Teacher Involvement Promotes Positive Climate

Katie Erickson, Staff Writer

What sets Campolindo apart from most high schools? Top notch academic courses, a variety of clubs, great sports teams, a heralded music department? A community that steps up to overcome budget shortfalls?

Certainly, these are all impressive attributes that have helped establish Campolindo as one of the best high schools in the nation.  No less vital to each student’s exemplary scholastic experience are its teachers, who do more than just present academic content 5 periods a day.

Principal John Walker attributes much of the school’s achievements to its teachers’ involvement in activities outside of the classroom. “Teachers’ participation is a huge component in Campo’s success. Their participation fosters positive school climate, promotes safe, positive activities and helps build skills and character traits that helps strengthen performance in the classroom,” he said.

Math teacher Nita Madra, who is also the adviser of the Robotics Club, Math Club, and Bahngra Club, understands the value of interacting with students beyond the classroom, and the importance of supporting non-traditional learning opportunities.  Her work with the Robotics club allows students to visit different campuses and be challenged by peers outside their normal social circles. “It gives you a different perspective and a chance to compete with other schools so that you are not in a bubble thinking that you are the best when you go out to compete,” she said of her club’s travels to various tournaments.

Science teacher Rachael Eaton stays after school every other Tuesday to offer students extra help with chemistry. “Mr. Wildermuth and I share chemistry tutoring so every other week I assist after school. If there is a lot of people, I tell them to write their questions on a piece of paper so I can answer them all but if it is a small group, such as, 5-10 people, I work with them individually,” said Eaton.

The fact that her teachers show an interest in her life outside of a particular subject area is not lost on Nikki Ahazie. “I love it when teachers come to sporting events because it is different to see them outside the classroom,” she said.

“I think it is fantastic for our students when our teachers are involved in extra curricular events which involve sports and clubs,” Walker said.

Funding for the chemistry tutoring was established through an offer from Campolindo parents, the school administration and MEF (Moraga Education Foundation). “Chemistry is a pretty tough subject so students were seeking tutors outside of school, so we are offering students tutoring in school. It is a once a week supplement to class,” said Eaton.

“I feel good about it. It is nice to have a regularly scheduled time where students know they can come for help. I like that some of Mr. Wildermuth’s students come too, so I get a sense of what a different teacher’s students find challenging,” Eaton said.

According to Athletic Director and Junior Varsity wrestling coach Tom Renno, coaching helps him establish stronger relationships with his students. “Being a coach allows you to connect with students that a classroom environment would not allow. It allows opportunities for adults to see students maintain high academic and personal standards,” he said.

Counselor Jake Donohoe believes that through after school activities, the bond between students and teachers is strengthened. “Anytime teachers have different types of relationships with the kids, it is a positive thing. It is good for kids to have relationships with teachers that aren’t just the teacher to student and homework, and task oriented relationship,” she said.

After school sports provide a unique opportunity for these relationships. According to Walker, faculty make good coaches because of their experience interacting with students. “Staff members make great coaches because they know the community, understand young people and are very well trained,” he said.

Renno believes that teachers who coach provide a profound experience for students. “After school activities help round out students and provide them with opportunities to grow as young adults. Studies show that students who are involved in athletic teams perform better academically,” he said.

According to Donohoe, as teachers participate in more activities, it influences students to work hard as well. “If a teacher was giving up their time to do an extracurricular, maybe it would inspire the kid to feel better connected and want to work harder for that teacher,” she said.

Academic Decathlon coach Paul Verbanszky agrees. “It is very important for students to do extracurricular activities if they enjoy it and not just for college applications. It’s a great way to discover interests outside of the classroom curriculum,” he said.

According to Donohoe, balancing the extra activities, work and sometimes families can be a difficult task. “For a lot of teachers it is a challenge. A lot of teachers have families and have to arrange for extra child care or they have to make arrangements to get their kids watched while they are doing it. It is a big commitment in their lives but I think a lot of the teachers really enjoy it,” she said.

“I think students appreciate having teachers involved in activities because they get to know us more too,” Verbansky explained.

According to Eaton, her students are grateful for the extra assistance she provides at the tutoring sessions. “They always express appreciation and say ‘thank you,'” she said.

Madra noticed prominent change in some students from their personas in class to their personalities outside of school. “There are some who are introverted and shy in class, but in the club, they are outgoing and speak up. However, there are some students who act the exact same,” she said.  The high percentage of teachers involved in extracurricular activities certainly provides a significant positive impact to Campolindo’s campus climate.

According to Ahazie, when teachers come to sports games and are involved in clubs, it increases students’ excitement. “It makes students more enthusiastic about the game,” said Ahazie.

Teachers are a vital part of what makes Campolindo stand apart.