AVID: Teaching Life Skills that Extend Beyond the Classroom


Submitted by Christa Botsford

Students from Wauwatosa West’s AVID class put their heads together to solve a math problem during their second hour class. AVID has been running trial classes at the highschools for two years. The district has recently decided to expand the program and get more students involved.

Annabelle Wooster, Editor

With nearly two million participating students across 7,000 K-12 schools, Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) is an instructional method aimed at students that have shown academic interest, but haven’t reached their highest potential. Currently the program is only available for ninth grade students, but the Wauwatosa School District is working on rapid expansion.

The AVID program started in Wauwatosa West about two years ago. Wauwatosa West Physical Education Teacher Christa Botsford was contacted by school administrators about a trial class to be conducted with the incoming freshman class. 

“Mr. Calarco asked me if I would be interested in teaching the 9th grade AVID elective class at Wauwatosa West. He explained the class to me briefly and in that short explanation I was sold. I wanted to take on this opportunity to expand my contact with students in a different educational setting, where I could be more impactful in their content courses,” said Botsford. 

Botsford was thrilled to take her teaching abilities outside of the gym. She craves more student involvement and loves to create meaningful connections with those around her. 

AVID is described as not being a curriculum, but rather an “instructional framework.” It focuses on developing students that have shown signs of academic strength, but need an extra push.

“Students in the AVID elective are generally students that average Bs and Cs in their coursework. They might be the first in their family to attend college, or they might identify with a group that is underrepresented racially, culturally, economically, or linguistically in colleges and universities.  Students in the AVID elective have a positive attitude toward school and learning and possess individual determination to succeed,” said AVID Director and Director of Secondary Education, Nicole Marble. 

Because the AVID program is focused towards preparing students for college, the students learn a wide range of skills and abilities that will prepare them for higher level learning.

“AVID 9 is really about teaching organizational skills, study habits, notes taking skills, how to study for exams/tests, working together with your peers in class to guide learning, setting academic and personal goals and communication,” said Botsford. 

So far the program has been a success. The students have enjoyed the different learning atmosphere that AVID embraces. 

“My favorite part is the fact that AVID builds learning skills but also a connection with the teacher and the other students in the class making it a safe place to be where ideas are welcome,” said a current student of the class in a survey conducted by the district.

In addition to forming new relationships, many of the current students also said that AVID does a great job motivating them through fun and engaging activities. When asked what could be improved or added to AVID, they didn’t have many complaints.

“I think what we are doing at this point is perfect. We have a lot of fun while getting our work done”.

The students have been working and learning for many months now. As the school year comes to a close, they are leaving AVID with bigger hopes and goals. 

“I hope that this class can help me (get) into a good college…, help me be prepared for it…, get a better understanding of college and help to get better prepared for my future… I’m hoping to be more successful for the rest of my years at school.”

It’s not just the students who have aspirations for the program. Botsford thinks that AVID could be something very beneficial for the school district.

“I think AVID is an amazing platform for our district to build from and use, anything that supports students in their learning and bettering themselves for their future is a no-brainer to me,” Botsford said.

Botsford also explained seeing the firsthand impacts AVID is having on her students. 

“The impacts really come from the organizational aspect of AVID. Students have to fill out an agenda daily, with each class and what is due for them. I grade check, look for missing work and teach students to be an advocate for themselves in the classroom. Students seem less stressed when they keep track of their work and due dates.”

Because of all the positive feedback, AVID is currently working to be expanded and more accessible to all students across the district. 

“Teachers have been, are being, and will continue to be trained in a variety of  instructional strategies that expose all students to deeper levels of thinking as they read, write, collaborate, inquire, and organize their learning,” said Marble. 

Though just recently introduced to Wauwatosa Schools for its mirroring of the new district equity plan, AVID framework educational techniques have been around for quite some time. 

“AVID has been around for over 40 years.  It is nothing “new” in the education world, but it is new to Wauwatosa.  It was first introduced to the District about 15 years ago and was up for consideration in recent years because it supports our District Goals”, explained Marble. 

Because AVID fits in so well within the Wauwatosa School District, the hope is to further expand its foundation across many other schools and ages. 

“Next year we are starting AVID in the middle and elementary schools…I can’t wait to see the positive changes in all the schools. I think this program is so worth it,” said Botsford. 

The current students want their peers to know that AVID is way more than what meets the eye. 

“One thing that I want to say is that it is not just learning how to take notes or be organized but rather more… preparation and understanding of things like college… and tests that you will take in the future like the ACTs or SATs.” 

The students experiencing AVID firsthand can attest to its impacts and development of beneficial habits. They want to encourage other students to join, but also note that participants have to be determined and diligent in order for the program to pay off in the long run. 

“I say do it, join the class. It is a.. class, where you can get help with classes or help for your future. It’s really fun but you do have to be dedicated to the work that needs to get put into it. I think this class is really fun and helpful.”