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Experienced Educators Making a Difference at Patagonia High School

Patagonia, AZ | Submitted by Denise Blake

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Rural schools have a unique set of challenges. These may include geographic size, teacher turnover, tight budgets and high poverty. The odds may seem insurmountable to some, but for the dedicated educators at Patagonia High School, it’s all in a day’s work.

When I first came to Patagonia, the district had been plagued by problems. High administrator turnover had left the schools in conditions that were less than ideal.

To go about improving the high school experience, I sought out the most experienced educators and encouraged them to teach at Patagonia High. Their years of service and wealth of knowledge helped to create a positive, proactive atmosphere at the school.

In addition, these individuals were all people who loved teaching for the sake of teaching. They were uncommonly dedicated to their students and did not allow their own ego or ambitions to get in the way of their goals.

Because the district doesn’t often have the chance to raise teacher pay, we’ve found creative ways to keep teachers around. For instance, we’re converting a former school into affordable housing.

We’ve also created two regular meetings to monitor student progress and maintain a sense of collaboration among staff.

Every week, the teaching staff gathers for an advisory meeting that focuses on individual student’s academic progress. This regular monitoring allows for early intervention should there be any challenges.

On a monthly basis, the team holds a student review to consider the emotional issues that are facing students. These are widely varied in our region, and I’ve been dually impressed with how the staff goes above-and-beyond to help our youth work through their challenges.

Truly stellar teachers have created drastic improvements at Patagonia High School. We now graduate 100 percent of our students and each one of those individuals has a plan for education beyond high school. Discipline issues have dropped substantially and are now nearly nonexistent.

Our efforts to enlist caring, hard-working professionals has created an educational environment where students are excited to be in class and where they’re set up for long-term success.

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