Community Spotlight: Bearkitten Program

“…they come to understand that they are there to learn and grow as human beings that will make a contribution to their communities as a whole.”

AACA Parent

Almond Acres is committed to developing the leaders of tomorrow who possess the skills to be competent and contributing members of their communities. Our Project Based and Service Learning programs connect our students to the greater Paso Robles area as we seek ways to be a part and help. It’s a circle of giving that we believe supports everyone, community members, staff, and students, alike! 

AACA students also benefit from the rich programs offered in our local community.  One such unique program brings graduates of Paso Robles High School to us–to work as paraeducators in our early childhood classrooms. Starting in high school, the Bearkitten Program at PRHS develops future educators and supports preschool children in the local community at the same time. 

Almond Acres Charter Academy support teacher Taliyah Thomas and a student enjoy a conversation outdoors at school 

Bearkitten Program

The Bearkitten Program provides Paso Robles High School (PRHS) students who are interested in a career in education or child development the opportunity to earn a paraeducator certificate, as well as graduate high school with college credits toward a degree in Early Childhood Education. 

Under teacher guidance, participants are placed in pre-school settings and learn about child development as an intern. Students teach in the school environment three days a week and have block days devoted to learning about positive guidance and curriculum planning. They gain college and career ready skills while observing and working with a preschooler throughout the school year. 

Photo: DianeyAACA.jpeg Alt Text: Almond Acres Charter Academy paraeducator Dianey Perez works on a computer 

Almond Acres Charter Academy paraeducator Dianey Perez works on a computer 

Bearkitten participants also have a chance to compete at the state level to showcase their skills. The relationship between young children and the interns is a special one, with the students presenting the children with a book at the end of the year that showcases their growth and development. 

AACA Support Teachers

Sometimes, we are lucky enough to have Bearkitten participants join AACA as full-time employees in K-8. This year, we are pleased to welcome three Bearkitten and Paso Robles High School graduates as full-time support teachers (paraeducators) at Almond Acres.

Aurora Ruiz works at our current elementary site, Centennial, as a support teacher.  Dianey Perez and Taliyah Thomas currently work at our middle school site, Youth Arts, also as support teachers. 

Profile photo of Almond Acres Charter Academy support teacher Aurora Ruiz

We think it speaks volumes that Bearkitten participants choose to work at AACA. They bring with them a depth of knowledge about how children grow and develop, as well as experience supporting children’s needs in the classrooms. We love the extra hands, minds, and hearts that these program participants bring to our classrooms.

Of our young professionals, AACA administrator, Leslie Almaguer, shared

I have been able to watch both Dianey and Taliyah’s work performance on a daily basis and the whole admin team here at Youth Arts has been so impressed with them. I have heard nothing but great things about Aurora over at Centennial. They already come prepared with the tools they need in order to build trust with the students, which I feel is the most important part of the job. 

We are so grateful to the Bearkitten Program for enriching our school experience by sharing their talented and dedicated educators. They are a shining example of how community is made better when we contribute our strengths and time. The Bearkitten Program is a win-win relationship for everyone!

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. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is currently in a temporary Paso Robles location until our new purpose built building opens for the 2021-2022 school year. 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! 

Profile: Bob Bourgault, Executive Director

Our students and staff know him as Mr. B. Around the community he is known as an advocate for the rights of children to grow into the best version of themselves. We asked Mr. B a few questions about his path to education and what he loves most about his role at AACA. You might be surprised to know that when he’s not busy making AACA an incredible place to learn, he is also enrolled in a graduate program! Mr. B is a terrific role model for what we hope our students will be: life-long learners. 

 Profile photo of Bob Borgault, Executive Director of Almond Acres Charter Academy

How long have you worked at Almond Acres?

It was my privilege to help open AACA in 2012. Prior to AACA I loved teaching social studies, counseling high school students, being a high school principal, and teaching new teachers at the University of LaVerne. I began my career as an educator in 1985.

When did you know you wanted to work in education?

In my senior year of college, I had to decide whether or not I was going to go to law school or work on a teaching credential. I absolutely loved studying history, government, and economics. What to do, what to do? I was invited to teach a class at a local high school and was hooked. I find great joy in helping people to learn and working with parents to help them grow great kids. My enthusiasm and joy back in 1985 is as fresh and gratifying now as I work with our AACA children.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

The most influential mentor I have had in my career was Fr. Tom Buckley. Tom was an outstanding history professor at Loyola Marymount University and the dearest friend I could ask for. Tom encouraged me to pursue my gifts and talents and was the one who invited me into the teaching profession. He witnessed our marriage and baptized my children. To this day his encouraging words brighten my mind and help me to “do the next right thing”.

What do you love most about your role?

I love the privilege of being Mr. B. I feel like a superhero when I walk into a classroom or play with the students on the playground. There is nothing more satisfying than to know that you can make a positive influence on a child.

What else would you like us to know about YOU?

I am blessed to have seven wonderful children and five grandchildren. I live out in the countryside of Creston and find great joy in life on a ranch and working in my woodshop. I am currently in a graduate school program with Santa Clara University studying theology and hope to use my ministry skills in my retirement years.

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. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is currently in a temporary Paso Robles location until our new purpose built building opens for the 2021-2022 school year. 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! 

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Almond Acres Charter Academy students are growing their hearts and minds this week by focusing on win-win thinking and creating positive outcomes for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at Habit #4: Think Win-Win and how this type of thinking can help us grow into Highly Effective People.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student views an image through a viewfinder while another student waits patiently behind her for her turn
What might we find when we use a different lens? Like these AACA kids in a pre-Covid world, our thinking shifts when we try on a new perspective. 

Contrary to what might pop into our heads at first glance, win-win thinking isn’t about giving in, giving up, or giving a trophy to both teams. It’s about cooperation, collaboration, community, and creative thinking!

Win-Win thinking is cooperating to seek a solution that leaves both sides happy with the outcome. Our success does not have to be framed by another’s failure. That concept of win/lose is expected in a board game or a tennis match, but life and relationships are not competitions. Instead of competing, we ask: How can we re-frame a problem so everyone can win? 

Creative Thinking

Win-win requires flexible and creative thinking—it pushes your brain to try something new. And using your brain is fun! Win-win thinking recognizes that there is more than one solution to the decisions and challenges of the world. We aim to help children see that their way plus your way may be the best way

Creative thinking and problem-solving are woven into all of our studies and projects at AACA. The tracks children set down in their brains when they solve a complex math problem or build a tall tower out of wooden blocks also support the ability to look at a social problem and come up with multiple solutions. All of our learning is connected!  

Six Almond Acres Charter Academy students of varying ages sit together on the floor in a circle to work on a project.
When we work together towards a common goal, we can think bigger and honor everyone’s ideas.  The sky is the limit!

Abundant Heart

Thinking win-win cultivates empathy and healthy relationships. If we seek first to listen to and understand the feelings and ideas of our family, friends, and colleagues, we are taking the first step to a win-win situation. 

We can approach relationships with an abundant heart and the belief that there is more than enough to go around. Win-Win thinking means that sharing is not losing. Young children can easily understand that if you cut a pizza the right way, everyone can have a piece. 

We practice perspective-taking when we think about what other people may want or need. We can put our immediate desires on hold so that both parties can be happy. Win-win thinking means we are maturing and building empathy and patience!

Thinking win-win can be a challenge at first, but with time and practice, we see that it is the best way forward. We encourage our students to reflect on what makes this tough, walk a minute in their neighbor’s shoes, and look at situations with a creative lens to come up with new solutions. 

When have you created a win-win situation? 

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. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is currently in a temporary Paso Robles location until our new purpose built building opens for the 2021-2022 school year. 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! 

Random Public DrawingThursday, March 25th at 6pm

Join us via Zoom for a random, public drawing to determine enrollment and waitlists for the 2021-2022 school year!