Although the school year has just begun for Pinon Hills Elementary, they are already being recognized for their achievements in educational leadership. On August 17th, the school was awarded the prestigious 2022 Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Teacher Advocacy Award. This award is only given to a handful of schools throughout the state. It includes a $10,000 donation from the AVID Center, an organization dedicated to training educators and promoting the AVID model. AVID is a college readiness program that teaches students academic methods that will help them succeed in higher education. According to the SBC Superintendent of Schools website: “AVID is designed to increase the college-going rate for traditionally under-represented students.”
Dr. Shannon Avery, the Principal of Pinon Hills Elementary, said that they have been an AVID campus for several years, which means teachers embed core AVID strategies, like structured note-taking and critical thinking, in all of their curricula. The school’s campus is unique in the fact that they emphasize college culture and advocate to their students the idea of higher education at an early age. Dr. Avery said, “We want to make sure that kids can access it [college] and know that it’s an option.” When asked how they might utilize the prize money, Dr. Avery mentioned that they would like to send their students on more field trips to expose them to college campuses and universities. They also hope to use the funds to continue to build their skill sets as AVID educators.
Several staff members mentioned that winning the award was a great honor and a wonderful surprise. Paolina Schiro, the RIMS AVID Program Manager, stated, “They don’t know that they are being nominated. Our AVID site teams submit the application for them.” Schiro worked as a teacher and AVID Coach before being promoted to RIMS AVID Program Manager, overseeing the Riverside, Inyo, Mono, and San Bernardino areas. She explained that her team nominates four schools in their jurisdiction that show exemplary leadership by submitting an essay application to the AVID Center. A committee then reviews the applications that come from all over California and chooses the select winners. Two other schools from San Bernardino County also received the award: Vernon Middle School in Montclair and Sequoia Middle School in Fontana. Schiro has visited Pinon Hills Elementary before and remembers being very impressed, stating, “They do such an amazing job. We are super excited, and the school definitely deserves it.”
The impressive award also caught the attention of elected officials. On August 19th, Assemblyman Tom Lackey (36th District) traveled to Pinon Hills Elementary to personally congratulate and honor the teachers for their outstanding achievements. Certificates of recognition were presented to the staff by Assemblyman Lackey, and pictures were taken to commemorate their accomplishment. Nichole Lain has been teaching second grade at Pinon Hills Elementary for the past eight years and said she doesn’t recall any government officials visiting their school before. She said the award, prize money, and recognition from the state have all been notable signs of appreciation for the hard work they have put in to implement the AVID curriculum, which, most importantly, benefits the students academically. Lain stated, “It proves that what we are doing is working.”