Educators Say Summer is an Excellent Opportunity to Polish Skills and Grow in their Careers
Scholars are not the only ones benefitting from YMCA of Greater San Antonio’s Power Scholar Academy (PSA). In fact, the BellXcel model is driven by the belief that the key to scholar success is educator empowerment.
“BellXcel has wonderful resources online and teacher toolkits that we use for a successful summer and in our careers for years to come,” said Bonnie Cavazos, instructional coach, who has served as the school librarian for 15 years, and as a local educator for over 27 years in the San Antonio school district. “We collaborate with each other as educators. We are all colleagues with a common goal.”
Educators say the summer program presents an opportunity to learn how to teach other grade levels. It also serves as a dynamic environment for mentoring and networking. Educators are not only connecting and building relationships with students, but with each other, in powerful ways. Younger teachers collaborate with more experienced ones, picking up new skills along the way.
Academic instructors also receive support from instructional coaches, who are experienced school teachers, creating a cycle of continuous learning and improvement. Cavazos and Carrol visit all classes throughout the day after testing and data analysis to observe classrooms, speak to scholars, support instruction, or jump in and guide discussion.
“Our role is to serve as a supportive pillow,” Amber Carroll, instructional coach and elementary teacher, says with a laugh. “We bounce ideas off teachers to make sure things run smoothly. We look at data to see where students should be, and have conversations with teachers to see how we can grow towards success. BellXcel gives us a great scope and sequence for us to follow.”
For many educators, the summer program represents an excellent opportunity to polish their skills and grow in their professional careers. “Working with different teachers and students in a different capacity, and gaining experience over the summer, is preparing me for a more effective school year, and a leadership position in the future,” said Carroll, who is nearing her degree to become a certified principal.
Educators say the BellXcel-powered summer program also boosts their motivation for teaching as its delivered in a more relaxed environment in smaller group environments, with increased support as compared to the school year.
“We’re having fun. We’re engaging,” said Carroll. “We see our class sizes so large during the school year, it’s hard to have that targeted instruction,” said Carroll. “Coming in as a teacher, you don’t have to teach to a test. You don’t have to worry about an end-game. We just want to make sure students get access to the learning they need, where they’re at. It’s a completely different world than teaching in the school year.”
Remote Quality Reflection Tool
With nearly three decades of experience creating evidence-based programs, we know how important program quality is to a young person’s experience and ability to learn and grow. Assessing quality in a remote environment is new to many organizations and was top-of-mind for us as we created BellXcel Remote, our evidence-based, teacher-led approach that adapts the classroom experience for home use during this time of distance learning.
We called upon our affiliate, The Sperling Center for Research and Innovation (SCRI), to create the Remote Quality Reflection Tool for our remote program partners to assess and understand program quality.
Who can use this tool?
We are pleased to make this tool publicly available to empower any program to drive improvement through identifying areas of strength and progress on research-based indicators. We believe that the use of this tool will help to increase the collective knowledge base of remote learning.
Learn how to use this tool
Access a series of informative videos to gain guidance, suggestions and best practices when utilizing the Remote Quality Reflection Tool.
Download this free tool today!
Video Tutorials – Remote Quality Reflection Tool
In our efforts to support you in using the Remote Quality Reflection Tool, we are pleased to provide the following videos that offer guidance, suggestions, and best practices when completing indicator ratings and reflecting on quality. Each video focuses on specific areas related to the tool purpose, use and completion, evidence collection, and making the data actionable within your remote learning programs. We hope you will find this information helpful as you rate and reflect on your program quality. Additionally, we encourage you to contact us with your feedback or if we can be of assistance.
Introduction to the Remote Quality Reflection Tool
1. Purpose, Goals and Evidence
2. How to Use the Remote Quality Reflection Tool
3. Evidence Collection
4. Reflection and Continuous Improvement
Summer Collaboration Leads to Year-Round Success in San Antonio, TX
When 10-year-old Hattie Tillman, a rising 6th grader enrolled in YMCA of Greater San Antonio’s Power Scholar Academy (PSA), first embarked on her summer learning journey, she struggled with growth mindset. Today, when she gets an answer wrong, instead of shutting down like she used to, she says “It’s OK. I will get the next one right!” Once shy, she now beams with confidence. She enjoys helping other scholars. Her math and reading skills have always been solid, and through PSA, she’s bringing them to another level.
“Here, she’s taking concepts she learned in the school year, and applying them to real-life, instead of compartmentalizing them. She’s learning that they’re all interconnected,” says Veronica Mansfield, academic instructor in PSA and a certified teacher during the school year.
“She keeps pushing. Her confidence has improved. I’m proud of her,” said Hattie’s mother Karen Beard. “There’s a lot of negative pressure and violence in our neighborhood. She’s in a safe place to learn and grow.”
Hattie is one of many shining examples of scholars enrolled in Power Scholars Academy, a partnership between YMCA of Greater San Antonio and BellXcel. Scholars, are improving their academic skills, social and emotional learning, and self-confidence, preparing them for success in school and beyond. The evidence-based summer program was launched to support struggling local schools, and to address summer learning loss.
“Children in our community really need this program. They don’t have access to the same things other children do over the summer,” says Catherine Alvarado, Senior Director of Grant Administration and Program Innovation. “This is one of the poorest districts in San Antonio, and literacy is one of our biggest areas of need. This is my community. What pulls me in is knowing that we are helping children become more successful.”
The PSA program’s success can also be attributed to the close, collaborative relationship with the schools they serve. This relationship isn’t confined to the summer months. It is year-round. Two PSA program directors, Elisa Felix and Edna Castillo-Saucedo, are embedded in the schools during the school-year. “Being in the school enables me to closely work with teachers and counselors, and engage with parents, to identify and enroll students who need extra help into the summer program,” Felix says.
“We see the difference this level of engagement with schools is having compared to other sites,” said Alvarado. “We are a pillar of the school. We are a bridge for that continuum of learning with students from their community. When we speak to a financial supporter about the community needs, we speak to our impact on scholars, teachers, and on moving the entire school forward.”
The partnership with BellXcel has helped their program reach new heights of success, says Alvarado. “This is too big a problem for one agency to handle alone,” Alvarado says. “Without the support of BellXcel, we wouldn’t have the data we so desperately need to prove that the program is working. Funders want to see outcomes, more than just outputs. BellXcel helps us prove that what we are doing in the partnership is working.”
Myima is a rising 7th grade scholar in her second summer enrolled in a BellXcel-powered summer program.
How did you feel initially about being enrolled in the program?
Honestly, I was a little scared at first because I didn’t know if I was going to know anybody and if I was going to make any friends.
So did you end up making new friends?
Yes! I made new friends, and also saw some familiar faces. It was nice to see my classmates over the summer too.
How has the program helped you with your academics?
I get mostly As and Bs in school. I think the program has helped me maintain my skills. If I wasn’t here, I’d probably be behind in school. It’s sort of re-teaching you what you did in school, so you still know what to do when you go back to school.
Was there a part of the program that you enjoyed the most?
One of my favorite parts was a literacy project when we had to finish the ending of a play. We had to make up the ending, and act it out. I liked that you got to just make stuff up, and choose what happens with the characters. It’s a different way of learning compared to the school year. It’s more creative.
Geffrey is a rising 6th grade scholar in his first summer enrolled in a BellXcel-powered summer program.
Tell us about what you are learning in the program.
We learn a lot in fun activities and they teach us math and language arts. In math, I’m learning how to subtract, add, and multiply fractions and decimals.
When you go back to school do you feel you will have a head-start?
Yeah, I think because most people if they don’t go to summer school, they might lose their knowledge about some important stuff. I think I am better prepared for school. Some of my friends in 6th grade told me it’s a review of what they learned in school so I’m getting a head start. It’s making us review the materials.
What is the difference between this and school?
I think it’s more fun learning and the teachers have more time to spend with you to teach you things you are having a hard time with. That’s the biggest difference – not feeling so pressured and rushed.
What else do you like about the program?
I can go up to the whiteboard more and write answers the questions. I can participate more.