Sometimes our call into education is as simple as a voice that says, “Be a teacher.” That was the case with Susan Thompson, academic dean at University High School in Tolleson, Arizona, a highly sought after school-within-a-school. Though she’s retiring at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, she’s still in the trenches and working with kids daily. The way she works so hard to buck the status quo of the traditional education model is inspiring!
In this episode, Susan offers an overview of how University High went from a school to get students who were falling behind ready for college to a highly sought after, rigorous option for diverse and motivated students. In fact, the school regularly ranks on the US News and World Report’s list of top high schools nationally while primarily enrolling students from the immediate community (rather than cherry-picking only high achievers).
After the interview, I provide a synthesis of Susan’s magic wand wish, and how it can help refill the cups of our teachers and students alike. I also offer a little challenge at the end that I’d love to discuss with each and every one of you…How can we each start with fascination?
About Susan Thompson
Susan Thompson has had a 30-year career in education, teaching theater, AP History, gifted programs and serving as a librarian and now a principal/academic dean.
She has worked for AZ Commission of the Arts instructing arts based learning workshops all over the state of AZ.
Susan has also taught for a variety of universities, coached cross country and was the Arizona State Thespian Director for 10 years.
Susan resides in a small historic home in downtown Phoenix, where she serves her community as president of Midtown Neighborhood Association and lives with her 1 year old chiweenie, Frida.
Jump Through the Conversation
[1:38] University High’s roots
[2:27] University High’s inspiration, Stand and Deliver
[4:35] University High now
[6:36] Benefits of building relationships with parents
[8:48] How University High graduates maintain such a high retention rate in college
[9:29] Rigor & why the worst thing we can say is “you’re so smart”
[11:58] Why Susan was called into education and her journey to where she is now
[15:27] Why Susan thinks a school yearbooks is a must-buy for new teachers
[17:03] Susan’s magic wand wish for teachers
[22:13] Maureen’s unpacking of the conversation with Susan
[23:50] Synthesis of Susan’s magic wand wish
Links and Resources
- University High School, a school-within-a-school that is Harnessing the Power of Dreams
- University High School student testimonial video
- 7th in Arizona: University High School in the state news
- 21st is the nation: University High School’s formula for success on the news
- Stand and Deliver movie
- Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset (as an animated video)
- Carol Dweck’s Ted Talk: The Power of Believing that You Can Improve
- Refilling our “teachers’ sponges” resource: Angela Watson’s Cornerstone for Teachers including the helpful Truth for Teachers podcast
- Email Maureen
- Facebook: Follow Education Evolution
- Twitter: Follow Education Evolution
- LinkedIn: Follow Education Evolution
- Maureen’s book: Creating Micro-Schools for Colorful Mismatched Kids
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