Academy of Math and Science: Prince Campus
Ettor Strada: I have been in education for nearly ten years now. I have always known that I have the power to make a difference in students’ lives, and if I make a difference even in one, then I am happy. Being a Special Education Teacher, I have reached many students, and I strived to do so even with the ones that seemed unreachable. I never wanted to stop trying. Moving into a leadership role as principal at the Academy of Math and Science has given me an opportunity to share my knowledge and skills and reach more students. I go home every day knowing that I have made a difference in the lives of everyone who has entered our campus.
Who or what inspires/inspired you? Why?
ES: I have been inspired by many people in my life. However, I think that the person who has inspired me the most would be a student I was fortunate enough to work with during my time teaching at the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. This young man had spent his short life thus far making a lot of very poor decisions. I saw how badly he was treated after he made the decision to change his life. But what I saw most was his determination to change the path he was on. I witnessed him overcome many obstacles, one of which was changing his mother’s perspective of him. Whenever I am having a rough day, I think about how hard this young man worked to change his life. I promised myself that I would keep going, no matter what, in order to continue to lead the life I wanted, just as he had.
What are your school’s Top 3 accomplishments?
SL: 1. We have accomplished many great things here at the Academy of Math and Science, but the thing that I am most proud of is the dedication with which we serve every student that walks through our doors every morning.
2. At Academy of Math and Science, we have a strong success serving an underprivileged student population – specifically, this year we are the highest performing charter school in Arizona serving a greater than 70% free or reduced lunch population. It is our mission to make sure that every student is successful in our school regardless of race or socio-economic status. We offer free after school tutoring for any student who needs it, starting at the kindergarten level.
3. The strong bond and commitment that we have been able to build with our parents and students. I believe this is due to the open and honest communication we have with both our parents and students. We do not wait for parent/teacher conferences to inform parents or students about how students are progressing in our academic and social expectations. We set a very high standard for ourselves and the students and as a result, we invest a lot of time in monitoring every student’s progress on a weekly basis. Parents are appreciative and students always know where they stand.
How do you and your team defy expectations?
ES: We have the same difficulties as other schools – lack of funding, students with difficult home lives, facilities that are not state of the art, and state expectations that are always changing. However, we do not focus on those things. We focus on what we have to do, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Once the momentum gets going, we do not let anything stand in our way. Together, we will continue to smash the barriers that block others.
Why are you considering expanding or replicating your model?
SL: Our biggest reason for replicating our model is because we achieve great results. Every student deserves the very best education possible and we pride ourselves on providing just that for each one of our students. Ideally, what we really want to do is to offer our program to as many students as possible. Success is meant to be shared, and we want others to succeed with us. Our children are our country’s greatest resource. We want to ensure that every student is well-educated so that we can say with confidence that no student is ever left behind.
What is one of your Big Goals for 2016?
ES: My primary goal for 2016 is to ensure that our students and staff continue to have all the resources necessary to ensure an even more productive year. I plan on being totally prepared, well before the school year starts, in order to guarantee an uninterrupted, quality learning environment, starting on the very first day that teachers return, until the very last day of the school year.
What is the biggest challenge that you and your students face?
SL: One of the biggest challenges that we face every year is time. There is always a sense of urgency when it comes to our students’ academic development. We have many students that come to us with existing gaps in their academic achievement. We target our intervention to help close these gaps, and often time is of the essence. We want to make sure that every student who moves through our program experiences success, whether they start with us in kindergarten or come into our organization during their middle school grades.
Tell us one unique story about your school and culture.
ES: Recently, a proposal was brought before our student body to change our mascot, the Centaur. There were several options suggested, all of which were more traditional mascots – cougars, tigers, and grizzly bears, to name a few. I was very touched when a petition, signed by about 70% of the student body, was placed on my desk. Our students have such a connection with the mythical creature that has adorned our walls since the inception of the school, that they felt if the mascot was changed, they would not be able to aspire to the high expectations that have been placed before them. The level of emotion that was expressed in the letters was overwhelming. I was truly touched that our students had such a high level of commitment to and connection with our school mascot. To this day and for as long as I am a leader with this organization, we will forever be known as CENTAURS!
Learn more about Academy of Math and Science on:
Facebook and http://www.amstucson.org/