SPEARHEADING AN ADVISORY PROGRAM
In an effort to ensure that each student at her school is connected with a caring adult, 2012 Knowles Teaching Fellow Zenas Lee successfully spearheaded an effort to launch an advisory program called Homeroom. In the fall of 2016, each of the 600 incoming freshmen were assigned to one of 30 groups that were run by a volunteer adviser. Throughout the year, Homeroom advisors met with their groups on a weekly basis, getting to know their students as individuals through group activities and one-on-one meetings. On the end-of-year survey, 78.4% of freshmen reported agreeing with the following statement: “My Homeroom adviser cares about me.” The Homeroom pilot was also responsible for beginning to shift the culture of the school towards recognizing the importance of supporting students’ socio-emotional health through an intervention program that equitably distributes the efforts of staff to make stronger connections with students. Based on the positive results of the pilot, a modified form of the advisory program with increased staff participation will be implemented during the 2017–2018 school year. Members of the Knowles community, along with school colleagues, assisted Zenas with this effort. At the 2016 Spring Meeting for the 2012 Cohort of Knowles Teaching Fellows, she started an unconference-style discussion on “How to Effect Systemic Change in Large Schools.” Through the unconference, Zenas was able to gain insight from other Fellows on how advisory programs operate in different contexts. Additionally, Zenas received funding from Knowles for eight colleagues to attend a two-day training on how to design an advisory program to meet the needs of their students. Last, she participated in the Knowles Coaching Partnership, which provided her with one year of coaching from Knowles Senior Fellow Jessica Uy, who teaches in the same district. The focus of their coaching relationship was the Homeroom pilot.