Western School of Science and Technology: ​A Challenge Foundation Academy

Who or what inspires/inspired you? Why? 
I am inspired by the possible. When I think about the success stories, both outside Arizona and in our own state as well, I know that our students deserve that and more.  When I think about our best teachers, and what they’re able to accomplish in their classrooms, I am inspired to continue working to bring that excellence to more students and more classrooms.  And, when I think about our community, I am inspired by our students and their families, and their relentless pursuit and hard-working dedication to positively transform the Maryvale community through education.

What made you to want to become a school leader? 
I loved teaching. I still love teaching. But what I realized, after making strong gains in my classroom, was that it takes more than one classroom of excellent teaching and learning to drive system-wide change to drive educational improvement in our state’s undeserved communities, such as mine in west Phoenix. Having that realization, and the support of several mentors, led me to pursue school leadership as a next step after the classroom as the founder of our school.

What are your school’s Top 3 accomplishments?

  1. Our AzMERIT scores were the highest out of any high school in Maryvale!
  2. We cut the Achievement Gap in half in just one academic year.
  3. We retained 100% of our teachers and over 95% of our families after our first year.

How do you and your team defy expectations? 
We are committing to defying the tragically low educational expectations placed on our students and their community.  We’re dedicated to, to paraphrase Nelson Mandela, using education as the most powerful weapon to positively impact and transform our community. Our students design, and then with the help of our families and staff, build safe community play spaces – that have never been vandalized or destroyed.

What is one of your Big Goals for 2016?
Our biggest goal for 2016 is increasing academic proficiency.  Growth must come first, and our academic results from last year – during which students grew over two years in their academic performance – speaks to our team’s and students’ ability to make that first step happen.  This year’s goal is to now leverage that growth to drive toward 80% proficiency on state assessments.
More than that, though, we’re looking at neat ways to continue to empower our students.  After all, education is their tool to improve our collective future, and we’d like to know what they intend to do with it, and support them in any way we can.

What is the biggest challenge that you and your students face? 
Just one?

I think our biggest challenge will also be, more than money or fighting stereotypes, recruiting the very best, mission-aligned educators to continue to bring academic excellence to the Maryvale community.  We can only do this work with great teachers.

Tell us one unique story about your school and culture. 
So many to choose from – Community Build Days, Advisory, Closing Circle. I think we’re fortunate to have built such a strong culture over just the past eighteen months that we’ve been open.  I think Morning Meeting – our full school-wide assembly every Friday morning – is the most uniquely ‘Western’ of all of our traditions.  We come together as a community to celebrate our successes, reflect on our areas of growth, re-dedicate ourselves to our mission statement and core values – and most importantly have fun!  There’s a contest each week, and many times, students compete against staff – like our donut-eating contest!

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