WHAT IS CULTURE WEEK?
For the first week of school, the NTO Faculty and Staff members prepare the learners for the upcoming year. We call this Culture Week. In preparation for this week, facilitators collaborate by planning five days worth of lessons that teach core values, the school wide learning outcomes, and the PBL cycle. They also work to create an environment that fosters collaboration and creativity. For example, learners discover how to work together by participating in various team builders, such as building a marshmallow tower with spaghetti or planning and performing an improv skit. We discuss information that will be helpful to the learner's success at NTO, and try to make it an engaging and memorable experience for old and new learners. "Culture week was full of exciting and interactive games that allow everyone to get to know their fellow peers that are in their grade level as well as under and upperclassmen," says NTO Senior, Joseph Ramirez. "When I was a Freshman, I met some of my closest friends during culture week, and really was able to get a feel for what NTO was. It exposed me to project-based learning as well as introduced me to what it meant to be a student at NTO."
"CULTURE WEEK IS FUN BECAUSE WE HAVE THE CHANCE TO START OUR FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL OFF MEETING NEW FRIENDS AND DOING FUN ACTIVITIES! INSTEAD OF STARTING US OFF WITH SO MUCH WORK AND STRESS, WE ARE ABLE TO RELAX AND GET READY FOR THE NEW YEAR!"
Brissa Hinojos, NTO Junior
WHAT IS CULTURE DAY?
Culture week is planned by all of the facilitators at New Tech. Culture Day, however, will usually fall on a group of facilitators, or club that will volunteer to take on the task. "There is a lot that goes into planning a Culture Day," says Student Council Facilitator, Mrs. Barragan. We always start by looking for a common theme that will help improve school culture. We get lots of feedback from both learners and Facilitators. We spend weeks planning all the logistics and activities to make sure it will run as smoothly as possible. One person cannot do it alone. I am very thankful for my Student Council learners for all the time they spend working on these events."
This past October, the Student Council focused on planning a Culture Day that would help learners relax. The day began with a presentation about how the brain works and how everyone can manage stress. The learners participated in team builders and activities geared toward mental wellness and relaxation. Everyone attended a food truck rally for lunch where local food trucks gathered to serve a variety of cuisines. One highlight of the day was when everyone received watercolor supplies and followed along with a Bob Ross tutorial on the Smart Board. At the end of the day, the learners were able to attend an ice cream social. Some learners played board games with their friends, some danced or played sports outside, and others chose to visit the meditation or yoga rooms that were set up by facilitators during the social. The day revolved around making sure the learners knew they were supported and cared for by all facilitators and staff. Barragan continues, "I think Culture Day is a very important part of who we are as a school. When we say we are a 'family at NTO' we really mean it. Culture Days create opportunities for Learners and Facilitators to connect with each other on a different level. We get to know more about a person than who they are in the field of education. This is when we start those relationships that really impact how we learn for the rest of the year."
"[Culture days] can also be seen as a de-stress day, where students and facilitators can simply enjoy each other’s company and just have fun creating memories."
Adamary Dominguez, NTO Senior
Take a look at the Entry Event for the 2018 Culture Day. This is an example of what we will show the learners to kick off the events of the day. The video below was created by a group of Facilitators that came up with the plans for a different Culture Day with a Spy theme!
CREATING A CULTURE OF "BELONGING"
By implementing the core values and creating a positive culture, at NTO we are able to develop deeper relationships. NTO Senior, Lucia Navarrete states, "The relationships with teachers and peers at NTO is what makes NTO special. The teachers at NTO care about each of their students and make sure each student is not left behind. Students have teachers who push and advocate for them at NTO. This allows each student to have motivation that they can achieve their dreams."
In exercising the core values, we are also able to create a safe learning environment for everyone in our school. Lucia continues by stating, "NTO’s core values are exercised by the faculty, staff and learners. I have witnessed students and teachers shut down bullying. Many learners at NTO take the core values to heart because everyone should be treated with respect. As a student, we do not tolerate disrespect to teachers, staff or other students. With my personal experience, I know that the core values are exercised at NTO. This is what allows me to walk through the doors and know that I will be held with respect, held responsible for my actions, and be trusted."
"I FEEL LIKE I HAVE A SENSE OF BELONGING AT NTO, BUT IT GOES PAST JUST SIMPLY ‘FITTING IN.’ I GENUINELY FEEL COMFORTABLE AT THIS SCHOOL. I LOOK FORWARD TO SHOWING UP EACH DAY AND I CREDIT THIS TO MY FRIENDS AND THE FACILITATORS. I LOVE THE POSITIVE, COLLABORATIVE ENVIRONMENT."
Emily Banda, NTO Sophomore
Trust is key when it comes to the freedoms that are given to all of the learners at NTO. Learners are given the opportunity to access "Common Areas," which are open spaces around the school where everyone can sit and work. On our campus we also provide a 1 to 1 use of technology in the classrooms, with additional iMac labs for Digital Media 1 and AV classes. "I believe that we wouldn’t have many of the things that we have in our school if trust wasn’t in one of our values," says Senior, Adamary Dominguez. "By this I mean that if our school didn’t have trust within the learners, we probably would not have our laptops that are given to us to borrow. This is what makes NTO unique from many of the schools in the district."
Creating a Culture of Celebration
In order to reinforce responsibility and excellence, NTO celebrates the effort of learners that excel on our campus. For our Seniors, we have a school-wide cords ceremony as well as a community-wide signing party in which all Seniors sign to attend the college or university of their choice. We also hold a bi-annual celebration for all of the learners at NTO. This event is called the "Honor Roll Jubilee!" This past semester, learners that were listed on the A/B Honor roll and those that had perfect attendance were allowed to participate in an ice cream social and spend free time in the cafeteria. The learners also received a surprise visit from Satin Strings, which is the Honors orchestra from a neighboring high school. It was such a great event that the whole school joined in to attend the performance! The Satin strings were led by an NTO Senior named Arwen Weaks. She, along with her fellow musicians, wowed the crowd by playing classic pieces as well as modern arrangements. "Playing at the honor roll jubilee was an amazing experience. Performing in front of peers is the last thing most people want to do. However, as soon as we walked out the support was overwhelming and it became just so fun. I spend a lot of time at both NTO and rehearsals with Satin Strings, and those worlds usually remain separate. When I came out to play at NTO though, it was like I was playing for my very large family. Everybody was cheering and the support just filled me up! It was so sweet and fun! My school had never gotten to see me do what I love, and it was a very special moment." It was a memorable event for everyone at New Tech and a reminder that hard work and dedication is celebrated on our campus.
taking our culture to the community
Every year Seniors complete a Capstone course, in which they prepare for college, complete an internship, and collaborate on a passion project. Throughout the year, Seniors will apply for scholarships, apply to colleges, and learn how to be an independent adult. Learners will also take internships all throughout the community. Some will shadow nurses in hospitals and others will intern for small business owners or non-profit organizations. After their internships, the Seniors begin working on their "passion project." Many learners will seek mentors for these projects in the community, but there are many that look to their facilitators for guidance. In 2018, a group of Seniors collaborated with their Facilitators to create the first ever Community Fair for our city. Various non-profits participated, as well as first responders and the media. The whole city was represented at this event, but the greatest accomplishment was the effort put in by all facilitators and learners to make this a success. Different clubs set up tables to support the Seniors by selling food and other items. There was also a great amount of support from the learners and NTO families. Underclassmen helped greet guests and family members pitched in to sell food and help where needed.
You can get a glimpse into the 2019 Permian Basin Community Fair by clicking on the video below!
In 2019, another group of Seniors carried on the community fair tradition, but they decided to add a theme to the event. They created a mental health awareness fair titled the "Art of Awareness." There was an art show displaying pieces from local artists, a slam poetry reading, booths set up from non-profits that offer help and counseling, as well as a forum of professional counselors that helped answer questions from parents. The community and the school came together again, and everyone helped to make it a great success!
Building Culture during Quarantine
Like many high schools across the country, we are embarking into new territory as an educational establishment. Classes are empty, proms are being cancelled, and graduation plans are uncertain. In these ambiguous times, the leaders at NTO are pulling together more than ever to maintain a high level of education with regard to the current situation. Math Facilitators are teaching formulaic equations through Google Meets and many other facilitators are creating videos to guide learners through their lessons. In many ways, the facilitators and learners are taking this new change in stride because of our access to technology as well as the resources that were available at our school. One constant in particular is the seamless use of ECHO and the Google apps as our main forms of communication. "By using ECHO as the primary platform for turning in an assignment, we have already grown accustomed to checking this online resource for assignments as well as any extra information needed to complete an assignment," says Senior, Joseph Ramirez. "Classes such as Digital Media have also taught us the ins and outs of how to compose documents, edit videos, and how to overall collaborate with one another virtually."
The core values that guided the learners while on campus continue to help in this new time. Joseph continues by saying, "NTO has implemented the core values during this time of remote learning by bestowing trust upon all students, who must check their emails as well as ECHO daily to complete assignments and other tasks. Respect has been implemented through the understanding of the current situation. Everyone is experiencing different emotions as well as different circumstances, and facilitators are respectful of this, so long as we communicate with them. Lastly, responsibility is exhibited through the need to adopt time management skills and complete our assignments on time."
"The core values are still implemented through my assignments. My teachers trust me to do my work and respect when I am confused about something. We are all in unfamiliar territory and they are honest with us about it.
Natalie Jones, NTO Junior
In addition to keeping the education and culture strong, we are also focused on keeping the spring time traditions alive for our Senior class. Senior learners were able to pick up their cap and gowns while being greeted by smiling facilitators holding signs and ringing cow bells.
(I'll add more about how we continued traditions here if there is time...)