PCHS teachers honored with civil rights award for Dream Big program
When people say students who struggle with their English can’t excel in Advanced Placement classes, Melanie Moffat and Anna Williams cry foul. They say that with a little extra support, any student can thrive.
Moffat and Williams, teachers at Park City High School, are proving their theory with the program Dream Big, and they were recently named recipients of the Charles E. Bennett UEA Human and Civil Rights Award because of the program’s success. Dream Big helps students prepare for and pass AP classes and tests, and helps them excel beyond high school. The Utah Education Association Board of Directors will present the two teachers with the award on May 17 in Salt Lake City.
The award honors individuals who provide “outstanding service to education in the area of human and civil rights and engaged in human and civil rights activities that have had a community-wide impact.” Moffat started Dream Big two years ago because she wanted to provide equal opportunities for all students to succeed, regardless of their language.
Williams said Moffat came up with the idea for Dream Big after she realized many students who speak English as a second language were not enrolled in AP classes. She said there was a language barrier, and students were intimidated by the complex texts in the classes. Moffat decided that if the students had a little more time with the material, they might thrive.
The Dream Big program pre-teaches and re-teaches AP content. Students in the program attend school over the summer from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. AP teachers review vocabulary and curriculum from the classes so students are more comfortable with the material when they take the classes with their peers during the school year.
The students are able to establish authentic relationships with their teachers over the summer as well, Williams said. Kevin Fober, Melissa Nikolai, Gaylynn Mooney, Kelly Yeates, Jake Jobe and Deb Alcox teach the classes over the summer.
When Moffat started the program, none of the students in support classes were taking college prep classes such as concurrent enrollment or AP courses, she said. More than 90 percent of those students are in concurrent enrollment courses now.
She said the students who went through the program are also excelling in college. Close to 90 percent of the students who participated in the Dream Big program two years ago are still enrolled in college, which is above the national retention rate for all U.S. college students.
Williams said the program supports human rights because it provides opportunities for students to become educated and have access to the same education their peers have.
“It’s the best example, I think, of academic equity,” Williams said.
Moffat said she was thrilled when she saw the email informing her that she and Williams had won the honor. She wants to share the program with schools around the state and the nation, and she said the association acknowledging the program is a step toward sharing Dream Big with a larger audience.
“If this could be spread out, just imagine how many families it could impact. It would change so many people’s lives,” she said.
In order to keep the spotlight on the program, Moffat and Williams plan to compete for the National Education Association Human and Civil Rights Award next year.
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