20 Aug 2014
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AVID Learning During The Summer

Getting the opportunity to mentor high school students in the academic "middle" inspires Greenwich teachers.

AVID Learning During The Summer


While school may be on break, teachers across the district are taking advantage of the free time to embark on professional development.

One such program provided some "cross-training" for a group of teachers from both and who attended training earlier this month for Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID).

AVID is a nationally acclaimed program that provides intensive skills development and mentoring for students in the academic "middle" who have the potential to attend a quality 4-year college, but who may lack the resources for preparing for and applying to college.

Its mission is "to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society."

Grants provided by the Greenwich Alliance for Education first brought the program to GHS in 2008, and AVID's first class of students will be entering their senior year this fall.

The AVID elective course gives enrolled students an opportunity to "learn organizational and study skills, work on critical thinking and the asking of probing questions, get academic help from peers and tutors, and participate in enrichment and motivational activities  that make college seem attainable." Another signficant component is the AVID Elective teacher who stays with the students as they move through GHS each year giving them an additional anchor adult in their lives.

According to GHS Headmaster Chris Winters, “AVID’s impact has been significant and widespread, and it has made a difference at GHS beyond the AVID classroom.”


The AVID teams from both GHS and CMS traveled to Philadelphia from July 30 to August 1 to attend AVID's annual professional learning training, Summer Institute.

The GHS group included:

  • Laura Brill - New AVID Elective teacher/English teacher
  • Rich Alessi - Social Studies Program Administrator
  • Matthew Meyers - Chemistry teacher
  • Cate Hatridge - English teacher
  • Judy Nedell - Coordinator of Guidance
  • Sarah Goldin - Class of 2015 AVID Elective teacher/Biology teacher

For Judy Nedell, the newly appointed Coordinator of Guidance for Greenwich Public Schools, this was her first introduction to AVID. She attended not only as a member of the GHS Avid Team, but also as the "Site Administrator" for GHS.

"During the training, I met with our AVID District Director and several teachers who were either Avid Elective teachers or subject area teachers. As directed by the leaders of the Summer Institute, we began to develop our 'site plan' for the next school year." Nedell states that the summer was just the beginning as the site team will continue its work on the plan when schools resumes.

Nedell attended "Administrator" training, during which she "learned about WICOR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading), which are "instructional techniques and learning strategies that enhance the students' access to a rigorous curriculum."

Another part of the Administrator training was not only to "learn how to identify students to participate in AVID," but also "what the AVID Elective course entails."

Starting with the 2012-2013 school year, GHS will offer an Avid Elective class for each grade level. The elective focuses on "a specific method of tutoring accomplished by leading the students through questions to solve their own 'point of confusion' in the particular subject or topic," explains Nedell.

Nedell called the training "inspiring as well as informative" and she is "very excited to work with the AVID team and support AVID at Greenwich High School."

Rich Alessi, Bella House administrator as well as Program Administrator for Social Studies at GHS, was also "excited" to attend the history and social studies strand not only in his capacity as a social studies teacher but also as one of the AVID Elective teachers.

In addition to his administrative and teaching responsibilities, Alessi made time in an already busy schedule to tutor an AVID 10th grade class twice per cycle. Alessi was also part of the site team that interviewed and selected this year's GHS AVID class from candidates from the three middle schools. 

While attending the Summer Institute, Alessi was with 64 teachers and administrators from around the nation. "The training provided participants with a wealth of research-based and proven teaching strategies, all designed to develop WICOR. The sessions allowed us to experience many of the strategies first-hand and reinforced best practices and student engagement."

Alessi plans to "introduce many of these teaching strategies to the social studies program over the course of the year."

AVID Outside The Avid Classroom

Matt Meyers, who will teach both Chemistry and Integrated Science come the start of school, has been an AVID tutor and “immediately fell in love with the program” and is “very happy to be involved.”

Last summer, Meyers attended the Avid Summer Institute in Orlando taking the science strand. This summer, Meyers participated in the implementation class. Meyers calls the training “incredibly well run conferences,” which serve as “a model for professional development.”

After last summer’s science strand, Meyers implemented strategies in his own science classes. He utilized a service GHS subscribes to called “ AVID Weekly” which provides articles on “controversial and current events” as discussion topics (see samples attached.)  Stating that he is “big on reading and writing” Meyers, who assigned one article every week and saw an improvement in how his students write, plans on using the strategy again. “No matter what you choose to do, you are going to have to write," he said.

As for the AVID students, Meyers observes that the students “get better and better as they go through each grade” stating the program is “designed” to work over time. He explains that in the Avid 10 class, the students are still learning to ask questions; the AVID 11th graders participate in a mock tutorial and test prep while the AVID 12 class will focus on the college application process.

Meyers calls the Summer Institute a great learning experience stating that it is very tightly run and adding that this summer’s training gave him an “appreciation” for just how well the GHS AVID program is operating.

For Meyers, his “best AVID moment so far” was following last summer’s training when the Site Team held professional development at GHS designed to share AVID strategies. The team was expecting 10 teachers and instead found themselves in front of 35 of their colleagues. Following the in school training, which is likely to occur again this school year, Meyers said he saw AVID materials on his peers’ desks reinforcing that the AVID method not only reaches students but inspires the teachers themselves.

AVID Implementation at Central Middle School

A grant awarded for this school year by the Greenwich Alliance is extending AVID's reach into the middle schools by introducing the program to approximately 15-20 7th graders at CMS. The grant will fund teacher training, the AVID licensing fee and the launch of the program.

Central will be in the planning stage through the first half of the school year and is expecting to implement the AVID program during the second semester.

Principal Shelley Somers lead the school's AVID team to the Summer Institute, which included:

  • Shelley Somers - CMS Principal
  • Colleen Alfano - Guidance Counselor
  • Maria Jukic - AVID Coordinator
  • Cecilia Aita - Elective teacher
  • Pat Brennan - Language Arts teacher
  • Laurie Gotch - Science teacher
  • Jaime Levai - Social Studies teacher
  • Val Palace - Math teacher

Somers said that the "training was well organized and thorough" citing that "the AVID strategies are aligned with our school improvement goals and with the common core standards, and focus on adding rigor to the curriculum."

"I feel that the program is a good fit for our school, and we will implement some of the strategies, such as the Cornell note taking method, schoolwide."

"Our dream/goal is to become a demo school in four years. My team is highly motivated and came away with a good understanding of the profile of the AVID student, the WICOR methodology and how to best present all of this to our faculty."

AVID was started more than 30 years ago by a San Diego teacher as not just an academic elective, but an education philosophy: "hold students accountable to the highest standards, provide academic and social  support, and they will rise to the challenge." Today, AVID serves over 425,000 students in more than  4,800 elementary and secondary schools in 48 states, the District of Columbia  and across 16 countries/territories.

And of one those districts happens to be Greenwich.

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