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  • Feature: How AVID at JPS is creating confidence and changing futures
  • Employee Spotlight: Allison Cockerell - The life of a third grade teacher
  • East Elementary is using pajamas and principals to promote a love of reading
  • Important dates to remember
Camila Tejada, AVID student at Jenks Freshman Academy

The AVID Advantage

Eighth grade didn’t go well for Camila Tejada.

“I didn’t have good grades and I didn’t care,” admitted the 15-year old Tejada.

Kevin Martinez can relate. He had a difficult academic year as an eighth-grader in a neighboring district.

“Last year I really struggled a lot,” Martinez said. “I wasn’t organized at all.”

Fast forward to freshman year and not only have the letters in the gradebook improved for Tejada and Martinez, but their outlook and their attitudes have also taken a positive turn. Both students point to the AVID program at JPS as the catalyst for their recent success.

“My grades are better, and AVID helps me stay on track,” Tejada stated.

AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, was instituted at the Freshman Academy in 2006, and Jenks became the first traditional high school in Oklahoma to offer the program. Today, the program at JPS has approximately 165 participants in grades 7-12. AVID is a national non-profit organization with programs in more than 6,000 schools serving nearly two million students. Within the AVID curriculum, students receive the additional academic, social, and emotional support that will help them succeed in their school’s most rigorous courses while equipping teachers and schools with what they need to help students succeed on a path to college and career success.

“The goal here is to find the kids in our school who have the determination but may not have the support or the knowledge of their resources to be college and career ready,” explained Jordan Johnson, AVID teacher at Jenks High School. “Some of them just need a little push. They have the will and AVID provides the skills, the practice, and the community aspect.”

Freshman Kevin Martinez working on an essay about life goals during AVID class.

According to the facts and figures on the AVID website, 75 percent of AVID students are from a low socioeconomic background, and 80 percent are considered underrepresented students. The program exists to close the achievement gap and at JPS, the students are flourishing. Since the inception of AVID in the District, 100 percent of the students involved have been accepted to four-year colleges or universities.

“I’ve had a pretty good idea about what I want to do and where I want to go to college, but I really had no idea how to get there,” said junior Daniel Evans. “AVID has helped me find that path.”

Helen Gomez wants to work in the medical field. She has her sights set on Stanford or Harvard. “AVID has made me become more organized and I don’t procrastinate as much I did before,” said Gomez, a freshman who started in the program as an eighth grader at Jenks Middle School. “It has also given me a teacher I can trust in, and I feel very close to everyone in the class.”

Because AVID students are often with the same classmates and same teacher for several years, the program has a way of making a big district like Jenks, feel much smaller. Talk to any AVID student or teacher at JPS and you’ll hear one word mentioned over and over.

“This is my family,” said freshman Haylie Porter. “This is a safe space where everyone is supportive of each other.”

“It really does feel like a family, and it is a big part of my life,” stated Nuami Lam Tung, a junior in her second year of the AVID program and a student in Johnson’s class. “I can talk to my teacher about anything, and we can talk to each other openly about what we are going through. Sometimes as teenagers we want to give up, but having someone to talk to is so important for us.”

“The skills are helpful, the information about college is helpful, but the most important part of this program is the connections the students make with their teacher and their classmates,” stated Judi Thorn, AVID District Director and Site Principal at the Freshman Academy. “Almost every single student refers to AVID as ‘my family.’”

AVID teacher Jordan Johnson (left) shares a smile with AVID students Sh'eaven Miles, Daniel Evans, and Nuami Lam Tung.

Beyond the practical tools AVID provides for students – notetaking, time management, essay writing, public speaking, and effective study habits – the program is centered around empowerment and confidence. A dream is a good thing. A road map to make that dream a reality is even better.

Martinez is thinking of following in his father’s footsteps and taking over his restaurant business. Porter is interested in studying Psychology, while Lam Tung says she will attend ORU to pursue a degree in International Relations. Sh’eaven Miles wants to be a pediatrician for special needs children. A junior at Jenks High School who started in AVID as a freshman, Miles is determined and hopeful when addressing the challenges she knows she will face.

“I think I’ve always had some of those leadership qualities, but AVID has really pushed me to become even more of a leader,” Miles remarked. “It has helped me reach out to the right people, and ask the right questions. I’m accountable to myself, my classmates, and my teacher. I don’t want to let them down.”

“These kids hear ‘do better’ or ‘try harder’ all the time,” Johnson said. “But to hear that they have everything inside of them they need to succeed is not nearly as common for some of these students. As adults, it is one of the levers we need to pull more often.”

Across the country, 56 percent of AVID students have parents with no college experience. They are entering into uncharted territory not only for themselves, but for their families. Tejada and Martinez are pursuing something previous generations did not think possible.

“My parents are from El Salvador and never finished school,” said Tejada, who wants to go to Johns Hopkins University to become an Obstetrician. “I want to take advantage of every opportunity I have here at Jenks and AVID is helping me do it. I want to make my family proud.”

Tejada personifies the optimism embedded within the AVID program and its students. Instead of simply being told that anything is possible, AVID is showing teens how to maximize their potential. And as Camila Tejada believes, it doesn’t hurt to have a little fun along the way.

“I look forward to this class every single day.”


Allison Cockerell - SE Elementary

“Ms. Cockerell, what do you want for Christmas?”

Allison Cockerell didn’t have much time to think of something before her third grade students chimed in with an answer of their own.

“We want to buy you a house so you can live next door to us!”

The very next day, those students followed through. They constructed and decorated a paper house which they proudly presented to their teacher.

“Those moments mean so much to me,” Cockerell reflected. “Those are the moments that remind me why I do what I do. I want to be the teacher students remember for many years to come.”

After six years as an elementary teacher, with a stop in her hometown of Edmond, as well as a year in Bixby, Cockerell feels like she has found a home in her first year at Jenks Southeast Elementary.

“From the second I walked in for my interview, I felt like this is where I’m supposed to be. Everyone is kind, thoughtful, and supportive. Teachers went out of their way to introduce themselves to new faculty before the year started, and I feel so encouraged on a daily basis.”

Attempting to reach the academic, social, and emotional needs of every child in her classroom is not without its challenges. With a variety of learning styles, and so many different personalities looking to her for instruction, guidance, and support, Cockerell’s experience has helped her to effectively navigate the chaos.

“I try to differentiate my instruction and management to meet the needs of all my students,” explained Cockerell. “I think parents like the fact that I run a tight ship but they can also see that my students respect me. It’s important for my students to know that I love and respect them as well. Cockerell’s crew is a community built on mutual respect.”

Cockerell believes the impact one teacher can have on one student cannot be underestimated. She hopes her students will look back on their time in her room just as she carries happy memories of her elementary years.

“I can remember my first grade teacher holding my hand when I was the line leader and squeezing a message into my hand so I would have to guess what she was trying to say. As I look back, it reminds me again how important it to build relationships with my students. It is so crucial, and I’m really hard on myself if I feel like I’m not getting through to a student.”

How do I know I’m doing a good job? It’s a question many teachers ask to themselves. For Allison Cockerell, the paper house in the corner of the classroom is a symbol of success.

A Principal's Bedtime Story

Last summer, the principals at Jenks East Elementary were brainstorming about how they could connect with families and build a stronger sense of community around their school. The idea they adopted calls for ditching the professional attire, getting comfortable, and cozying up with a good book.

By creating a series called “A Principal’s Bedtime Story,” the administrators at East Elementary have combined the popularity of social media and the trend of live video with something that appeals to kids and parents alike - reading in pajamas. The concept is simple. The principals pick a book, promote the date and time, and stream the live read on the East Elementary Facebook Page (@jenkseast).

East Elementary Assistant Principal Heather Zemanek reads a bedtime story with her daughter, Kate.

“It’s such a simple and fun way to share a real and meaningful experience with our families,” stated Ryan Glaze, Site Principal at East Elementary. “Humanizing the joy of storytelling, through something as familiar as a bedtime story, is really a touching thing to share. We’re thrilled at the idea that our students and families would let us share in that special time them in their homes, and we hope it helps our families see how much we value time spent reading together outside of school.”

To date, the series has featured four stories (one for each principal) and the goal is to schedule at least one per month moving forward.

“The response has been very positive,” Glaze remarked. “Many families and students have commented on how fun it was to watch from home and have time to just sit and listen to a story together before they wind down for bed in the evening.”

Click to view the previous bedtime stories on Facebook

Site Principal Ryan Glaze reads Monster’s New Undies

Assistant Principal Jennifer Baker reads Porkenstein

Assistant Principal Heather Zemanek reads When Charlie McButton Lost Power

Assistant Principal Jennifer Bradshaw reads Mystery in Bugtown


  • January 7 - Back to School! First Day of Spring Semester
  • January 21 - NO SCHOOL (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
  • February 1 - District Collaboration Day (Late start at all school sites)
  • February 12 - PLEASE VOTE in the 2019 JPS Bond Election!
  • February 18 - NO SCHOOL (Professional Day)
  • March 1 - District Collaboration Day (Late start at all school sites)
  • March 18-22 - Spring Break

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