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Pioneer Junior High School

You might think a fifty-year-old school would resign itself to retirement, to the pressures of age and the onslaught of time; however, a casual walk on my campus demonstrates life, learning, and a commitment to excellence.

Even though I service over 1000 students, I’m not one to give up. I have known that I am a place where learning is celebrated as a lifelong experience. Right now, sitting under a giant pepper tree that marks the center of my quad area, students with guitars cradled in their laps practice and refine their skills.

Looking for inspiration, a few of the students stare reflectively at the San Gabriel Mountains that poke their tops over some of blue-trimmed classrooms. Many of the classroom doors are open, demonstrating the dedication that many of the staff has to expanding students' intellectual and physical abilities.

Although I am physically tied to the eight acres that I sit on, my influence reaches far beyond my borders. Students who go to one of the six feeder elementary schools know of me, hear of the exciting student-centered programs, and anticipate their future junior high experience. Then there are those students who promote from my school and attend the neighboring high school.

These students leave my school dedicated to the importance of every course of study with an expectation of integrity and academic honesty from all. The community where I live is collectively committed to the pursuit of knowledge, personal growth and teamwork through embracing flexibility and change. Citizens are created here. I see their development;learning to be contributing members of our society;I see the work that occurs to make each student academically proficient, and I see how programs are changed to fit the needs of a diverse student body.

An often-overlooked aspect of my school is the plethora of parents who help make my influence so successful. The staff welcomes parent involvement. Last year, during National Invite Parents to School Day, parents visiting classrooms and left wearing contented smiles and knowing that my school values a rigorous and broad curriculum that encourages individual achievement of high standards.

In the past few years I have sensed a change. My staff is more committed to horizontal and vertical articulation and teaming. Tutorial, a twenty-five minute block of time during the school day, was established to meet the needs of ALL students. Seventh graders now start the year one day before eighth graders so that they know what to expect without any added social pressures.

My school is committed to meeting the goals of the Common Core standards in order to help all students become college and career ready in a 21st century learning environment. In the past three years, I have seen my school's API increase over 75 points to 914. I have seen cables, computers, in-focus projectors, and Smart Boards installed. I have seen the recent development of a school television network. And with these new technologies, programs, and strategies, I have seen a renewal in student enthusiasm and participation.

In Walt Whitman's I Sit and Look Out, he writes about a society that passively sat and looked out at the wounds that humanity left on this planet. I, however, do more than sit. I am an actor in this drama.I encourage students to be a better part of this world. I sit and look out, and I am proud. I am Pioneer Junior High School.

Pepper Tree