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October 4, 2018

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My Greatest Educational Accomplishment.

August 21, 2014

Throughout my career, I have achieved many personal and professional goals. I've successfully guided three schools through Categorical Program Monitoring audits; I've increased the reading skills of my 6th grade class from being three years below grade level to being just under one year above grade level in just over six months; the Innovative Video in Education program that I directed for three years in San Diego County won the California School Board Association Golden Bell Award; I successfully designed and deployed the only, fully online SB472 Reading Intervention professional development program recognized by the California Department of Education so that schools in rural parts of the state could participate in the mandatory trainings without having to leave their schools for five days; I have mentored multiple new educators as they completed their induction programs; I successfully completed my doctoral journey and earned my doctorate in education leadership with an emphasis on curriculum and instruction.

 

But the accomplishment that I am most proud of is one that I couldn't have achieved without the concerted effort of my team. In my role as English Learner Programs Coordinator at Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth, CA, I was able to first triple, then quadruple the reclassification rate of the school's English learners over a two-year period. In my first year in the position, I noted an inordinate number of meetings being requested by parents of the school's English learners regarding the students' unhappiness because they were not being allowed to enroll in elective courses. After some investigation, I realized that nearly all of the English learners in the school were being placed in two-hour blocks of ELD courses because the school had adopted a policy (based on inaccurate guidance they had received) preventing the reclassification of English learners unless they received an 'A' grade in their ELD class. As a result, students were repeating ESL 4 (early-advanced and advanced ELD) over and over again-- some, for all three years of their career at the school.

 

I proceeded to convene a team of fellow educators and parents to investigate the true district policy regarding re-classification of English learners. We consulted with district staff and, thanks to the supportof the school's administration, were able to alter the policy so that it was more aligned with practices of other schools. As a result, the ELD class sizes were lowered, incidences of poor behavior by students who were discouraged because they were repeating classes were dramatically lessened, and a large group of students were able to access more rigorous English Language Arts courses and enroll in elective courses.

 

The most memorable event of that process, for me, was when the parents of one of the students who was more troubled than most requested a meeting with me during his eight-grade year to thank me, in tears, for the work we did that allowed the student to take the cartooning elective that was being offered at the school. The student, Joselito, was suspended multiple times during his sixth grade year and according to his parents, was headed in a bad direction in his personal life. But because he had found his passion for cartooning and was able to shine and excel at the school as one of the best illustrators, his parents reported that the young boy's life had turned around.

 

Of course, as school site administrators, we want to make fundamental, organization-wide improvements. We want to guide and direct the big picture through transformational leadership practices and systems thinking. But too often, we may forget the impacts that our actions have on individual students-- impacts that can ripple through a person's life. There are many factors that influence how a young boy grows into a young man and I certainly don't want to suggest that this one change made all the difference in the world for Joselito. But in my heart, I'd like to think that the work we did as a group to make that minor policy change may have played just a small part in influencing the young boy's future.

 

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© by EMIL AHANGARZADEH.

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