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Cloverdale Comments - November 2015


Cloverdale Comments - November 2015

by Carol Russell

By Carol Russell & Reese Foxen

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.  ~ Edith Ann (via L. Tomlin)

Previously, in our exploration of the Cloverdale Unified School District we talked with administrators, teachers and people involved in groups that support students. This month we sat down with two students, one who is still in high school and one who has started her life after graduating from Cloverdale High School (CHS). Neither of them were referred by someone in the school system; rather, we met them through personal contacts.

Daniela Denham, who attended Jefferson Elementary and Washington Middle Schools, graduated from CHS with the class of 2013. Awarded a full scholarship to Santa Rosa Junior College, she is finishing the requirements for a major in Cognitive Science, a mixture of Physical Science and Psychology. Daniela is also in the process of applying to the University of California at San Diego, Davis, and Los Angeles. 

Damiyon Tamayo is a senior at CHS. His family moved to Cloverdale when he was in the 7th grade to be near his grandfather. A member of the CHS Interact Club, he attended the Rotary leadership camp his junior year. Damiyon played football for the Eagles, but due to a mild concussion has chosen go in a new direction. His interests are beginning to broaden into areas like American Government and Culinary Arts. As with most young people, he is in flux about his future, but is considering sports medicine or possibly becoming a chef.

Both of these young people are intelligent, thoughtful and genuine. Critical thinking seems to be their common theme. However, they came through “a system” influenced by federal guidelines at slightly different but very significant times. 

One of Daniela’s major criticisms about the educational system was the need to teach to a standardized test. This eliminated any critical thinking and it was not an exploration of knowledge, rather an “exercise in regurgitation.” She was saved, however, by her English and Math teachers. Two of her English teachers pushed her to think and write out her thoughts, while her Math teacher emphasized working in teams to solve a problem. She wishes the JC would require more in-depth papers that allow her to expand the analytical and critical foundation her teachers at CHS gave her, despite state and federal requirements.

With the Common Core now in place, Damiyon’s experience is different in that the teachers are not forced to teach to the tests; they are now free to do what good teachers do and encourage students to explore new ways of thinking. He expresses appreciation for teachers who emphasize questioning instead of rote memorization and also appreciates having a Study Hall, as it allows him to go to a teacher, either the actual one or one with whom he has a connection, for help. As he says, it “doesn’t matter how long you need, the teacher will sit with you and explain it.” This has been invaluable to him as he recovers from the effects of the concussion. 

Damiyon especially likes Google Class, which shows the assignments for each class, where you stand in class work and your grades. He also acknowledges the value of having easy access to the Principal and Counselors. Everyone at CHS is “very helpful and friendly” – teachers and students alike. We got the impression that this warmth and approachability seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. 

Damiyon agreed that students at CHS are not immune to teen drama, most of which, as he points out, comes from social media. Although, he is up on it, he does not fully participate in social media because of the resulting drama and the potential for bullying. If you don’t participate, you avoid the problems.

Damiyon wants to be an inspiration for his younger siblings and is working to set the example. His sage advice to all students? “Do what you can. Do all the homework. Get involved. Try new things. Find out who you are. Have fun!”

So, here we have two young products of Cloverdale schools who are on two different life and career paths. Yet both will surely find their way to a great future.