TIA Graduates Valaree and Nicolas at NAU

Two graduates of TIA, Valaree and Nicolas (brother and sister), share how TIA helped them prepare for college and what it is like to attend Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Valaree Cavazos Covarrubias

Valaree attended TIA from 2nd grade through 12th grade. She has been attending NAU for 3 years now as a Business Management major and she will also have a certificate in Human Resources. After she graduates she wants to be in Human Resources for a big company. How TIA Helped Valaree "TIA helped me want to go to college. What I loved about TIA was that it felt like a family. I grew up with these people and didn’t feel pressure in any way. Everyone was so close to one another. I feel the teachers at TIA took the extra mile to help me want to learn more.” Life at NAU for Valaree “What I love about NAU is it’s far enough from home (Tucson) but not too far. I love the seasons and the people are so friendly and nice. I feel like my hardest class is my math class because I’ve always struggled with math. My favorite class that I’ve ever taken is Psych 101. That one was super fun because my teacher was amazing! There were over 300 people in the class but he made it feel like there was only 30 of us.” Advice for Seniors from Valaree “If I was talking to a senior at TIA who’s planning on coming to NAU, I would tell them that it’s an amazing place. In a way, it reminds me of TIA because of the class sizes and the teachers care about you. It felt like home for me. When I first left home to attend NAU, I was scared because I came here not knowing anybody. I thought I was going to be by myself, a little loner. I was so sad but excited too because I get to branch out and leave and figure out what I want to do with my life. Then I came here and found a new best friend who literally lived across the hall from me. A year after that I started Greek Life and it just grew from there. I found my home here. Even though sometimes I can’t wait to graduate and go, I’m going to miss it so much here.”  

Nicolas Cavazos Covarrubias  

Nicolas started TIA in the first grade and his sister Valerie was in second grade. He has been at NAU for one year now and is also studying Business Management with a minor in Human Resources. In the long run, he would like to manage a business or work in Human Resources as well. How TIA Helped Nicolas “I really like TIA because it focused on my education as well as everyone else's. It wasn’t like there were favorites. We were all equally treated and treated very well. I remember them helping me do a leadership program at ASU to help me get scholarships in the future, not just at ASU but at other campuses. I’m here at NAU now utilizing the scholarships I did end up getting. I feel like TIA really prepared us for college by having us meet those deadlines that colleges focus on, FAFSA, scholarships, applications and things of that sort. I was really able to look into multiple scholarships that I would never have considered without the help of TIA.” Life at NAU for Nicolas “At NAU I’ve really enjoyed the classes that they offer. I was able to take a Women and Gender Studies class, even though it doesn’t necessarily pertain to business management, which I’m majoring in. So I was able to expand my knowledge on various aspects of life even if it doesn’t affect me. I was really able to learn a lot from that class as well as the math classes they’ve offered here. I’m kinda a math genius, don’t mean to brag but I love me some math. I’m doing pretty good in the math classes and passed with B’s, which I’m pretty happy with myself. I’d say the only drawback that NAU does have is the weather. It’s extremely cold during the winter. Tucson is nothing like NAU in the slightest. However, when it’s warm here, it’s amazing! Everything here looks nice and you experience all of the seasons, especially fall as you see all of the leaves change colors. It’s really nice to be here.”    Advice to Seniors from Nicolas “My biggest advice to any senior at TIA right now would be to stay busy and prepare yourself for the multitasking that you are going to have to do in college. Any college you go to you will have to multi-task and sacrifice things to make sure work gets done.” Link to video

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How Student Travel Affects Your Life

This last summer a group of TIA students, teachers, and parents traveled to Japan and Australia. They enjoyed 10 days of sightseeing and immersed themselves in the languages and cultures of two completely different foreign countries. All of Your Senses Are Alive Seeing the incredible historic sites in Tokyo and Sydney, hearing the unfamiliar sounds while wandering the streets or traveling on the subway, smelling and tasting new spices and flavors in the foods, interacting with the local people, all help to enhance one's understanding of other cultures. First-hand experiences are the only way to get an authentic sampling of life in a foreign country. After seeing Mt Fuji, visiting beautiful Sensi-ji Temple, hand feeding owls in a Japanese cafe, seeing whales breach around the boats in Australian waters, feeding kangaroos in a wildlife park, or simply ordering lunch in the local language, students can’t help but feel confident in their new-found abilities. They gain a greater perspective of the world, become more culturally sensitive, and return home feeling more independent — qualities that stay with them throughout their lives. Student Travel to New Places Gives Confidence and Enthusiasm for Learning When the students return home with enthusiastic stories and pictures of an incredible time abroad, teachers and parents see the immediate impact of the experience. However, the most significant and enduring effects may not be obvious until later, as the students tackle challenges in their studies with greater enthusiasm, increased confidence, and maturity. They also tend to demonstrate deeper sensitivity to other people and an ability to work with a variety of people. Global Awareness and College Applications Students with international travel experience can have a competitive edge when applying to some colleges and may even apply to study in a foreign country. Many colleges value and appreciate global awareness and have an increased emphasis on international studies. It is important at TIA to offer opportunities that enhance our students’ lives and also their college prospects. Lifetime Friends Whether they’ve been friends for years or get to know someone because of the trip they took together, students who travel with a group can develop lasting friendships with their fellow travelers. This makes for special connections that can last a lifetime. Watch the video of TIA’s trip to Japan and Australia    

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i-Ready Assessment System: A Tool for Students, Parents and Teachers

What is the i-Ready Assessment System?

Have you heard students and teachers talking about the i-Ready Assessment System and wondered what it was all about? Galileo is a website where students can log in individually and be assessed in math and reading throughout the school year to measure progress. This system was piloted by Tucson International Academy last year. The information Galileo provided helped to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses and also identified areas where teachers should target their instruction for each student.

The Baseline Assessment

In the first quarter of school, students do a baseline assessment to discover where they are starting out. This initial assessment shows the student, parents and teachers where students may have weak areas in their knowledge and where they have strengths. This provides the  information needed to be able to set attainable goals in the areas that need improvement. Having the students involved in the planning and goal-setting of their own education has proven to be a powerful tool toward success. They see what needs work and are able to break the goals down into achievable steps. Having that much clarity and involvement in addressing areas that need improvement has empowered students in remarkable ways.

A Powerful Assessment Tool

The assessments are scientifically designed to measure very particular and targeted skills. The i-Ready assessment is so accurate that it can show for example, whether a student trying to solve a multiplication word problem has trouble decoding the word problem itself, or if she  understands how to set up the problem, but struggles solving the problem mathematically. Being able to zero in so specifically on the areas that need attention truly benefits both student and teacher when it comes to targeting the instruction needed. The i-Ready assessment can also identify larger, more complex areas of need for a student.

Benchmark Assessments

After that initial assessment and goal setting, benchmark assessments occur as the school year progresses and goals are re-evaluated and realigned as needed. At the end of the year there is a final assessment to measure the year’s progress toward the identified goals for each individual student. Last year, a senior in precalculus set a goal of 15% to 20% improvement for each assessment. By the last assessment of the year, the student had scored 100%!

Multiple Benefits

Not only does the i-Ready Assessment help students, teachers and parents identify areas that need work, the results also inspire, motivate, and guide the students in achieving measurable goals. Additionally the tests provide an indicator of how students will perform on the AZMerit test and gives them practice for this test.

Sharing the Results

This year TIA will add the i-Ready Assessment System results to student report cards so parents can see how their child is performing. The assessments are not entered as part of the student's GPA and do not enter into the decision on whether the student will be promoted the next grade level. They are just a tool to help teachers, students and parents identify weak areas that need attention and also to identify strengths the student can build upon to enhance their chances of success.

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Galileo Assessment System

10 Ways School Athletics Benefit Students

Tucson International Academy strives to provide the best possible learning environment for its students. TIA provides excellent classroom instruction, international trips, and amazing extracurricular activities. One area, however, that people often overlook as a significant benefit to students is school athletics. And, because TIA is a charter school, the funding of sports equipment and facilities is not straightforward. It presents more challenges than at a public school. To that end, TIA is currently trying to raise funds to build an outdoor basketball court on land they own at the West Campus. Fred Enriquez, TIA’s athletic director, states that the snack bar proceeds and teacher luncheons have  only put a small dent in the total $12,000 needed.   WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?  You can!  Mr. Enriquez  recently said, “One of the most effective ways for folks to make a contribution to the Basketball Court fund is through Arizona’s tax credit program. Click to learn more. The tax credit program is such an easy way to donate and yet it can make a huge difference to the students. Thank you so much for your help. Here are 10 ways your donations help these amazing students.

10 Ways School Athletics Benefit Students

Amazingly, school athletics are not just about having fun. Here are 10 ways participating in sports can benefit students:
  • Health & Fitness

  • Improved Academics

  • The Importance of the 3 “P’s” (persistence, patience, practice)

  • Cooperation & Teamwork  

  • Positive Role Models

  • Social Relationships

  • Leadership Skills

  • Time Management

  • Promotes School Pride and Cohesiveness

  • Success Mindset

These skills go far beyond the sports field and beyond high school. Student athletes reap the benefits of their training for the rest of their lives.

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TIA School Athletics

More Amazing Science Projects in Mr. Montemayor’s Classroom!

As we saw in the first article about the science projects students have taken on in Mr. Montemayor’s class, learning science can be a lot of fun! Here are four more projects his students have worked on this year. Check out the cool videos of many of these projects on Tucson International Academy’s Youtube Channel!

Egg Drop Project

The object of this physics-based project is to design and construct a device that would protect an  egg from breaking when dropped from a specific height. The height ended up being 13 feet, the distance from the top of the school roof to the ground, with Mr. Montemayor himself climbing onto the roof to drop each student’s contraption. This project was also a competition between the students, but it was harder to decide the winner fairly since conditions, such as wind speeds, were changing variables. However this “glitch” in itself provided a rich teachable opportunity about the importance of keeping variables equal when conducting scientific experiments.

Rubberband Racers

Using cardboard, push pins, rubber bands, and 3 unsharpened pencils the students designed and then competed with cars that would race up to 9 feet. Using trial and error, the students kept redesigning their vehicles to achieve the fastest speeds. The winner ended up going 9 feet in 1.1 seconds! The students learned all about tension and torsion in this fun competition.


This was another project that illustrated the physics concept of tension and torsion on a much bigger scale. Using large pieces of wood the students designed and constructed everything from slingshots to actual catapults. The slow motion videos taken of the final designs in action are amazing. The students put a lot of effort into this project and the results were impressive!


This last project, by Mr. Montemayor’s own admission, was a little scary! Each student used a PVC pipe as their rocket body, employing clay to fill any gaps. Then they used basic chemistry knowledge to formulate their combustible engine fuel from potassium nitrate and confectioner’s sugar. Because Mr. Montemayor instructs his students that safety is the priority, the students were able to ignite their rockets without even one mishap. Link to Part I: Amazing Science Project  

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Amazing Science Projects in Mr. Montemayor’s Classroom

Are you a “kinesthetic” learner? That is, one who learns and retains more information by doing and participating in hands-on tasks? If so, Mr. Gabriel Montemayor’s science class is the place for you! Mr. Montemayor doesn’t just teach science; he actually helps students learn how to learn as he teaches them how to approach problems from a myriad of perspectives. He also opens up the concept that learning can be enjoyable, entertaining and amusing. Having a hard time picturing school as fun? Just look at some of the amazing science projects students have been working on in Mr. Montemayor’s classes! You can also view videos of some of these projects on Tucson International Academy’s YouTube channel!

Self-Sustaining Biodomes

This project was a little tricky, but the students rose to the task and learned a lot about earth science in the process. The students made their biodomes out of  two connected  plastic bottles. Each biodome needed to contain an aquarium section and a terrarium section. It also needed to house living organisms such as a fish, plants or an insect. Some students quickly learned that if they failed to place enough aquatic plants to produce oxygen in the aquarium section, it proved to be a death sentence for their enclosed fish! The students were amazed to see however how the aquarium could provide the condensed moisture to “rain” on the terrarium section. Mr. Montemayor would love to follow up this project with a field trip to the Biosphere 2 in Oracle, AZ as a way to expose his students to self-sustaining biodomes on a grand scale!

3D Topographic Maps

The objective of this project was to introduce students to contour mapping which helped the students to look at a flat, two dimensional contour map and be able to visualize what it would look like in 3 dimensions. Using sheets of cardboard, students first built up the topography to resemble mountains, valleys, river beds, and hills. They then covered their work with paper mache, which helped the 3D map to look more like a miniature version of the place they were designing. Painting their creation brought the whole thing to life! Several students recreated an actual place, such as Mt. Everest, while others created their own mountainous world.

Weights and Windmills

The weights and windmills project was a little more competitive. Using pulleys and wind-catching propellers, the students competed to see whose design could lift the most weight in quarters in the fastest amount of time. Using lids or heavy construction paper for the propellers, plus pencils and strings, the students designed simple machines.  Surprisingly some of the designed windmills could lift up to 12 quarters while others maxed out at only 4! Through trial and error, the students learned  how small changes in the designs impacted the effectiveness of each machine. Link to Part II: More Amazing Science Projects  

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New Student Assessment Program at TIA

The new 2015-2016 school year at TIA brought about a student assessment program implemented by Galileo K-12 Online. The purpose of this new program is to give a benchmark test for each student K-12 that shows the student’s level of achievement in all areas of math and reading for each grade. Progress is then monitored throughout the school year to make sure any problem areas are being addressed. The test scores generated by the Galileo program will also help identify the students that are behind. These students  may need one-on-one help with a Title 1 specialist, or tutoring with a teacher after school. If a group of students is in need of the same sort of help in a specific area, the problem may be addressed in a classroom situation. TIA wants all the students to grow and meet the standards by the end of the school year so they will be ready for the next grade. The Galileo assessment creates a snap picture at the beginning of the school year to help achieve this. Each quarter the students are given another test, and the scores are entered on a spreadsheet.  Teachers can then tell at a glance where each student needs to concentrate. Example: Johnny is in the fifth grade and takes the fifth grade Galileo assessment test for math at the beginning of the school year. If he mastered his fourth grade math, he will score at least 15-20% proficient with his base knowledge for fifth grade. This test will include some of the areas of math that Johnny should have learned from the fourth grade in order to move on to fifth grade. A test score of  lower than 20% means that Johnny needs some tutoring time to help him catch up with his math skills so that he will be ready to tackle fifth grade math. As he learns more, his proficiency score will continue to move up. The second quarter there should be a growth of approximately 10 - 15%. By the third quarter there should be a jump to 60-70% and 80-100% by the end of the school year. This shows that he is moving forward. If his proficiency isn’t increasing steadily, the test shows which areas he needs help with. The advantage of quarterly testing is that the teacher can see right along where Johnny is having trouble. These specific areas are then addressed throughout the year, allowing Johnny to move forward to the sixth grade at the end of the year with all the knowledge he needs to continue to learn and succeed in the next grade. Depending on the need of the student, he or she may be put into a group with other students who need help with a specific area. If it’s just one student, then help is provided by a Title 1 teacher, or the student may stay after school for one-on-one help from a teacher. If half the class or more is lacking in a certain area, then the teacher will reteach that particular area of math or reading to the whole class. In addition to assessing proficiency levels of the students, the Galileo program will give the students experience in on-line testing in preparation for the mandatory state assessment AZMerit test and will also help teach them most of the information included in that test.  In addition, the identification of specific areas of need ahead of time allows the teachers to better prepare students for the AZMerit test.  

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Junior Senior Day

Junior Senior Day was created a few years ago at TIA to inform high school students and their parents about the upcoming big changes that are ahead for them regarding the preparations  and transitions from high school to college. This day was designed to help students and parents in many areas:
  • To make sure they know about college assessment test dates and costs
  • To know which college assessment tests they need for the state or university they wish to attend
  • How to write a resume
  • How to write a proper letter to the college describing themselves, and to adjust it for each college they apply to
  • How to apply for scholarships, and the need to apply for different ones; guidelines where to apply, dates they need to apply by, etc.
  • How to be careful of scholarship scams
  • High school transcripts and what to do with them
  • How they can get dual credits from local colleges while in high school
  • Tutoring help
  • Title 1 help
  • Attending “Saturday” school to make sure they graduate on time with the proper credits to go on to a college
  • Help arrange for fieldtrips to local or out of state colleges
  • Help with other events such as Close Up field trips
  • Inform them of the dates and costs of upcoming events such as the Cotillion and Graduation

Dual Credits

Previously TIA worked with Pima College so that students could get dual credits while still in high school. Now they are working in tandem with GCU - Grand Canyon University as it is easier to transfer university credits to other universities.

College Tours

TIA asks for input about where each student would like to go to college and tries to organize a tour of that college for the student. Then they will help the student navigate the process to apply and get accepted. One student this year is interested in attending Stanford University. TIA is making the arrangements to visit that college with that student.

Close Up

This program is designed to give students an inside look at democracy at work in action. In addition to their one-of-a-kind Washington High School Program, they customize trips for groups from around the country. These are tailor-made to meet the specific needs of each group. Last year’s Close Up event was in Washington to learn how other nations work together with the U.S. This year the event is in Hawaii.  

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2015 Career Fair: A Day of Hope and Possibilities

Barriers. Challenges. Hurdles. What  do you call those seemingly impossible roadblocks that you encounter in life? What are your current obstacles? Lack of money? Lack of support? Past failures? Meet Jessica Cox … her challenge is having been born without arms. Arizona’s own Jessica Cox was the much-anticipated keynote speaker at TIA’s annual Career Fair held April 2nd, 2015. She spoke, not so much about her challenges, but more about her accomplishments. Where just learning to brush her teeth or dress herself could have been the accomplishments she shared, Jessica amazed and inspired us all with stories of how she  became the world's first licensed armless airplane pilot. She also shared how she has been named the first armless black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association. There’s nothing like a little perspective to motivate and inspire! Suddenly our own challenges didn’t seem like roadblocks at all, but more like pebbles on our path to just be swept aside! Students’ dreams of going to college to become a doctor, a police officer, a teacher, or a scientist did not seem so unattainable. In fact, with the many other professional partners and businesses that are represented at the career fair, doors of opportunity seem to be flying open at every turn! Some dreams were solidified, other dreams were born. It was a day full to the brim with possibilities, fresh ideas and options! But these concepts of hope are not new to TIA students. They are already overcomers in their own right. Every single senior has been accepted to college and all are the first generation in their families to do so. TIA students already have the ability to see boulders in the road as merely stepping stones to higher ground! So again this year, TIA’s annual Career Fair was a roaring success. We are so grateful to all those in our community who partner with our school to make this day of hope and possibilities a reality.  

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2015 Career Fair

Muffins for Mom & Doughnuts for Dad – A Celebration of Good Parenting

I once heard a mom describe parenting as having her heart walk around outside her body. The bond of love between parents and their children is a mystery. For many people, it is the truest form of love they will ever know. If the bond is damaged, it often can leave a scar carried for the rest of a person’s life. That’s why, when parents step up to the plate and not only love their children, but love them unselfishly with their time and effort, children have a much better chance of thriving and growing into the best people they can be. Becoming a parent is easy. Good parenting takes everything you’ve got.

Acknowledging the Challenges of Single Parents

About 5 years ago, Midvale Principal Valerie Enriquez, realized she was seeing a lot of good parenting happening in the families of her students. She noted how active many of the parents were in their child’s education at TIA. The extra time spent in the classroom, attending school events, and chaperoning field trips was extraordinary. It then occurred to Ms Enriquez how often it was single parents, sometimes juggling two jobs along with all the duties at home, that were volunteering at school. It dawned on her how great it would be to give special accolades to these single parents for doing all of this by themselves. So Mrs. Enriquez invited these parents to the first Muffins for Mom/ Doughnuts for Dad program as a way to acknowledge, applaud and give support to all the single parents of her students.

An Emotional Event

Besides serving tasty pastries to these parents, the students prepared poems or something affirming to say to their parents. Then each parent is presented a flower. The TIA staff were somewhat skeptical how many parents would actually attend the short morning program, but were amazed when they had a huge turnout of 70-75 parents! It ended up being a very emotional affair. Many happy tears were shed by parents listening to their children affirm them publically. Even teenagers, who maybe had argued with their folks the night before, stood up and expressed their love and appreciation for their parents.

Successful Program Spreads

The event was so successful, it now is an annual celebration of good parenting on all four TIA campuses and has extended to include all TIA parents. It is scheduled for May each year to coordinate with Mother’s and Father’s Day and to send parents and students into their summer with reaffirmed love and support.  

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