TUBA CITY, Ariz. - The Tuba City School District has always embraced the challenge of finding new ways to teach and enrich its students that attend its reservation area schools. The district now participates in the Stanford University Educated Programs for Gifted Youth (EPGY) program for incoming freshmen students who have shown a high aptitude in math and English.
Tuba City High math teacher Sam Aquino and English teacher Vilma Macaraig work with two Stanford professors, Dr. Amy Johnson-English and Dr. Robyn Fielder-mathematics, to provide the program to Tuba City students. The students complete online coursework three times a week, which moves them along at almost two times the learning rate of the average student in regular high school math and English classes during a single semester.
EPGY provides students with the courses regardless of where students live. Tuba City students are hundreds of miles away from college or university settings or even private high schools.
The program allows the students to be in their normal school and community environment without disruption and personalizes instruction and accommodates individual differences in learning styles, which allows each students to progress at their own pace and accelerate when they are ready.
This award winning EPGY coursework grows out of 40 years of active research at Stanford.
Tia Folgheraiter and Carlos North, both freshmen at Tuba City High, are in the EPGY English Honors class under the watchful eye of Macaraig, who has taught English for the past six years in the United States, the past three at Tuba City High.
"I'm enjoying my experience here on the reservation a lot and I am especially happy to be able to work with the Stanford program for our students. My English Honors students are up to this fast paced challenge and it's exciting to watch their progress," Macaraig said.
Folgheraiter said she was happy to find out that her Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards scores allowed her to take the test on writing and essay construction when she got to Tuba City High as a freshman. She said Macaraig is very specific about proper sentence structure, and sentence diagramming and expects her students to write and give evidence of their findings for specific subjects each week. Folgheraiter said it makes her think more deeply about how and what she writes. So far, Folgheraiter said she has written essay assignments on a book of short stories. She said Macaraig expects specific detail in their assignments, which helps her understand the subject matter more thoroughly. Folgheraiter said her English writing skills have helped with her other classes, because she now understands how to write a paper with conclusive evidence to back her opinion on topics. This has given her more confidence to try writing about more difficult and complex subjects.
"I've been teaching for 20 years now, the past six at Tuba City High, and I highly recommend that our students take advantage of these accelerated classes if the parent and child accept the contract and challenge because the student must make a grade of 90 percent or better, which is an A- at the least," Aquino said. "That means a serious dedication to academic discipline and we are seeing that commitment here at Tuba City High. While EPGY is a an extremely challenging course for our students, for our students to receive instruction from professors at such a prestigious university on a weekly basis helps them become more responsible and teaches them to work really hard."
Stanford math team professor Fielder has worked with mathematically gifted students since graduating from University of California Berkeley in 2011 and before that worked with a program in mathematics for young scientists at Boston University.
"When I was originally asked by Dr. Greg Nuckols, who is our Division Head of Math at Stanford, to help the Tuba City District with these EPGY courses, I was excited to work with a Native reservation school district with gifted students and I was also looking forward to expanding my involvement with an eighth grade course. It has been an absolute joy to work with Mr. Aquino at Tuba City High, Ms. Berkey and their students. Their enthusiasm and dedication is an inspiration," Fielder said.
Parents of students in the EPGY program praised the program and were grateful for their children's participation. Sandra Roe, the mother of James Roe, who is in the math honors program, said the program provided her son several ways to meet his academic needs.
"It also prepares him for college, by preparing him to work extensively on the computer and going at a pace that is not only challenging but will be required by college and university coursework," she said. "He is also able to get immediate clarification on questions he has when it comes to problem solving from both his teacher at Tuba City High and also his Stanford online professor."
EPGY is an on-going research project at Stanford University dedicated to developing computer based multi-media coursework in math, English, physics, computer programming and other areas for students of high ability.