"Power Plant" at Acalanes
Acalanes’ Associate Principals are an integral part in keeping the Acalanes engine running! They are on the ground daily and heavily invested in making sure high school students succeed. We recently sat down with Mike Plant and Andrea Powers, affectionately known as “Power Plant,” to hear their perspectives on the state of affairs at Acalanes today.
Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to Acalanes, as well as your main responsibilities.
Mike: I taught math at MHS in Orinda for 20 years, which I loved, but I wanted a challenge beyond the classroom walls and was delighted to be afforded the opportunity to be promoted to the Big Leagues 4 years ago. I feel like, generally, the AP team runs the day-to-day logistics of the school. Powers and I split discipline and procedural meetings on the alpha, I have L-Z, but I also oversee the Math, Science, and World Language departments. I am also in charge of state testing, textbooks, athletics, technology, and myriad other areas.
Andrea: I started my teaching career at Monte Vista High School in 2005. While there, I taught History, ran the Cheer & Pom program for six years, and was that Student Activities Director for 13 years. During my last two years at MVHS I took on a new role of helping to support student and staff culture. That experience provided a new perspective around education and the importance of building a strong community on a school campus. I wanted to do more and decided to begin working on my administrative credential. I had worked with Acalanes many times over the years and jumped at the opportunity to apply for the job as Associate Principal. Currently, I am over A-K of the alphabet and oversee Social Science, VAPA, and our CTE departments. In addition, I handle facilities, security & safety, student government, and work with our Acalanes Parents Club and the Acalanes Performing Arts Boosters.
As Associate Principals you both have your fingers on the “pulse” at Acalanes. Give us a bit of a state-of-affairs at Acalanes today versus the beginning of the school year.
Mike: The start of the year was a fantastic mix of excitement and trepidation – for all of us. Teachers were concerned about accelerating learning to close “gaps,” as well as focusing on social emotional learning, building connection and community through in-class strategies, and a relaxation of some stress-inducing policies. Our teachers did a fantastic job. Our Wellness staff and Welln(ess center funded by LPIE - thank you!) are providing students with support. Now, aside from the recent Omicron surge distracting us all, we are a little closer to “cruising altitude” – the systems are in place, the beginning of the year heavy lift is over, and it is back to business as (new) usual.
Andrea: The beginning of the school year was fantastic. Of course there were concerns about what exactly we were coming back to: reconnecting with campus, general safety concerns, a renewed commitment to academics, and social emotional needs. Even with the unknown ahead, there was a genuine heightened level of excitement among our staff and students to be coming back to campus. For the second semester, there have been new concerns over the recent Covid surge, which have led to adjustments and growing pains. It has been a priority, and will continue to be, to provide support for our staff and students through this time period. It is evident that as we move into the end of January and are preparing for the remainder of second semester and closing out this school year, we are moving into some “normalcy” again and growing excitement for the spring.
From a Social Emotional Learning perspective, how has Acalanes helped students transition back to in-person school and created connectedness for the students? How is it continuing to do this?
Mike: Firstly, in the classroom. Teachers have walked a delicate balance between the need to “get back to learning” and the need to connect as humans. I see increased propensity for “cutting each other a break,” whether that be giving an extra day for an assignment, or allowing late work. These stress-reducing policies are very helpful as kids transition back from distance learning. School-wide we have held events and activities that have supported the joy of being back together. Our student support team, and Wellness staff, have been working overtime to provide individualized support, both academically and socio-emotionally.
Andrea: Our staff has been phenomenal in providing additional support for students. The first few weeks of the school year many of our staff spent time reacclimating students to the classroom environment and building culture among their classes. Our Wellness Center, Counselors, and Peer Tutoring Center have provided group and individualized support and adjusted to the needs of our students.
Speaking of connectedness, Acalanes recently held a Club Day. I understand it was very successful. Please tell us about it.
Mike: Yes, we had a huge club day at the start of the year, with a record number of offerings and signups. We recently held a 2nd semester reminder session, for new clubs (and a few old ones too) to ensure that this avenue for connection was well-publicized for the remainder of the year.
Andrea: Our students are always looking for new and various opportunities to get involved and clubs are the perfect avenue. The Spring Club Fair welcomed six new clubs in addition to the more than sixty we already had.
Looking ahead, what are you most excited about for the rest of the school year?
Mike: I am excited to get back to the day-to-day annoyances, and fun, of running a high school, hopefully without too much Covid disruption. I am excited for sports, events, classes, struggles, challenges, and all the regular stuff we love…minus Covid.
Andrea: Literally anything and everything that doesn’t have to do with Covid. Each semester brings its own excitement and challenges. Springtime on a high school campus is so enjoyable and an enormous amount of fun. Closing out winter sports and welcoming spring sports, various activities and events, clubs, awards and celebrations of the school year, gearing up graduation, and even discussion around next fall. We have a lot to be proud of and thankful for from this year and I look forward to doing just that this spring.
What would you tell your high school aged self today?
Mike: Be true to yourself. Listen to others. Rock those Nikes.
Andrea: Be more proud of yourself. So many wonderful and amazing things ahead. Also, enough with the perms, seriously Andrea.