By Jessica Esparza, Jonathan Garvin, Eliza Insley and Kai Lock
Summit Preparatory Charter High School is known for having a great sense of community, so we decided to find out how teachers keep the feeling of unity throughout their community.
One example of the way our school shows our community’s power and devotion to our school is School Beautification Day. Summit Prep students, parents and faculty come together to clean and decorate the school to better our learning environment. It helps build the community and creates bonds between students and teachers.
The teachers shared their varying experiences with Summit Prep’s system and how they try and positively affect their community beyond just special events.
Teachers at Summit Prep always try and stay a part of the school’s community and try to impact it in the most positive ways. Cady Ching, Summit Prep assistant director, talked to us about how she positively impacted Summit’s community. “ I just try to be ever-present, everywhere all the time so that people can find me if they need to talk to
me, and I like to lead by example – instead of always telling people to pick up trash, I just clean, so that when they see me cleaning they think, oh I should clean too.” She explains how leading by example can lead to a chain reaction of favorable actions. Ms. Ching said that by cleaning our school we can instill pride about our school and by encouraging others to participate in cleaning our school we can keep feeling proud about our school.
Ms. Ching, also talked about what she thought the hardest part about being a teacher was. “The most challenging part, you know, this is a charter school that works very, very hard to make sure you guys have access to all the opportunities you want to have in your life, so we wear a lot of different hats, meaning we do a lot of different things every single day to make sure that you have those opportunities.” She faces a new challenge every day, making her job not as easy as it looks. Ms. Ching stated, “I am a college counselor; I do discipline and I do all recruitment with all the shadow ambassadors and open houses.”
Though her job comes with a lot of difficulties, the joys of being a teacher make up for her hard days at school. “I feel like the reason I’m in education is to work with youth, and I feel like there is a lot of power to that as well because we are all helping you access your power in this world and feel empowered to create change and make a difference, so that’s my favorite part.”
David Tellez, a tenth grade history teacher, loves having a close relationship with his students. “The best part about being a teacher, I think, is the relationship building with students, because I interact with close to a 100 different personalities a day,
and I get to know the ins and outs of all of you, and that’s pretty cool.”
Mr. Tellez also reflected on the best part of teaching: “I also like seeing the light bulbs that seem to go off when you’re looking at an assessment and you realize, ‘Oh, that’s what it means.’ That’s pretty cool to see.”
In addition, Mr. Tellez described how he came to Summit Prep and joined the community. Mr. Tellez stated, “A best friend applied to Summit first, and she told me about it; we were working at the same school, she said, ‘Hey, you should try this out because our current school sucks,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s try it out,’ and then I applied, and then got an interview and got hired that day.”
Summit Prep Dean of Students, Michael Green, always tries to stay involved in Summit Prep’s community. In his new position as dean, he has already taken great measures to better our community. Mr. Green said, “Every Tuesday and Thursday I start my days off with check-ins with male students – those male students, some of which have been in trouble and some of which just have leadership problems. Really the first time I did it, I went into the classroom and they
were like, ‘Am I in trouble?’ and I was, ‘No, you’re not in trouble.’ It was cool to have them in and talk to them about just life and just have them do it every Tuesday. The other thing that I’m starting is good culture phone calls every Friday. So to parents who are used to hearing that their students are doing bad things like they’re weeks at a time for doing really well like calling their parents just to say, ‘Hey, guess what your student’s been doing?’ This would be so much better, and I think that when you start to put those things at the forefront you can get parents that are more supportive; you get students who have been in trouble but that one phone call may feel so good that it makes them the other way.”
Mr. Green also talked about his journey to Summit Prep. “So now my journey and the role that I have students and school culture allows me to be all of that and like it’s cool to find a place that has all those things in one. So my journey you know has been very fulfilling more so than anything I’ve done in education so far. It’s been really exciting.” Ever since Green came to this community he has been so happy and really loves being here and doing everything that he really does enjoy.
Mr. Green has a lot of responsibility and he said, “There is a number of things, if you look at the title of the responsibility that my job, of course every week all school meetings, come into those like ‘ugh… here we go.’ Each week we really have to focus in on how we make that better and how do we not stop trying even though it’s tough. I think that the restorative conversations that we have between friends who you know normally you go to high school and you get into a beef with your friend and no one talks to you about it, but being able to just sit down and talk to students about resolving conflict and having conversations, I think that’s impactful.”
Gretchen Oorthuys, a Summit Prep tenth grade mentor and resource specialist, elaborated on what the Summit Prep community means to her. Ms. Oorthuys said, “I think the Summit community is about identifying challenges and then finding strategies to overcome them. And I think the Summit community is about mutual support. I think that is true between the teachers, and I know that it is true between the students because I see you guys supporting each other all the time.”
Ms. Oorthuys feels that she plays a big role in helping the community become closer through helping people interact with others outside of their comfort zone. She thinks that lots of times students only interact with their friends and people that they are close with, and she wants to push people to interact with and get to know peers who they aren’t as close with to further strengthen the community.
She also feels that although Summit Prep’s community is bigger than she is, she also believes that it is part of her job and responsibility to maintain a strong, healthy culture at Summit Prep, and she is very proud of how far the community has come. Ms. Oorthuys said, “I know that everyone is trying their best and is really engaging with things. I think it would be a lie to say that you guys don’t care, and that’s the most important part; that’s 95 percent of the battle. I’m always proud of you guys, and I’m always proud of the people that I work with; I know they all care.”
Here is a slideshow of the Summit Prep faculty in action: