by George J Elbaum
Amador Valley High School (AVHS) has set a challenging question for its 2640 students to explore: “How will you A.I.D. your world?” wherein A stands for Academic Achievement, I for Innovative Thinking, and D for Demonstration of Civic Responsibility. The school success in academic achievement is shown by being deemed a three-time California Distinguished School, a National School of Character, and a two-time National Blue Ribbon School. The Daily Beast/Newsweek ranked Amador Valley High School 238th in its 2012 list of the 1,000 Best High Schools in America. This success in academics is paralleled in AVHS’s extracurricular activities such as music, theater, and athletics, as well as the development of civic awareness and responsibility in its students. In national competitions such as We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, the Amador Valley team has ranked in the top four places 10 times in recent years, including 2006-2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014. Eight of Amador Valley’s teachers—Mark Aubel, Debbie Emerson, Jon Grantham, Tom Hall, Debbie Harvey, Brian Ladd, Marla Silversmith, and Eric Thiel—have been recognized as a Pleasanton Unified School District teacher of the year.
In developing the students’ civic responsibility, an integral part of the school’s Sophomore English course includes a strong multi-week exploration of the Holocaust, its historical context and its literature, including Elie Wiesel’s Night. To augment the Holocaust study, Teacher/Librarian Erik Scherer, Language Arts Instructional Coach John Ribovich and Jack Weinstein of Facing History and Ourselves organized my visit to AVHS. Instructional Tech Coach Scott Padway took many of the photos. The students were very well prepared, and this resulted after my talk in a long and very gratifying Q&A, a personal exchange with the students which is my favorite part of any presentation.
Because of the unusually strict rules by AVHS, only the 2 photos with 4 students (below) were allowed without special permission. Missing are 2 photos of the whole audience taken face-on and 19 out of 21 photos of 45 enthusiastic students who joined me for individual or small group photos, expecting to see their photos on my website. I very much hope that the special permission will be given to add the other 41 students’ photos to those below.