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A Day in the Life: An Inside Look at TD3’s Middle Schools

Post Date:01/26/2017 2:28 PM

Tempe Elementary has many wonderful choices for middle school, offering different learning styles and programs at each campus. Tempe Elementary is kicking off a special series brought to you by Justin Aungst, Community Affairs and Marketing intern, to attest to the wonderful programs each school has to offer. Our “A Day in the Life” series will give readers an inside look at a typical day in each of our middle schools!

MiddleSchoolStory1_400x244Middle school is a crucial time in a child’s education to keep them engaged in their learning and prepare them for day-to-day life in high school. It’s a fine line between keeping the kids interested and making sure they’re ready to jump into the rigor of high school.

Tempe Elementary understands this and puts effort into making middle school fun and productive.

Gililland, Fees College Preparatory, and Connolly middle schools all offer classes that are complemented by extracurriculars and electives that keep the learning at a high pace without kids losing interest.

Students’ choose specialty classes like band and technology to not only keep their learning experience well rounded, but also to break up the traditional math, science, social studies and language arts classes.

In order to keep students with one foot in the digital world, all students are given access to an electronic device which allows them to utilize online assignments and digital tools to enhance their learning.

All three TD3 middle schools offer free afterschool athletics and clubs in addition to after school care.

While TD3 middle schools all share the dedication to making sure students have the best possible experience in their core classes as well as extra curricular activities, what makes them great are their unique programs and classes.

MiddleSchoolStory2_400x244For example, Gililland Middle School is in their first year of a new bike repair class led by Claudia Becho. In a classroom meets workshop type class, students learn the ins-and-outs of what makes bicycles work, their different parts, and how to fix them.

With the first semester under her belt, Becho remarks on the classes success.

“The students really enjoyed the class,” said Becho. “I think the atypical classroom setting excited the kids and allowed them to become fully involved in the hands on problem solving and teamwork that the class was setup to invoke.”

The first semester saw the class take in and fix more than 15 bikes, and they’re looking for even more donations as Becho looks to expand and take on two bike repair classes next semester.

As the class expands, Becho looks to incorporate cross curriculum.

“From things like finding the circumference of wheels to presentations on bike manufacturers,” explained Becho. “I want kids to incorporate what they’re learning in other classes in the bike repair class.”

Over at Connolly Middle School, the Crusaders proudly house the Advancement Via Individual Determination or AVID program. AVID is a college readiness elective that pushes students to a higher level of thinking and learning.

MiddleSchoolStory3_400x244They do this through techniques like socratic seminars and discussion that aim to increase participation and help students better understand what they’re learning and why it matters. These discussions typically involve questions students come across while completing their assignments with other students collaborating to help answer their question, and allows connections to be made to previous learning. These discussions are student led with minimal interference from the teacher.

“AVID provides a big impact on the students,” said AVID Site Coordinator Denise Dorn. “They typically come to the program as shy students that earn B’s and C’s on their report cards, but leave motivated leaders.”

In addition to a deeper learning, AVID helps students better understand what college is, what it can provide, and different career paths available to them.

“When we ask the kids what they want to be when they grow up we almost always get one of the same three answers, ‘Lawyer, doctor, or NBA player,’” said Dorn. “AVID brings in guest speakers to come and discuss different career opportunities that many of the kids never knew existed.”

As a completely optional elective, what makes the program so successful is that it’s filled with students that want to learn and engage with each other and faculty that can provide them with the push to do just that.

At Fees College Preparatory, Deborah Pardee’s sixth-grade STEM students are hard at work in their groups working on different modules.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and the program gets students involved with these subjects in fun and interactive ways. The classes are hands on and set up in a way which allows students to choose what interests them and what they learn about.

MiddleSchoolStory5_400x244Gavin Connell, one of Pardee’s students, explains how the class works.

“There are different stations or modules set up around the classroom, ranging from digital manufacturing to aeronautical engineering, and we, the students, get to choose what we’d like to work on. There are different activities set up with each module that we have to complete that typically take around 10 days. After we’re done with the module we take a test, and move on to the next module that interests us.”

These modules combine hands on learning and researching to better understand what they’re learning about.

Although STEM isn’t typically associated with creativity, Pardee’s class thwarts that stereotype with modules like music production and stop motion animation to create and maintain a balanced learning environment.

“I joined the STEM program because I wanted to learn more and push myself further,” said Connell. “And the STEM program and the teachers in it have helped me do that.”

These programs and classes are just a hint of what TD3 middle schools have to offer. For more information on each, including brochures and how to register, visit

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