Photo by Matthew Claybrook
Seventeen high school students graduated this summer as the first class from the Advanced Learning Academy (ALA), an innovative pre-K-12 school that Trinity’s Department of Education played a significant role in designing and supporting since 2016.
The Department of Education helped design the school in 2016 in partnership with ALA’s school district (San Antonio Independent School District) and City Education Partners (CEP), a San Antonio-based educational nonprofit. The department focused on progressive ideas about learning and professional development opportunities for teachers and school administrators as they helped craft the school. ALA is an in-district charter and magnet school that serves grades pre-K-12 and is open to any student who applies. Applicants are chosen using a lottery system.
Angela Breidenstein, professor in the department of education, was part of the initial design team with representatives from SAISD and Trinity. Breidenstein helped recruit the now graduating seniors to attend ALA while it was still being developed.
“We’re so proud of the students of the first graduating class. We’ve seen in small schools that we’ve started or worked with that it takes pioneering students to leave their home school constants and come try a new school. In this case, when they came to ALA, they were coming to a school that literally did not exist. We asked students and families to come create it with us,” Breidenstein said.
This year, the Department of Education will enter its second grant agreement with SAISD and CEP. For the year, ALA will continue to concentrate on social-emotional learning.
“One of the things that I think we think about with a strong focus is social and emotional learning as a shared focus, along with academic learning. We’re looking at the whole child, so what does it look like to attend to students’ social and emotional development and well-being,” Breidenstein said.
ALA will also continue to focus on its expeditionary learning in the San Antonio community and across the nation, according to Emily Bieser, principal of ALA.
“We are expanding our experiential learning experiences at the upper grades as we take our first out-of-state travel experiences. We will be studying the Civil Rights Movement with our 8th graders on a travel experience to Alabama. We will also be taking our seniors to Washington D.C. to study climate change policy nationally and around the globe. While these two trips will be new, we will also continue to use San Antonio community to educate all our students, pre-K-12,” Bieser wrote in an email.
Not only are Trinity professors involved in ALA but Trinity master students from the Master of Education in School Leadership (MESL) and the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program also aid in its progress. This year, there are 10 MAT interns and four MESL interns at ALA.
One MAT student, Kali Dawson, works as an intern teacher at ALA in a mixed-aged classroom with 2nd and 3rd graders. Multiage learning is a primary focus for ALA this year.
“For these mixed-aged classrooms, we are really focusing on small group learning this year based off what the different students need. The students will then be receiving smaller groups for learning, and more learning catered to exactly what they need to move forward. We are all very excited to see how these new mixed-aged classrooms go and to get working more with the students. ALA is unique in every way and it is amazing to be a part of such a world-changing program,” Dawson wrote in an email.
ALA is not the first school of its kind. Trinity has previously worked in partnership with North East Independent School District to create the International School of the Americas. Breidenstein saw the creation of ALA as an opportunity to strengthen Trinity’s partnership with SAISD.
“I have experienced this, and I’ve seen schools and districts do this a few times now. So, for me, it’s just another affirmation of the commitment of school districts and universities to partner together to create wonderful learning experiences for everyone in the building — the teachers, the students, the staff, the families and our teachers in training — our future teachers and future school leaders,” Breidenstein said.
Disclaimer: Garriga worked with City Education Partners on an unrelated project last summer
| Class of 2021 | Majors: Sociology and Economics |