Nurturing Excellence: A Journey with Almond Acres Charter Academy

As a parent, navigating the educational landscape can be both exciting and daunting. However, our family’s experience with Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) has been nothing short of exceptional. With two children who have been part of the AACA family, the impact on their academic and personal growth has been profound.

Our journey with AACA began when my daughter entered kindergarten, and it continued until she seamlessly transitioned into high school. Today, she is excelling both academically and socially, and I attribute much of her success to the solid foundation laid at AACA. The school’s commitment to “growing great kids” is not just a tagline but a philosophy deeply embedded in every aspect of its educational approach.

AACA’s unique strength lies in its holistic approach to education, focusing on the Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul of each child. This philosophy recognizes and embraces the individuality of every student, fostering an environment where children can thrive academically while also developing socially and emotionally.

My son, currently in middle school at AACA, has been attending since the first grade and is thriving. With a modest enrollment of around 500 students, AACA maintains an intimate atmosphere where classroom sizes remain small. This not only facilitates personalized attention for each student but also encourages a strong connection between educators and parents.

One of the hallmarks of AACA is the ease with which parents can engage with the school community. Having an open line of communication with my child’s teacher has been invaluable. It’s not just about academic progress; it’s about the personal growth and well-being of each child. The commitment to a collaborative partnership between educators and parents is palpable at AACA.

What sets AACA apart is its reminiscent feel of a small schoolhouse within a close-knit community. It’s a place where every child is seen, heard, and valued. The personal touch extends beyond the classroom, creating an environment that nurtures not only academic success but also the development of character.

In a world where education is often associated with numbers and statistics, AACA stands as a beacon of a bygone era, where the emphasis on growing great kids takes precedence. As a parent, witnessing the dedication of the AACA team to the well-rounded development of our children reassures me that we made the right choice for our family.

In the end, our experience with Almond Acres Charter Academy goes beyond just being part of a school; it’s about being part of a community that shares a common goal—growing great kids who are not only academically proficient but also compassionate, resilient, and prepared for the challenges of the future.

Contributed By: Ed Surber, AACA Parent

What and Why We Teach: Daily Growth, Balanced Learning

At Almond Acres Charter Academy, we believe an education that addresses all aspects of a child’s life creates balanced, happy learners.  In fact, our scholastic mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul. This mission is embedded in our academic DNA and informs how we grow together every school day. It truly sets us apart from other K-8 learning environments.  

children standing against a wall

Our team of credentialed teachers uses the Common Core State Standards to teach English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics while using the State Content Standards for social studies, and the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) for science.  Teachers also administer state-mandated testing annually in grades 3-8. We incorporate our additional, beloved (by students and families alike) complementary instruction across all K-8 grade levels because we see how and why this enables high quality, intentional, gratifying educational experiences

What is complementary instruction? 

We’re glad you asked! For us, complementary education includes physical education, art, drama, leadership, character education, and service-based learning. Here’s a sample of what we mean and why we believe in this complementary instruction for all of our learners  — from our youngest kinders to our big kid middle schoolers — as they study and grow: 

Character Education

Character Education is a main focus that is promoted through a schoolwide Daily Shared Start Assembly. We practice being good citizens by being trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, and caring, which are the core tenets of Character Counts. We promote this through our PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) System.

Service Learning

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a key component of our instructional program. We integrate PBS across all subject areas and in all grades whenever possible. Our PBL enriches student knowledge by utilizing themes, unit-based queries and a variety of hands-on methods. Our innovative PBL efforts also enhance community connections via field trips, guest speakers, and our highly rewarding service-based projects. 

youth theater production

Leadership

At our K-8 charter school, we focus on being leaders by being good citizens and using the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to develop important life skills. All students have leadership opportunities within their classrooms based on their grade level. Middle School students have the option of participating in a weekly Leadership Class. These students help lead many aspects of school including, Shared Start, recess and lunchtime activities, schoolwide contests, and fundraisers. All middle school students also participate in a pathways course, which helps them further apply the habits, refine their problem-solving and decision-making skills, as well as develop college and career readiness skills.

For more detail about our top-notch Common Core State Standards classes and other complementary instruction visit our Curriculum page

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres is located in Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports

Have you heard teachers or staff refer to PBIS? PBIS stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. It’s an evidence-based three-tiered framework we use to establish our school culture and support each other in becoming the best version of ourselves. It works by gathering data and using that information to improve our systems and practices. 

Who Participates in PBIS?

PBIS is for everyone, not just students! We established a Tier 1 PBIS team of six staff members with different roles on campus. This team just completed the first year of Tier 1 training which focused on developing the systems we will need to launch PBIS with consistency and fidelity next year. Many of the components of PBIS are already implemented at AACA. However, the team is excited about launching PBIS with renewed enthusiasm in the fall.

Why Are Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Important?

Positive interventions and supports are essential because they create an environment that fosters growth, learning, and progress. When we encourage people to focus on their strengths and accomplishments rather than their weaknesses, we empower them to reach their full potential and improve their self-confidence. Positive interventions have a ripple effect on improving social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes for all students.

How Is PBIS Implemented at AACA?

At AACA, our behavior expectations are based on five character traits; Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair, and Caring. We have defined what it is to be “TeRRiFiC” across all school settings and contexts. 

Our goal is to prevent behavior problems rather than react to them. Expectations need to be explicitly taught, modeled, practiced, and reinforced. That means all adults must be familiar with and model the behaviors we want to see in students. All staff uses the same lesson plans to teach behavior in the hallways, playground, quad, etc., not just in the classroom. Expectations are taught creatively using videos of staff doing the wrong thing, then the right thing. 

While there is a heavy emphasis on behavior expectations at the beginning of the school year, we regularly re-teach throughout the year, especially when returning from extended breaks. This is important for any students who arrive later in the school year and serves as a reminder for those who may have forgotten. 

Reinforcements range from simple, non-specific feedback like a high-five or thumbs up to behavior-specific feedback to tangible rewards. Research indicates that you can improve behavior by 80% just by pointing out what someone is doing correctly. Simply telling a child “No!” doesn’t teach them proper behavior. Giving someone clear expectations in a firm, fair, and friendly way makes a big difference in how they receive and respond. It helps us shift from being reactive to being proactive.

PBIS is a tiered model of support. Most of our students and staff respond well to the Tier 1 efforts we have described in this post. Some need additional Tier 2 support, and a few need more intensive Tier 3 support. Tier 2 and 3 interventions are evidence-based, positive, and restorative. There are many steps to integrate this process entirely, and we are working with the County Office of Education to ensure that we meet each step

How Can Families Support This Effort at Home? 

Look for our PBIS launch party (aka Meet-the-Teacher Night) at the beginning of the school year! We plan to teach families about this process, what it looks like, and how they can implement it at home. In the meantime, here are a few things to consider.

  • Work as a family to define what Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair, and Caring look like in your family. Be specific about your common places and activities; the dinner table, the car, public places, chores, AM and PM routines, etc.
  • Remember, relationships thrive with a 5:1 positivity ratio!
  • Specific positive feedback does wonders. Recognize the behavior explicitly and connect it to the expectations. “Fred, you brushed your teeth without any reminders tonight. Good job being responsible.” or “It felt great not to be rushed this morning. Thank you for being ready on time.”

 It takes a village to raise kids; we will be most successful when we work together to grow great kids!

Be TeRRiFiC: Respectful

Students at Almond Acres Charter Academy focus their attention on the front of a classroom. The students are performing hand motions. They are wearing brightly colored school uniforms.

Recently, in our series on How to Be TeRRiFiC, we took a deep dive into what it means to be trustworthy. We use the acronym TeRRiFiC to help us remember the 5 character traits that make us terrific: trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair and caring. This week, we are unpacking the concept of respect and how we teach children to be respectful of themselves, the people they meet, and the world around them. 

While the concept seems simple, respect is a learned behavior relative to the environment in which a child grows. From families to schools and nations and cultures, every unique environment we enter operates with a different lens for respect. Our children model the norms of respect they observe and are taught at home, at school, on the playground and at sports practices. 

While modeling respect is perhaps one of the greatest ways we teach this character trait at school, an easy phrase that illustrates this concept is the Golden Rule: treat others the way you wish to be treated. The Golden Rule is a simple lesson, and yet, like most simple things, it can have the most profound impact. When put into everyday practice, the ripple effect of our treatment of others reaches far and wide. 

An Almond Acres staff member helps a student select lunch items. There are other students waiting in line behind the one making a selection.

Here are a few ways you might see, feel, and hear RESPECT in action: 

Being respectful might LOOK like:

…caring for your classroom and materials.

…taking turns.

…a handshake and eye contact.

Being respectful might SOUND like:

…Please. 

…Thank you.  

…Hi! How are you?

Being respectful might FEEL like: 

…trust in yourself to do the right thing.

…peaceful and secure.

…kindness. 

When we are respectful of ourselves and others, our actions lead to positive change in everything from relationships to self-worth and even academic success. At Almond Acres, respect is the cornerstone of our school community. The sense of caring and respect between staff and students is visible. We believe that this mutual respect helps us grow great kids who confidently and respectfully navigate any environment they enter.  

Showing your children how you respect them with words and actions encourages your children to be respectful. We can model the actions we seek and actively expect our children to rise to our positive example. How can you model respect for your heart, mind, body and soul today? 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

All About Shared Start

What does it mean to share the start of our day? 

Just like a family sharing a meal or a conversation, we view our morning Shared Start as a chance to come together, discuss important events, and prepare for the day and all the opportunities that it brings. It’s sort of a grounding event for the Almond Acres community; a consistent, collaborative way to begin the day that sets a positive tone for all that is to come. 

students sitting on floor of gym facing a screen

Shared Start Builds Community

Every school day morning, our K-5 students and our middle school students participate in Shared Start. Just like the assemblies you may remember from your youth, our students gather together in our gymnasium. The brief meeting is just enough time to share student achievements, celebrate birthdays and discuss topics pertinent to our day. Staff may share something funny or we might sing a song. Coming together for a shared story or skit fosters trust and builds connections among our students. It’s also joyful! This sense of family is a big benefit of attending our K-8 school.

Shared Start Builds Character

Character education is at the heart of our mission and Shared Start is a wonderful time to reinforce our lessons, practice new skills (like listening!) and recognize the positive behavior we notice throughout the day. Students practice being good citizens by demonstrating trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, and care (TeRRiFiC),  which are the core tenets of our character education program, and we enjoy highlighting their efforts during Shared Start. Cheering each other on is powerful! We find that promoting and celebrating positive behaviors in front of peers is much more effective at building strong character than disciplining less-desired behavior privately.  

Shared Start Builds Leadership

After a few months of school, our middle school leadership class takes the helm of our Shared Start by organizing and leading the agenda. It’s a terrific way for our older students to develop leadership skills and practice speaking in front of others, as well as set a positive example for our younger students. If one of our classes has something to share with the school, we might also get to enjoy a skit, message or lesson from the students. There is an opportunity for everyone to take the stage and shine

Shared Start Helps Us Achieve Goals

Meeting together each morning helps us align and work toward our goals. Almond Acres is in the business of growing great kids: heart, mind, body and soul. When we uncover all that our mission holds, we see how a strong community can serve us now and beyond 8th grade. Sharing a smile or a laugh with a kindergartner, celebrating a friend’s birthday, or watching your big brother receive an award expands our hearts and souls beyond books and the 4 walls of a classroom. 

Shared Start is the golden thread that connects each member of our community, from kindergartener to middle schooler, to staff and teachers, and even families. It’s one of the many intentional ways we work to grow great kids at our tuition-free charter school

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Parents as Partners

When schools and families work together, good things happen for children. At Almond Acres (AACA), we see good things popping up all around: in children’s smiles, the achievements of our students, and the positive connections between students and teachers. 

Our goal is the same as yours: to grow great kids. When we combine our efforts, we all flourish. We are honored that you trust us to continue the hard work you do to help your child become the best version of themselves. It’s a goal that we nurture day in and day out at Almond Acres. 

Home & School Links

The foundation of our strong community is even stronger communication, the key to understanding each other and making sure everyone’s needs are met. We build trust with you by promising to provide honest and open communication between all parents, staff, students and families. 

We primarily utilize ParentSquare to keep you informed and up-to-date with school events, our calendar, and notifications from teachers. We love the simple, uniform app that makes communication a snap. Be sure to turn on alerts!

If you are on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll also find highlights of sporting events and classroom accomplishments. You can join our closed Facebook group that is run by parent volunteers to be notified of fun reminders and event invites. 

And chances are good, since you are reading here, that you’ve already found the Almond Acres Blog. We update our blog weekly with notes and stories about our philosophy, student achievement, and recaps of special events. If we’re lucky, Mr. B will share a bit of his parenting/teaching wisdom and tell us more about the Habits of the Week. You’ll want to check in weekly so you won’t be alarmed when your child comes home and wants to talk about ways to sharpen her saw

An Almond Acres student in blue uniform eats lunch at the new AACA campus.

Student-Led Conferences

At AACA, you get frequent contact and honest dialog about your student’s growth. Our twice yearly, student-led conferences help students take an active role in identifying their own strengths and struggles. During conferences, young learners will identify personal and academic goals while seeking support from both their teachers and families to achieve these goals. You are an essential part of your child’s success! 

Growing Great Families

When you enroll your child at AACA you gain a community that rallies around children and families. One of the ways we give to our relationship with parents is through our Growing Great Families series led by Former Executive Director Bob Borgault, aka Mr. B. This is a weekly community event that welcomes parents and caregivers to come together to learn something new on topics of interest in education and parenting. We discuss the Habit of the Week and enjoy learning from each other. We hope you’ll join us!

Volunteering 

We lean on you to help make our school community great. There are many ways to get involved to make our school community stronger. One of the simplest ways is through the Parent Site Council (PSC), Almond Acres’ version of a PTA. The PSC provides support to both school families and the school administration. They assist with passive fundraising, the Uniform Swap, spirit wear, parade floats, staff appreciation, family events, and more! Whether you want to be a member of the council, or are interested in volunteering, the PSC is the place to start. 

The success of our children is our greatest collaboration. We are eternally thankful for the support of all of our families in lifting up the Almond Acres community. We make a great team! 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!