Ben Needle explains how Cobb County School District supports college success

Last week, Ben Needle, a teacher at Kell High School in East Cobb, represented the Cobb County School District when he spoke to more than 2,000 educators as the Teacher Keynote Speaker at the AVID Summer Institute in Orlando, Florida.

Nearly 1,000 people enter AVID’s Summer Institute speaker contests each year. Mr. Needle’s speech was chosen because it delivered a message of how through AVID, both students and teachers can see ultimate success. He explained that by implementing the AVID College Readiness System at Kell High School and through the development of a strong site team made up of teachers from all disciplines, incredible success was possible.

AVID works to provide students who have a strong desire to succeed with the tools they need in rigorous classes and to carry those skills forward to college and beyond. AVID at Kell High School is implemented schoolwide, targeting all students in an effort to make them college and career ready. By using key AVID strategies in every classroom, Kell’s teachers are able to increase rigor while teaching and building the academic behaviors that help students become successful learners.

Mr. Needle explained that the formula is quite simple, “Student Desire + Teacher Desire = Success. AVID is great for teachers. AVID is great for students. AVID is great for creating a community of people who are passionate about cultivating success.”

AVID has its origins in San Diego, California, where it was started in 1980 by a teacher, Mary Catherine Swanson, who sought to educate the students who traditionally were not seen as having the potential to succeed in college. Since then, AVID has grown into a global nonprofit that seeks to create a “lifelong advantage” for all who are a part of the strategies implemented. Students who interview and become a part of the AVID program at their schools desire to be on a college track, but some sort of barrier prevents them from gaining access to advanced education. As an AVID student, they are given intensive training on how to be successful in rigorous classes that they may have been excluded from. Beyond the AVID Elective class, all students and teachers benefit from the strategies implemented.

A prime example of how AVID can enrich the culture of a school can be seen at Palmer Middle School. As a result of Palmer’s dedication to implementing AVID strategies, it has been recognized as an AVID National Demonstration School and hosts various events during the year, showcasing their school and students. Additionally, Palmer’s own Vijay Koilpillai was selected as the 2015 Teacher Keynote Speaker at the AVID Summer Institute in Orlando, Florida.

It is impressive that Mr. Needle and Mr. Koilpillai were selected in two consecutive years, considering the number of applicants AVID receives each year for this honor. It speaks volumes for the programs they have helped to build and demonstrates the commitment that the Cobb County School District has made in supporting students along their path toward success. This coming school year, Mr. Needle will be teaching at Wheeler High School and working to build its AVID program to be as strong as the others in Cobb County, helping even more students succeed.


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