Expect More Tehama – Raising Hope
Education is a natural part of a community’s landscape. We typically count on 180 days of backpacks and homework, field trips, and friendships, year in and year out. But education is more than what happens in school, and each community influences education, and the existing cultural attitude about learning.
In 2009, a small group met for coffee in Red Bluff and wondered why more students weren’t going on to college. They began to ask students, “Why did you go to college?” The answer was almost always, “Because it was expected.” They asked adults, “Why aren’t more students going to college?” The answer was almost always, “Because it just isn’t expected.” An expectation is a hope, and the group saw this as an opportunity to raise hope and see both students and the community benefit. Expect More Tehama was born.
The local movement asks Tehama County to become engaged and excited about education, to value learning and to understand what the future looks like for our students. It aims to ensure that all students leave high school prepared to have options to attend the military, trade and vocational school, community college, apprenticeships, or a university. That preparation includes both solid academics, positive relationships with adults, and becoming familiar and comfortable with the very concept of higher education. It maintains that it is not the sole responsibility of our education system to teach and mentor our students. We all have a role to play.
Rural areas generally have a lower percentage of residents with higher education. One of the most telling indicators of whether or not someone will attend college is simply their zip code. The closer you live to a college or university, the more likely you are to attend. With the loss of a major portion of the forest products industry during the 80’s and 90’s, and with the related disappearance of so many well-paying jobs, the north state has struggled to build a better skilled workforce. Higher education brings benefits to the individual and the community including less poverty, crime and health issues and increased business vitality and innovation. Now, more than ever, we need all students and residents prepared, not just in Tehama County, but the entire region.
Expect More Tehama realized there were many wonderful programs in place, but often without adequate marketing or resources. Many segments of the community were isolated from each other. Here was a great opportunity to convene stakeholders and initiate some meaningful conversation. An annual summit provides that forum. At each gathering, the underlying question continues to be, “What can we do or put in place that will raise expectations and support youth in continuing their education and skills beyond high school?” Each forum includes education, business, government, faith based, service type organizations and more.
“The summits allow us to tap into a powerful collective brain trust,” said Kate Grissom, Director of Marketing at Rolling Hills Casino, an Expect More Leadership member and a parent. “The discussion and ideas fuel the energy and purpose that’s been created.”
Expect More Tehama is made up of passionate volunteers whose main role is to connect, convene and coordinate ideas and resources. When more people know the amazing things going on, it fuels increased involvement, support and excitement.
One goal has always been to make the map to college simple and clear for students and parents. Expect More Tehama was able to combine local resources to bring a single CollegeOPTIONS advisor to Tehama County. CollegeOPTIONS, based in Shasta County, helps students and parents figure out their individual plan for college. Are students taking the right classes? Exploring options? Visiting campuses? Signing up for scholarships and making deadlines? Today they have a director and staff in Tehama County and provide support at middle and high schools.
“We first brought CollegeOPTIONS to Tehama County to show eighth graders how choosing the right classes in high school provides them options after graduation,” said Grissom, “Today, they support the high school counsellors, arrange trips and events and help make sense of getting to college, whether it’s the financial ins and outs or the academics.”
Today, many schools have also adopted a No Excuses University model that builds a college culture at school. Mrs. Pooler’s fourth grade class at Lassen View School proudly hangs their Chico State Flag outside their classroom every day, and on Friday’s the students wear their Chico State shirts. Whether or not they all choose to go to college, the students will at least understand the concept and possibly see themselves as a future college student. Every class at the school has adopted a college, including the front office (UCLA) and the Bus Building (UC Davis).
Over time, efforts have also focused on younger students. Expect More Tehama launched Tehama Reads, a school readiness and literacy initiative to champion reading proficiency as a community and moral responsibility. This initiative was in response to the release of a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that linked third grade reading proficiency with the probability of future drop-out rates, incarceration and poverty. The effort has included community bookshelves that encourage children to take books home; summer book mobiles delivering books to outlying areas; a connection with the libraries and education that provides a summer reading and incentive program and free book giveaways at Enjoy Movies in the Park and Red Bluff Farmer’s Market.
Technology is also a priority, and Expect More offered 11 mini-grants to teachers who attended a series of technology workshops this year. To be considered for the grants, teachers had to explain the technology they were requesting, how they planned to use it, and how they would share that knowledge with other teachers. Jon Jones, a teacher at Red Bluff High School, received an iPad to allow him to use Educreations, a content creation and delivery tool.
”In addition to giving me access to a new technology platform to create content, the grant allowed me to explore the exploding area of “app” based student content,” said Jones. “And I use technology in a greater way to monitor student progress and perform common classroom management tasks.”
Whether it’s career exploration, developing leadership skills, applying new technology, promoting literacy or reminding residents that they have talents to share with youth, Expect More Tehama celebrates and champions hope in Tehama County. Understanding and fostering the value of learning, education and engagement is at the heart of that hope.
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“In September, our school applauds the achievements of our students at a STAR celebration. Since I am an eighth grade teacher, several of my former students will return from high school to attend this special event. One year, a freshman high school student who had been challenged by my classes at Lassen View School sat down next to me. I could tell that he wanted to say something so I asked him about his high school classes. He looked at me and said, “You know, Ms. Orange, in seventh grade we all thought you were the meanest teacher ever! Then in eighth grade, we began to realize that you were not mean; you really cared about our education. Now when I sit in my high school classes, I look around and see some of my classmates struggling. You taught me that if I did my homework and tried my hardest, I could learn anything. Now, I appreciate you.”
Debbie Orange has a lot of confidence in the abilities of her students. She expects great things from them, so that they can in turn expect great things from themselves. It is this dedication and belief that all students can learn and thrive that earned her the honor of being feature teacher for the month of January 2012. “As a teacher, you must accept that at any given moment, you will have a student who does not like you, one that accepts your challenges and others who appreciate your efforts…” These are the words of wisdom that Debbie Orange offers fellow teachers. School Superintendent, Mancill Tiss, recommended her for the award, saying, “Debbie is an excellent teacher who has taught at Lassen View for 17 years.”
Orange’s students’ test scores have gone up every year in both science and algebra, which is a significant factor in determining who will receive the feature teacher award each month. “While we are pleased with the scores and know that Debbie is always improving, we know that Debbie is also very concerned about the well-being of each of her students and wants them to succeed in high school and beyond. We feel fortunate to have Debbie and feel that she is very deserving of this award,” added Tiss.
The feature teacher award is presented monthly by Tehama County Superintendent of Schools Larry Champion and Edward Jones Financial Advisor Tyler Smail, with the purpose of recognizing highly successful and talented teachers in Tehama County.
“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul…”
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Every day, teachers make choices and decisions that affect their students – both directly and indirectly. “When you become a teacher, you have accepted the responsibility for teaching every child. School should always be about what is best for the students, period.”
Connie Holland, Teacher at Bidwell School lives by those words each and every day; it’s that dedication that helps her students thrive and also what has earned her the honor of the Feature Teacher award.
Holland has been teaching for 15 years now and says that she does it because she wants to have a direct impact on shaping future generations. She runs the Learning Center at Bidwell School, which serves about 300 students daily in what she calls “targeted, small groups.”
“Mrs. Connie Holland is one of the most impassioned teachers I have experienced in the eighteen years I have been in education,” said school Principal Isaac Scharaga. “She works tirelessly to better the lives of all of the children who attend Bidwell Elementary School, and volunteers for many different functions and projects that are student centered in our community. She understands that through support to children and families, very high levels of expectations can be met, and the results of the children she works with speak for themselves.”
Holland credits her successes to the dedication of the entire Bidwell team, saying “Everyone here contributes to the great work of the Learning Center in some way.”
“Connie Holland is a resourceful, intelligent, creative, and caring individual who believes and lives her life in benefit to others. The example she sets is one that all of us should live by,” added Scharaga.
The feature teacher award is presented monthly by County Superintendent of Schools Larry Champion and Edward Jones Financial Advisor Tyler Smail, with the purpose of recognizing highly successful and talented teachers in Tehama County.
Scott Chandler has an eye for design. As a marketing manager at Rolling Hills Casino, he’s always thinking of the best way to attract people to his employer.
Through his work at Rolling Hills, Scott has been part of Expect More Tehama since the beginning. “Being involved with Expect More, I started looking for ways to interact with students,” he says.
The perfect situation presented itself when he noticed a framed print of last year’s winning poster for the Corning Wine, Food and Art Festival while walking the hall at his office. It was a remarkable student effort and was indeed a winner. He wondered if a few lessons in the elements of effective design would help the high school students who enter the poster design contest develop even better work.
He called Corning High School and found teacher Christine Lee, who was delighted to weave Scott into the lesson plans of her design class. “With a simple phone call we started this process that ended up a huge wave of satisfaction for all of us,” he says.
Scott and Christine developed a schedule that allowed Scott to visit the classroom and teach from his experiences in the world of design and marketing.
He started with the basics. “They got a good look at what good and bad design really look like,” he said. “The goal of good design is to sell something– a service or a product or an idea. The goal is not art.”
With this in mind, he worked with Christine to guide the students through development of 2012 Corning Wine, Food and Art show posters. Making multiple return visits to the classroom, he offered critiques and small presentations to help the students relate to this real-world opportunity. When the projects were finalized, he taught students how to present them professionally for judging.
The Corning Rotarians who sponsor the show and judged the entries were impressed by the quality of the student work. There was a tie for first place. The team effort of students Oscar Avila and Jorge Bobadilla was chosen as the ultimate winner. Their design will be reproduced and used on all marketing materials for the event.
“This whole thing started because of Expect More Tehama. I saw all these people doing things and I wanted to get involved. This particular project makes it personal for me,” says Scott.
While the 2012 poster project has come to an end, the collaboration with the classroom has not. Rolling Hills has purchased a year’s subscription to Communication Arts magazine, an industry standard, to keep the students updated on the field. Cooperation between Corning High and Rolling Hills is also helping the classroom upgrade their design software to Illustrator. Christine Lee plans to take design courses over the summer to refresh her own skills.
“I hope to expand my involvement,” says Scott. “I am so grateful to find something that applies my experience to the next generation. It feels good.”
Expect More Tehama encourages more people to take Scott’s lead by finding meaningful ways to extend their personal experiences and passions to the educational experience of young people.