This past week, the board of directors proclaimed May 6-10 as Teacher Appreciation Week, but that does not go near far enough to demonstrate what a difference teachers make in individual students’ lives and the overall trajectory of our community.

As a member of the school board, I review piles of reports that tell us how our students are doing. Based on what I’ve seen, I believe Hood River County teachers truly outshine their peers across the state. They’ve helped rocket our small, rural district into the top 10 performers in the state, according to, even when compared to larger, well-funded, suburban school districts.

The trust our teachers instill in our community enables us to pass bonds and levies that protect smaller class sizes and safer learning environments. And the caliber of our teachers helps us attract and hire more great teachers, too!

This momentum starts in the classroom, and here I will share a shining example of one such classroom in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (mind you, there are many examples).

My example is the AVID program, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. Students can benefit from AVID as an elective program they choose to enter, but also as ongoing strategies employed throughout our middle and high school classrooms to help students reach their full potential. AVID especially supports students who are up against barriers like poverty, being the first in their family to navigate the college or even high school system, and/or on a track in school that suggests failure to reach their full potential. When I visit the AVID classroom, it is an eye-opening and heartening experience, as I find kids who represent the full spectrum of our school district’s population, and every one of them has a story of potential failure now on a track to achieving success and even dreams.

This year, the 22 graduating seniors in the AVID elective class have been accepted into two or more four-year colleges, and they’ve earned $500,000 in scholarships as of March and counting. Ten students will be the first in their family to graduate high school, and 21 will be first-generation college students. Collectively, they earned 65 Advanced Placement (AP) or college credits. Further, the AVID students have completed 2,200 hours of community service.

Even better news is that this success story permeates far beyond the walls of one classroom. AVID students tutor middle school students, serving as role models and setting a precedent for younger students to have high personal expectations, to set higher goals, and that they too can achieve those goals. Three AVID seniors hold elected positions in student government, adding meaningful constructive perspectives that may have been previously lost. AVID teachers engage business partners and local leaders, making connections to students and driving community commitment to our school system. This year, our students met a local chief executive officer, chief financial officer, pilots, engineers, a life-flight nurse, doctors, and more.

As the expression goes, a rising tide lifts all boats, and strategies that work in the AVID classroom are adopted and reinforced in general education classrooms like English and math.

A big ‘thank you’ goes to AVID teachers Doug Beardsley, Jennifer Durand, Counselor Melissa Bentley and the many other educators who have elevated the AVID way. Your leadership and mentorship to your peers and your students is invaluable, and without a doubt has changed lives and opened doors.

Beardsley said recently, “College may not be for everybody, but if a student expresses interest in college, we have a social and moral obligation to make that a viable pathway.” His unwillingness to accept stereotypes, especially those that damage our children’s odds, makes a real difference in the culture of our district and our students’ success.

Beardsley has established a scholarship fund for AVID students. You can contribute to the fund by writing a check payable to ”HRVHS AVID Scholarship” and mailing it or dropping it off at the high school’s office: AVID Scholarship c/o Doug Beardsley, 1220 Indian Creek Road, Hood River, OR 97031.

Finally, thank you to all teachers and supporting educators across all schools in our district. As I noted earlier, AVID is just one shining example of truly extraordinary effort, commitment, and hard work by so many teachers across our district. Your influence and impact goes far beyond the individuals you see on a daily basis, your efforts are a key to our record high 87 percent graduation rate — one of the highest in the state, and we are grateful for your contributions.

When you see a teacher in your daily travels, I encourage you to thank them for their efforts, even if you don’t have a student in school. These efforts by teachers are positively impacting all of our community.

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