Finding the ideal school is a top priority for families with children. As Arizona is an open-enrollment state, parents and caregivers have numerous options to evaluate when searching for a school that will help their children thrive.
We’ve asked two principals from the Queen Creek Unified School District, who head schools near the Cadence at Gateway area, about the ways their schools support students academically, socially and emotionally.
Paul Gagnon – Eastmark High School
“Our greatest focus at Eastmark High School has to be instruction. This is one of the three keys to having a highly performing school. What that looks like on a day-to-day basis is we are in classrooms providing positive and constructive feedback to our teachers, collecting trend data to share and working with our teacher-led collaboration sessions (Professional Learning Communities). This focus on every classroom teacher possessing high-quality instruction will only help our school develop a strong academic reputation as we grow.
“Career Path Academies is our signature program. As our school is still developing, we don’t yet have the full complement of pathway courses, but we will. Many parents with whom I have discussions about why they chose our school talk directly to the career pathway academies as being an attractive part of our school. Allowing students to obtain hands-on experience in their pathway of choice will only help them develop the skills, knowledge and passion to be successful in their post-secondary field of choice.
“We’d like our parents to know that our school staff is here to support their students and provide a variety of opportunities for them to succeed academically and assist them with their social-emotional needs, also. To that end, we have counselors in the classroom building ready to assist students with their academic needs. Counselors meet with students in Grades 8-10 to discuss their academic needs (they meet with 7th-graders once per year). We also have a social worker on campus ready to support the social-emotional needs of our students.
“Parents can be our greatest source of support in these areas for their children. Ask them how their day went, what they learned and go through their agenda planner and binder with them. The interest you show now will pay dividends later.”
Allison Carmichael – Silver Valley Elementary
“The priority at Silver Valley is on instruction. Most of my job-related responsibilities are to ensure high-quality instruction in every classroom. I spend many hours a week in classrooms to support teachers in their efforts to help their kids to learn. We also use a district-wide curriculum that supports a model of instruction to ensure students master a skill prior to moving forward to help students not fall too far behind at any point in the year. You can see me visiting with teachers weekly in our data meetings discussing each individual student’s progress.
“Opening a new school, we have also had our focus on building systems that work best, from how students safely go home each day to ensure the students know how to get to the nurse as needed. These systems are continually reviewed and revised. We are so thankful for the community’s flexibility and understanding during this time. We are lucky to have such great support.
“Lastly, the safety of our students, both in a physical manner and one of a mental-health manner, is a priority. We utilize a program called Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports to encourage positive behaviors and discourage negative ones. We also use our PE instruction to even build kindness on our playground during unstructured time teaching the kids how to solve peer conflict. We even do a breathing technique on the announcements each Monday for Mindfulness Monday to help our students learn to cope when challenged mentally.
“SVE is unique as we utilize a program called Leader in Me. This is a program that our teachers instruct each week to promote the 7 Habits of Steven Covey. Students are led through collaborative activities in which they build quality classroom culture while learning how to be leaders now and in the future. Our staff has been specially trained. We have a team of teachers who meet regularly to ensure our program is effective and a teacher leader who weekly sends Leader in Me content so that teachers have an easy time accessing and implementing into their rooms each week.
“SVE also boasts a STEAM Lab with computers, robots, electronics and other manipulatives to help kids learn future-forward concepts like coding, circuits, etc. In addition to the STEAM Lab, SVE also has a Makerspace, which is similar to a science laboratory. This space is mainly used for art instruction or building engineering creations with uncommon materials. This program is called Art Masterpiece. It’s another reason we love our community, as all our Art Masterpiece instructors are parents or grandparents living right here in our neighborhood.
“Bears here at SVE have amazing teachers who care deeply about each child’s learning as well as their enjoyment of school. The teachers are the most influential aspect of any school and I am proud that here at SVE we boast only highly qualified instructors. Teachers have access to a counselor, a reading specialist and a math-support coach daily to brainstorm ways to help any child improve his/her learning or to support any child who is in need. Our counselor does monthly classroom lessons for all students, kindergarten through sixth grade, to support each child’s success. Through our programs, PBIS and Leader in Me, we have an overt focus on building students’ skills beyond that of academics. We also tend to our students’ needs immediately, responding that day to help resolve any problem or concern.
QCUSD elementary schools (Silver Valley and Gateway Polytechnic Academy) are hosting a showcase night for new families and kindergarten round-up 5-7 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2020, for families to learn more. https://www.qcusd.org/
Interested in Mesa’s newest master-planned community or new homes in the East Valley? Sign up at http://cadenceaz.com/contact.