As some of you may know, I made a giant leap outside of my comfort zone this year – leaving a job I had done for 19 years in a district where I had worked for 27. All 27 of those years were spent teaching elementary school, and now I teach students in 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 10th.
I haven’t said a lot about the school where I now work, so here is a brief summary:
Advanced Learning Academy is an in-district charter school in San Antonio Independent School District. The school serves PK-12, but only grades 4-12 are housed on the campus where I work, Fox Tech High School. The Fox Tech campus also hosts a Health and Law magnet school and CAST Tech High School.
ALA opened its doors 3 years ago, a combined endeavor between SAISD and Trinity University. It is a school “for students who seek academic challenge with greater depth and complexity and opportunities for acceleration.” Trinity interns work along with the faculty to provide Project Based Learning activities, Design Thinking, and a variety of enrichment activities.
ALA is diverse, with students who live a few blocks away to students who live outside of the city. No area is “zoned” for our campus, so the only students who attend are those who have applied.
The first, and best thing (in my opinion), that I noticed when I joined the staff here at ALA was the extreme dedication of each and every teacher. No one is here for “a job.” They are here because they want to do what is best for children and they want to improve their craft. The quality of teaching on this campus has completely humbled me. Know this: if your child attends ALA, his or her teacher will do everything possible to help that student reach his or her potential.
Project-Based Learning means that our Robotics students collaborate with their Humanities peers to create interactive works of art, our Engineering students work with architects to design the new playground and build a chicken coop for the lower campus, and Biology students work with another Robotics class to produce “Operation” games to represent the body systems they have researched.
Design Thinking means that our students know what it means to make a prototype, test it, fail, and revise. They have time to “go deep” into curriculum, and they often present to their peers, their parents, and outside experts. We are working on craftsmanship to develop products that will enhance our campus, and will be lasting legacies.
Enrichment Activities include field trips – lots of them. Our campus is located downtown, a block from the Central Library, and within walking distance to the Riverwalk, the Tobin Center, and Hemisfair Plaza. Our students go on at least one field trip a month, often more. In addition, the grade levels have built in time for students to take “Wonder Courses,” which they can select based on interest.
Because of our unique structure, high school students can visit the 4th/5th grade wing to give students feedback on their video game designs, 5th graders can join 6th and 7th graders in programs like Speak Up, Speak Out, and students in grade 4-12 could work together to produce the musical, Shrek.
So, what’s the downside, you ask?
Transportation may be an issue, depending on your location. There are in-district transfers on buses, but this may mean a long-ish ride for the student.
Because we are small, we cannot offer the number and variety of electives that larger high schools provide. We do have athletics, a mariachi band, and a theater program. The only foreign language we offer is Spanish.
Every child is different. I would have thrived at ALA as a teenager, but my daughter, who wants to be in 10 million clubs and take Latin, would not choose to be here (especially with her mom as a teacher).
This is an invitation to consider our school if you live in the San Antonio area. You do not have to be an SAISD student to apply. The application window for our campus is November 26, 2018 – February 8, 2019. To learn more about the application process, including opportunities to tour (which I highly encourage), click here.