Summer 2009: One-Minute Interviews
From the archives: July 2009 Summer 2009’s weekly e-blasts featured quick interviews with some of the folks who made Aim High magic happen this summer. Read on for quick stories of Aim High ’09. Angelina attends Aim High at SF Community School and lives in San Francisco’s Excelsior District. This is her first year at Aim High. AH: How did you get involved in Aim High? Angelina: I didn’t really want to go here, but my mom wanted me to build my math skills. She said, “you’ll get homework,” and I said “that’s just going to make it worse!” But she asked me to try it out and see if I like it. Now I think it’s AWESOME. AH: What do you think of your first week at Aim High? Angelina: It’s really helpful if you need help with math, like I do. My math teacher is really funny – he gets off-track sometimes. I like my advisory, too, we’re like a little family. We laugh a lot, and sometimes we break out and dance, and we share stuff that you wouldn’t usually share in class. Midori caught our eye when she published an off-the-wall and very entertaining article entitled “Article You Absolutely Have to Read!!!!!” in the weekly student-published newsletter at Aim High Urban. Midori is in the 8th grade at Presidio Middle School, and this is her second summer with Aim High. AH: What gave you the idea to do a weekly newsletter? Midori: We have a journalism afternoon activity, and everyone in the journalism class is working on the yearbook for our campus, but my friend Julia and I wanted to work on a newspaper. AH: The article you wrote ended in what appears to be your abduction by aliens. Did you survive? Midori: (laughs) The teacher, Josue, asked me to write an article, so I started writing, and that’s what I ended up with. I like writing fiction. AH: Julia’s article in your newsletter was about your recent Rock Bartering trip. What are some things you got in trade? Midori: We got a lot of food (which we ate on the way back), and we got these garlic dolls – dolls made of garlic, with little feet and hands. Weird, but cute. AH: Free association question, say the first thing that comes to your head… ready? Aim High. Midori: PIE. Wait, what??? I don’t know where that came from. Karen worked for IBM as a computer programmer and software engineer for 31 years before beginning her second career as a teacher. She teaches math at Aim High Summit Prep in Redwood City. AH: After 31 years as a software engineer, why did you decide to go into teaching? KR: It just sort of came to me – I had been retired for three years and then it came to me, I should teach. I want to help kids learn. At IBM, if a colleague came to me with a question, I wouldn’t just answer it, I would help them understand the background, and they appreciated that. I’m really interested in teaching because there are issues in teaching today – specifically, the achievement gap between students of different income levels and ethnicities – that really bother me. I know it’s a big challenge, but whatever I can do to help, I want to do. AH: How are your students like engineers? KR: That’s a good question! I’ll have to think about that one. I guess I would say that a lot of my students are trying to achieve something, trying to make a difference in their own lives, and they’re eager to learn. That dynamic feels somewhat different from regular school. Also, it’s a team effort – at IBM, there’s not much you can do as an individual. IBM is a team environment, and my classroom is too. In a lot of ways, my students are teaching me. AH: Have you had a favorite teaching moment? KR: I have one student who started off as a bit of a challenge. In the second week he said to me, ‘you were right, you said we would learn something, and I’m really getting this stuff.’ It was as if he surprised himself that he was picking up new knowledge, and he was happy to be doing that. It made me feel really good. Puppy (her real name) serves as site mascot at Aim High Yick Wo. When she is not on the job at Aim High, Puppy lives with Site Director Suzy Garren. AH: How long have you been mascot at Aim High Yick Wo? Puppy: This is my fifth summer at Yick Wo. Actually, Aim High recognizes faculty who have served for three, five, and ten years, so I am expecting my five-year gift this year. I’m hoping for a piece of bacon. AH: Site Directors Suzy and Paula tell me that you play a really important role here at Aim High, making everyone feel loved and welcomed, and especially helping those students who may have trouble making friends in the first few days. What other responsibilities do you have as mascot? Puppy: This is a very important role, not to be taken lightly. In a lot of ways, I am responsible for students’ well-being. Offering myself up to all those little hands, day after day… honestly, it’s a risk for me, but it builds community, and that’s vital. People can meet and make friends around a belly that needs rubbing. And you know, rolling over for treats can be back-breaking work, but it gives students a sense of accomplishment. Like everyone on the staff here at Aim High, I do what I can to make the world a better place. [Pause] I am also responsible for licking the floors. AH: As far as I know, Puppy, you are the only live mascot at any of Aim High’s eleven sites. Do you have any advice for aspiring mascots? Puppy: This is a job that you have to approach with a great deal of professionalism. It’s an honor and a privilege to be here, so be on time. And it’s not easy, being constantly aware of everything going on, memorizing every person by smell… there’s so much to do. Rest up, because a day at Aim High is like a week of regular school. [Sniffs] I hope you’ll excuse me, I need to go check in with the volunteers. [Sniffs] I think I smell hamburgers.