In our last newsletter, we shared the view points of different stakeholders at ODA about what makes our school special. Now it’s time to go deep into the experiences and beliefs of our entire instructional team. We are so grateful for the love, leadership, and passion our educators bring to their craft; it is clear that they are changing the trajectories of their students’ lives.
Ms. McMillion, English
Initially ODA attracted me because of its model. I had experienced pieces of the model at various educational settings, but those academic models were missing parts of addressing the whole student. I work at ODA because I believe that teaching is not about conveying what you know, it is about making sure students understand what they need, so then they can do. At ODA that understanding is coaxed, supported, enhanced and bloomed in a variety a methods that allow the student to pursue and understand their WHY by engaging and connecting work experience, academia, college courses, travel, and team leadership to the character they are building.
Because the academic design require the students to take charge of their own learning through Harkness Tables and Tutorials, I have the opportunity to fully witness and support my student’s growth not just in academics, but also as dreamers, as mentors, and as future makers. I work at ODA because it strives to sow the true voice of every student who is ready to be heard.
Ms. Michelle, College Counseling
In my College Counseling and Careers course, students discuss their dreams; set short and long term goals; and courageously confront their challenges and fears. If you were to visit my class, you would hear words like “role model,” cardiologist,” “entrepreneur,” “lawyer,” and “first generation.” You would enter a space where young people are free to dream, to question, and to ponder the “what ifs” of their futures. ODA is a place where peers celebrate each other’s successes and build each other up when a friend is not working to his/her highest potential because they may be weighed down by the challenges of today.
During our college talks, students have expressed that they need determination, self-awareness, leadership skills, independence, and the ability to ask for help to be successful in life after high school. They courageously shared that some of the challenges they may encounter along the way include financial hardship, managing family obligations and discrimination. Lastly, when discussing how East Palo Alto would change as a community if more students of color like those at ODA earn college degrees, the students articulated that more college graduates would help break the negative stereotypes that people have about EPA; make their families proud; and would enable them to serve as role models and leaders for their younger siblings and for future generations.
Mr. Sanders, Math
I enjoy working at Oxford Day Academy because I love the approach we have with our students. We give our students a lot of responsibility and agency. The best part about working with ODA staff is the culture that we have in place; everything is transparent and up front. We keep students informed about their education and their development as future leaders. We hold them accountable and allow them the space to struggle so that they can continue to grow as young scholars. It’s not always easy, but nothing in life worth having comes easy!
Ms. Rice, Science
As a science educator at ODA, the first phrase that comes to mind is hands-on. In addition to experiments, students engage in an inquiry-based science curriculum that uses questioning to drive the curriculum, and simultaneously reinforces their skills in constructing arguments from evidence. Being a staff member at ODA has allowed me to develop this model further in my own practice and to push students to rely on each other to answer questions that are data-based, or evidenced in science articles. The small class sizes allow me to give more constructive feedback, and to work with individual students to improve science and engineering skills; whether it is showing a student how to use equipment during a lab, or helping them calculate the moles of a substance. This makes the potential for growth—both on the part of the students, as well as the teachers—an immense privilege of which to take part.
Coach Austin, SELC
As a Social Emotional Learning Coach here at ODA, I have to say that the challenges that our children are facing in this arena is daunting. Without this new model in place I believe that many of our children would be lost into an abyss of systems which are not designed for their success. Being here at ODA affords me the opportunity to be in a hands-on position to create and facilitate great change in the way that we do things in education.
Mr. Magana, SELC
Oxford Day Academy has given me the opportunity to give back to young aspiring kids in ways I never thought possible. Coming from Richmond, California, I know the stigmas and statistics that kids of this East Palo Alto community have to face in order to aspire for something greater than what they were given. ODA is the kind of place that will embolden one’s sense of freedom to pursue what it is they want to pursue. By providing the necessary tools of self awareness and self diligence, we hope to have the kids see the true potential in themselves. A big part of having students unlock that potential is having them reinvent their self worth by holding them to a higher standard than what they have been used to. ODA challenges each student to perform at a higher level than they already are, thus maximizing their potential, and having them realize that their dreams are achievable.
Ms. Kathryn, Stanford Intern
Working at ODA has been one of the highlights of my senior year at Stanford. I began my work at ODA as a component of a class that I was taking for my major, but continued working with the students past my scholastic obligation because I love the students, faculty, and institution. ODA is unlike any school that I have ever seen – from the responsiveness of the curricula to students’ lives to the unique opportunities afforded to these young students. As an institution, ODA is constructed such that young people are challenged to critically think about issues in their community, form independent opinions and thoughts, and build real-world experiences. It is certainly a school that I wish I could have had the privilege of attending as a high school student.