When I arrived there ten years ago our school had the second-lowest test scores in the district. Year two we got a dynamic new principal. It’s not so much that Mrs. C changed things. But she made things possible. Setting up a tech academy had been a dream of mine. With the support and encouragement of our new principal, I was on my way to starting our school’s tech academy.

Our test scores went up. Slowly at first. This year we have the second highest scores in the district.

Our district doesn’t have neighborhood high schools. Parents submit three top choices when their kids are in 8th grade. Not every parent is happy with their child’s assigned school. When she was starting out, our dynamic new principal attended school board meetings and calmly addressed angry parents who were unhappy that their kids were assigned to our school.

That following fall I told my freshmen class that within four years our school would be a top choice for parents in the district. I spoke at graduation four years later and reminded them of what I had said. My prediction had come true and our school was swamped with parent requests.

Once our scores went up, we had visitors from Kansas and Asia, school board members and school principals. Commissions and organizations came to view our success. All were brought through my classroom to see what my students were doing.

But my proudest moment came with a visit from the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) which had cited our school’s success. At the end of their visit one of our esteemed guests said that whatever school he visited he always quietly asked individual students the same question: “If you had a serious personal problem is there at least one adult in this building you could turn to?” He told us that responses at different schools had ranged from 30% yes all the way up to 100% yes.

At our school during that week every single student queried answered YES. The kids in our school felt there were adults in the building they could trust in times of difficulty.

To hell with test scores. The fact that our kids felt there were adults who supported them and cared about them — that was my proudest moment.

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