Sunday, August 30, 2015

“It” is the Day Before the First Day of School

The day before the first day of school is such an incredibly exciting, awesome, and terrifying time.  As BVP prepares to open our doors to about 1,400 scholars tomorrow, just like the day before my first day of teaching back in 1995, I am full of butterflies. Even more so, as a parent of 3 scholars, those butterflies are front and center.

I thrilled that as we enter YEAR SEVEN at BVP we have taken lessons learned along the way to improve “It” - everything that is BVP.  Even more exciting is that we haven’t yet learned all there is to know. Each day presents new challenges and opportunities for growth. At BVP we value this opportunity, and we know that it means each successive year will be better than the last.  

As an example, one of our most recent and exciting advances was the inclusion of #BVPHighSchool scholars as Summer Academy Teaching Assistants (TAs). Some of us were looking to provide our teachers with extra support in their classrooms. Some of us were looking for authentic ways to provide real employment experiences to our scholars. Some of us were brainstorming ways to improve our teacher-talent pipeline. Despite the variety of motivating factors, the result was clear: our TAs received extraordinarily high ratings from their teaching supervisors, and we hope to continue some version of “It” for a long time to come.

If there is anything that I’ve learned in my time at BVP, it is that “It” is not going to look exactly like I think it’s going to look. “It” is not going to go according to plan.  Yet I have deep confidence in the flexibility and commitment to our scholars that will drive the entire staff at BVP to make whatever changes are required when “It” doesn’t go according to plan. This is one of the many reasons that “It” IS going to be AWESOME!

I wish all scholars, teachers, support staff, and families best of skill (and a little luck, too) as we enter this most exciting 2015-16 school year.  Now let’s go do “It”!


Flor Ardon Cante, a rising sophomore at #BVPHighSchool and Summer Academy Teaching Assistant, working with three BVP rising kindergarten scholars

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Teacher of the Year - Andrew D'Avanzo

For his outstanding work at Blackstone Valley Prep,  Andrew (Andy) D'Avanzo was the most recent recipient of our Teacher of the Year award. As we look towards the start of a new school year, we took a moment to ask him some questions about his work. 

Mr. D'Avanzo is a 3rd grade teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep's (BVP) Elementary School 2. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Spanish and International Relations from Brown University in 2011 and is a former member of their soccer team. He still enjoys playing in his free time. In the fall of 2009, Mr. D'Avanzo studied abroad in Havana, Cuba, where he taught English to adults in his community. 

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What inspired you to teach?

I actually never planned on getting into teaching. I come from a family of educators and most of my childhood was spent on the campus of a private boarding school in Massachusetts. I went to college thinking about law school and I thought about going into finance for a while. Even though I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do, I was convinced that I wanted to be in a lucrative line of work. During the summer before my junior year, I enrolled in study abroad program in Havana, Cuba through Brown University. It was a very eye opening experience. I met so many amazing people who were so content with so little. It really changed the way that I thought about my future and made me realize that my personal experience had been so limited and my world view was so narrow and self-serving. In the summer after my junior year, I stumbled across BVP. They were in their first year and looking for interns and teaching assistants for their summer academy. Desperate for a summer job and figuring it would be something like a summer camp, I inquired and set up a time to visit the school to meet with Jeremy, the Executive Director, and the staff. I quickly realized that this was not an ordinary school. I was so impressed and intrigued by the things kindergartners were capable of. After 3 weeks of summer academy I returned in the fall as an intern and became more interested in public education. With guidance, and a gentle nudge from Jeremy, I applied to Teach for America, got placed in Rhode Island and haven't looked back since. The same realization that first struck me has always guided my development and inspired me to continue working in education - when kids are given a fair chance and the tools to succeed, they are capable of amazing things.

What is your "why" for being at BVP? 

My "why" is very simple. It's all about the relationships I've made with kids and their families. I get so much joy from the opportunity to have an impact on the lives of my students, and getting to be part of their stories is humbling. I've been able to develop real connections with so many amazing young people and wonderful families. Teaching at BVP presents a truly unique opportunity to engage with and learn from so many interesting people from so many different backgrounds. I learn something new every day and I have a lot of fun doing it. 

What is the experience like in your classroom? 

Hmmm....this one is a bit more difficult to describe. I hope I'm not inaccurate in saying that
my classroom is a balance of fun, craziness, silliness, hard work and determination. I've been lucky to work alongside some amazing teachers, so everything I'm about to describe is indicative of all teachers at BVP and not just me. We try to embody the motto "work hard, play hard." Learning should be fun and I want my students to know that it's okay to let loose and be crazy sometimes. But we're also here to learn and grow together, so we set very clear and ambitious goals for ourselves and our class as a whole. We also strive to build a supportive community and create an environment where everyone is comfortable being themselves, taking risks, and knowing they're part of a team.  On any given day, you could walk into our classroom and see everyone smiling, scholars leading discussions or working in groups, defending their opinions, correcting mistakes and having fun. 

What have you encountered that has helped you grow into the educator you are today? 

The most important thing I've realized is to be authentic. The teachers that I've learned the most from are the ones who allow their real personality through in everything. I always thought that it was important to develop my own "teaching persona." I would hear people say things like "teacher voice" and " teacher stare." I thought for a time that maybe I had to act differently in order to teach successfully. I'm not saying that those things aren't important, because I absolutely have developed my own repertoire of teacher tricks, but I've also realized that being your authentic self is the best way to make your teaching accessible to kids. It's so important to build trust and mutual respect with my students and the only way to do that is to treat each scholar as an individual. I strive to get to know all of my students as people. Sure it's important to know their academic strengths and weaknesses, but that's just a small part of who they are. They come through our doors as scholars, but they were people first. 

Congratulations Andy! BVP is proud to have you as a member of our team!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Parents as Partners, Stakeholders and Agents of Change

By Stephanie Gonzalez, External Affairs Associate - Advocacy and Outreach for Blackstone Valley Prep.


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On July 18th, we hosted a family day for incoming kindergarten scholars and families. As I was walking around, I noticed a young woman whom I had met while doing outreach for the lottery earlier this year. I was really excited to see her because when we last spoke, she shared that she had been applying for 5 years with no luck.  I approached her and told her I was excited to see that she had been accepted and she responded, “I know! I got very emotional when I received the letter. After so many years of trying, we’re finally in!” She is one example of thousands of mothers who year after year are hopeful for a call with someone on the other end saying, “Your daughter has been accepted to Blackstone Valley Prep!”


Hers is a happy ending. Unfortunately, the stories without happy endings far outweigh the happy ones. It’s those stories, the close to 2,000 kids on our waiting list, and our mission that inspires me to advocate strongly for high-quality public school choice options.  I invite you to join me in taking this work to the next level as we enter the new school year.


I am excited to announce that next month we are launching Blackstone Valley Prep’s first Parent Advocacy Fellowship, a leadership opportunity consisting of a series of workshops to engage and empower parents to be leaders in advocacy for their child and school. As I continue to do this work, I am reminded that it is most powerful when parents become our partners and leaders in this movement.  Will you join me? #parentsaspartners


We need your voice, your truth, and your leadership to be at the forefront of that work.

Please click HERE for a flyer describing the fellowship and click HERE for the application form. Interested BVP families should submit the form OR email me at sgonzalez@blackstonevalleyprep.org by Thursday, September 3rd, 2015.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Welcome Back Message from Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy!

August 31st - the first day of school for BVP scholars. It's going to be here before you know it! 

As we prepare to welcome all our scholars for the 2015-2016 school year, each school will be hosting an Ice Cream Social (or in the case of BVP High School, a cookout). The purpose of these events is to provide families and scholars with the opportunity to meet teachers, tour our schools and get excited for the fantastic year ahead. 

Families should direct specific questions to their individual school's office team. 

Below is a summary of dates for these events.

Elementary School 1 (291 Broad Street, Cumberland)  
  • K-1 Ice Cream Social: Tuesday, August 18, 5-7 pm 
  • Grades 2 – 4 Ice Cream Social: Thursday, August 20, 5-7 pm. 

Elementary School 2 (52 Broad Street, Cumberland)
  • K Ice Cream Social: Monday, August 24, 5-7 pm
  • Grades 1 &  Ice Cream Social: Tuesday, August 25, 5-7 pm
  • Grades 3 & 4 Ice Cream SocialAugust 26, 5-7 pm 

Elementary School 3 (3 Fairlawn Way, Lincoln)
  • K Ice Cream Social – Tuesday, August 18, 5-7 pm 

Middle School 1 (909 Lonsdale Avenue, Central Falls)
  •  Grades 5 & 6 MS Ice Cream Social: Thursday, August 275 - 6:30 pm
  •  Grades 7 & 8 MS Ice Cream Social: Thursday,  August 27, 6:30-7:30 pm

High School (3357 Mendon Road, Cumberland)
  •  HS Community Cookout: Thursday, August 27, 4-7 pm


Please stay tuned for more updates as we head back to school later this month!