Alumni Thank Teachers for “Enduring Understandings”

September 6, 2013
Lydia Dobyns

Lydia Dobyns

With the start of a new academic school year, we thought teachers and directors would like to hear from New Tech alumni as they continue post-secondary journeys. Two alumni contacted us with a request: they wanted to convey heartfelt appreciation to their New Tech teachers.  They asked to speak at the New Tech Annual Conference to share their perspective on their college and life journey now that they had a perspective on their high school experience.

Jolie Law and Astrid Aune are 2010 graduates of Da Vinci Charter Academy in Davis, California.  Jolie, a UC Berkeley senior majoring in the Environment and Society, and Astrid, a senior at NYU majoring in Politics, Rights and Development, told their teachers how — in a presentation entitled from “Enduring Understandings to Organized Chaos” — they were taught to seek their own “why’s” in their post-secondary college and career lives.

Jolie and Astrid talked about the “bridges they crossed and those they built” and how New Tech helped them be ready for college and career.  They said they wanted to “give back” to the teachers who did so much for them while they were in school.

Katherine Winn, a 2011 graduate of Da Vinci, is a current student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., studying international affairs.  She has interned with a U.S. Senator as well as her Congressman and is working for a lobbying firm.  According to Katherine, her successful political work is a “direct result of the time spent at Da Vinci, where I learned professionalism, collaboration and initiative.”

Katherine continued: “Working in teams during high school taught me time management, accountability and how to be goal-oriented.  Collaborating with others helped me learn to communicate in a meaningful way.  I entered Da Vinci without these key professional skills and left armed with them.  I would not be doing what I’m doing today without having attended a New Tech school.”

2010 graduate Caleb Hampton is attending the University of Ghana in Accra and works in Ghana’s media industry.  “Attending Da Vinci is where I learned how to work effectively in groups — and to think critically and creatively,” he said.  “I also mastered technical literacy.”

At Da Vinci, Caleb learned video editing and graphic arts (skills he uses in his job in Ghana).  He learned how to prepare business proposals and studied promotional publicity.  “I was able to gain practice conducting myself in a professional environment while in high school,” he said.  “The skills I learned at Da Vinci transcend cultures and continents.”

Alex Wick works above the Antarctic, for the National Science Foundation.  His “home” is a ship.  “There’s no ‘cut and paste’ way to do things here,” explained Alex.  “The problems we encounter here cannot be looked up on Google.  We have complex logistical questions such as how to tag the dorsal fin of a whale that surfaces every 20 minutes.  Project-based learning (PBL), as taught the New Tech way, enabled me to seamlessly move from the academic environment to the workplace.”

As part of their presentation, Jolie and Astrid recounted a difficult experience they had with preparation for a high school project.  “We view those times that we struggled with a project as ‘learning moments’ that prepared and inspired us to chase our own “why’s,” they said.

Jolie and Astrid described New Tech teachers as driven by a motivation to seek the “why,” and students see this motivation in their teachers and want to mirror it.   “New Tech students seek the “why,” not the “how” or “what,” added Jolie and Astrid.  “We are taught a variety of ‘enduring understandings’ which enable us to ‘organize chaos’ in our lives.”

At the end of their presentation, Jolie and Astrid received a standing ovation.  Their impassioned ‘thank you’ filled a room of educators with deep appreciation.

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