.

The program targets middle-of-the-pack students who are not struggling to pass, but may need help reaching a level that increases their chances of being accepted into university or college programs.

“These (are students) who have the skills, have the ability, they just need the extra structure, force and push to get them out there,” Froess said. “That’s the whole premise, building successful paths for these kids to get them ready for university or college.”

“We take students who have college desire, college dreams, college potential, but lack the organizational skills, the writing skills,” Bendall added.

The program was developed in San Diego in 1980 and has expanded worldwide, with programs across the U.S., in Canada and Australia.

In British Columbia there are 10 districts and 17 schools involved, including Belmont.

The specific AVID class Bendall teaches is an elective and focuses on such skills as note taking, time management and materials organization. It also emphasizes critical reading and analytical writing.

Froess, an English teacher, is among those who apply AVID techniques to the regular classroom, using team-building strategies or teaching organization to help all students, regardless of their level. About one-third of Belmont’s teachers have received AVID training.

Sooke School District has offered the program since 2005, with Dunsmuir and Spencer middle schools are also now on board.

Froess and Bendall started teaching the material in 2006 and two years later began instructing other teachers in AVID. Today they are two of only three Canadian educators who do the annual instructional sessions down south.

“They like us. They think we talk funny, but they like us,” Froess said of their American counterparts.

The two teachers see the results of the program in their own students, who find confidence and the skills they need to succeed. Many have gone on to post-secondary education, and those who complete the course achieve provincial exam marks two or three per cent higher than the school average.

Part of the success comes from the support network the program builds. Students who stick with the AVID classes stay together at least three years – longer if they started in middle school – and many find a sense of belonging.

“We build a peer group. They don’t come to it that way, but we build it,” Bendall said. “A family environment, that’s the one I get the most feedback on. They are comfortable, they’re not afraid to take risks, they’re not afraid to try new things.”

The results are also rewarding for the instructors, who see change in the students as they work their way through the program.

As well, they enjoy meeting other teachers with a similar approach to education.

“I absolutely love being in a place where we are all rowing in the same direction for kids,” Bendall said. “We’re all together and we all have the best interests of our kids at heart.”

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