Soledad High School Assistant Principal Laura Eras and Intervention Specialist Myra Chavez called us from Soledad, CA, a small farming community located 25 miles southeast of Salinas. Using Not In Our School materials, they launched a weeklong anti-bullying campaign.
The positive action at Soledad High drew the attention of not only District Superintendent Daneen Newman and local school board members, but also County School Superintendent Nancy Kotowski together with her anti-bullying team.
In this interview, Myra Chavez shares with us Soledad’s experience with Not In Our School.
—Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director
NIOS: How did you discover Not In Our School?
Myra Chavez: I was introduced to Not In Our School through our principal Mr. Mumau. Mrs. Eras, Assistant Principal and I were tasked to implement an anti-bullying program at Soledad High School. We felt that this program would benefit our students at Soledad High School due to the dire need for a program that would be student driven. We noticed that when students took the initiative to make a difference, the rest would follow and increase student and staff engagement.
NIOS: Every school approaches NIOS a bit differently. You brought together several student groups and you opted to launch a comprehensive campaign. Can you tell us about this effort?
MC: As an intervention specialist, I work with a diverse student population. I was able to gather students who were leaders already at Soledad High School including our Cyber Bullying Club. These students were eager to take on this challenge.
The Cyber Bullying Club has previously conducted school-wide survey on the severity of bullying in our campus. We were able to use this data to provide more intervention workshops for students. We are hoping to continue the implantation of NIOS in our classroom via PowerPoint Presentations. We also hope to provide NIOS Parent Workshop in the evenings this academic year.
NIOS: NIOS is centered around empowering students, but teachers play a key role. How did you get the teachers on board?
MC: By creating PowerPoint Presentations we were able to get teacher buy-in. Teachers and students liked the use of technology paired with the NIOS movies.
Teachers were fascinated with the idea of having an anti-bullying campaign. Teachers got together to come up with a slogan, T-Shirts, and ideas of how they would like to implement NIOS in the classroom. Together we developed an action plan. Teachers wore a teal blue T-Shirt that stated “Teal Because Bullying is Real.” We also handed out teal blue wrist bands to students who pledged to not engage in bullying and to take a stand and educate others.
We are grateful to have had the support from our Superintendent Deneene Newman, Soledad High School Board members, [Monterey County Office of Education], Soledad High School teachers and staff, and students. We would not have been able to implement this program without you.
NIOS: We were happy to join you for the kick-off of Soledad’s first NIOS week. What activities did the school host that week? And are there any plans to continue in the coming year?
MC: We implemented the NIOS curriculum and paired it with the corresponding movies, which were delivered during advisory periods to all students. Students were able to express their feelings about tolerance through art. Students were given the option of drawing or using magazines to make a collage defining tolerance. Student’s art work was display during the Art Fair for the community ton view.
NIOS: What feedback did you receive from students and teachers during this first NIOS week?
MC: There is a need to continue to implement this campaign next year. We felt that the best way to reduce bullying incidents on campus is by educating each other on this subject.
NIOS: Now that you have one NIOS campaign under your belt, what advice would you give to other teachers and administrators who want to utilize NIOS in their school or district?
MC: I would suggest simplifying what you want to implement. Take on task at a time. Teachers and students can get overwhelmed if you task them with too much. I know when I looked through the website I got frustrated. I had no idea how I would implement this program at Soledad High School since it was so broad.
There is no right or wrong way to implement a program. However, it’s important to get feedback and input from teachers prior to deciding how or when you will implement NIOS.
Soledad High School’s NIOS initiative is the first in Monterey County. This fall, Not In Our School will be working with the County Office of Education to expand NIOS to other districts in the county. For more information, visit NotInOurSchool.org.