Get Ready to PLAY!

Rendering of Almond Acres Charter Academy with future playground site marked

We are all so excited to move into our new campus in Paso Robles. But as we finish up the many details to make this possible, we want to share some big news with you!

Starting today, November 8, AACA is launching a campaign to raise $50,000 for a new playground. We are planning to transform our west side outdoor space into a place for every student to enjoy.

How can you help?

  1. By making a gift! Click HERE to learn more about the campaign and make a one-time tax-deductible gift to support the playground.
  2. By spreading the word! Tell your friends and family about the campaign and encourage them to get involved. We could use their support!

For questions or more information, please contact us at giving@aaacademy.com Thank you!

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 7: Sharpen the Saw

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.”

Dr. Stephen R. Covey

We all use tools to help us throughout our day. The condition and quality of those tools is essential to how we perform: a sushi chef requires sharp knives for the perfect slice, a painter washes and dries his brushes so they may be used again, a potter keeps unused clay moist so it is easy to work with. Caring for our tools makes us better at what we do. In our everyday lives, we also rely on tools to perform at our best: our hearts, minds, and bodies.

Built into our philosophy at Almond Acres’ is the mission to grow children’s heart, mind, body and soul. Along with that growth, we teach our students that it’s important to balance work with rest and renewal. Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw is all about finding balance. 

Almond Acres students wearing red t-shirts with a running number and a teacher wave at the camera

Sharpen the Saw

You probably know what it feels like to “have a dull saw.” It may show up as exhaustion or disinterest. It may feel like a 3rd cup of coffee to get going for the day. For kids, it may be that feeling right before bedtime, when they’ve hit the wall and even going to bed sounds impossible. It feels like being “hangry” (angry because you are hungry) just before dinner because you missed lunch. In short, it’s no fun. 

If we continually seek improvement without caring for ourselves, we will experience burnout—our saws will dull. And without a sharp saw, we can’t continue to grow and be at our best. 

How Do We Do It?

Rest and relaxation isn’t all about sitting on the sofa to watch tv (although, if that is rejuvenating to you, do it!). We have to pay attention to our whole selves. Here are some examples of activities that renew us as we seek balance:

Heart: “Carefree timelessness” in meaningful social connections with family, friends, and community members are revitalizing. Laughing with a friend and having fun is a great way to strengthen your heart. 

Mind: Reading great books, journaling, and engaging in puzzling activities stimulates your brain and sharpens your focus. Learning is one way to take care of your brain!

Body: A healthy dose of sleep, diet, and exercise. Are you moving your body everyday? Have you filled up on nourishing food? Are you getting adequate sleep? No one can keep moving on an empty tank.

Soul: Enter the “classroom of silence”. Expand your spiritual self through prayer, meditation, art, music, or spending time in nature. Any activity that fills your cup is rejuvenating to your soul. 

As we renew each part of ourselves, we leave room for growth and change. We increase our capacity, our resilience in the face of challenge, and our ability to give. Self-care is not selfish!

An Almond Acres student journals while looking out toward the rocks and sea

Sharpening the saw for children might look different from an adult. It might mean learning to rest after a busy day at school by relaxing with a good book or painting. Or maybe your child balances a passion for video games with breaks outside to move his body and breathe fresh air. Finding balance is deeply personal and how we do that will change as we grow.

In a world that teaches us that we must constantly be moving and doing, Almond Acres aims to help students seek balance. We model rest and recharging so that we can be at our best, everyday. How do you sharpen your saw? How do you help your children sharpen their saws?  

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! 

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! 

Meet Your AACA Directors

We are back with another round of introductions to our hard-working directors at Almond Acres Charter Academy. This time, we’d like to introduce you to Amber Wilkerson, our new Special Education Director and two familiar faces: Amy Baker, Program Director and Amy Brabenec, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Coordinator. Read on to find out about the varied paths each staff member took to get to AACA and what they love to do in their free time. 

Profile photo of Amber Wilkerson, Special Education Director at Almond Acres Charter Academy

Amber Wilkerson, Special Education Director

How long have you worked at Almond Acres?

I was officially offered the position of Special Education Director in June. I’ve been boots on the ground since!

When did you know you wanted to work in education?

My first teaching position was before No Child Left Behind legislation and I taught a Special Day Class prior to having my credential. From day one I knew it was my jam. I have taught for 20 plus years, all as a special education teacher, and have never felt burnt out. I think that says a lot about my passion…I can’t imagine being in any other setting. I love working with students, teachers, and families. 

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teachers were in first, second, third grade and my junior English teacher. It wasn’t one thing they did or taught, rather how they made me feel as a learner. I was a pretty big goof off in high school and I remember my English teacher telling me that he was submitting my name for Honors Senior English. He said he saw and heard something in my writing and wanted to develop it. Of course, I didn’t complete the summer pre-course work! Ha! These days, Dr.Vick, my Dissertation Chair, has become my favorite teacher. It has taken his feedback and expertise to get me this far!

What do you love most about your role?

I have been an administrator before and chose to go back into the classroom because the job was too far removed from kids. I accepted this position because it is a perfect blend of student and family interaction and supporting teachers and special education programs. I also fell in love with the philosophy of the school!

What else would you like us to know about YOU?

I love reading. I am obsessed with my yellow Lab, Sadie Mae, and my Doberman, Duke. I have 3 geese that I hatched in my classroom who follow me everywhere. I have been married for 26 years, and have three amazing daughters. My oldest will play Goalkeeper for Cal Poly next year!

Profile picture of Amy Baker, Program Director at Almond Acres Charter Academy

Amy Baker, K-8 Program Director

How long have you worked at Almond Acres?

I am one of the founders of AACA, and one of the current administrators as the Program Director. I helped to develop the Charter petition and have helped to implement the programs as a staff member since AACA opened in 2012. 

When did you know you wanted to work in education?

I wanted to work with kiddos as far as I can remember. Both of my parents were teachers. I grew up hanging out in my dad’s classroom after school, on the weekends, and during the summer. I loved playing school when I was little, and of course, I was always “the teacher”.  All of my jobs had to do with kiddos, from babysitting to working at the Boys and Girls Club and the Y, to coaching sports, to working through Americorps, etc.   

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teacher was Mrs. Leslie Moss for fourth grade at Winifred Pifer in Paso Robles.  She made all students feel cared for, listened to, and loved.  She made learning fun and engaging! We are still in contact today. 🙂  

How does AACA’s mission and vision align with your personal values?

Our mission at AACA is to help students be successful both academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul. At AACA, we use a Formation of Learning Framework and Philosophy in all aspects of our school. This allows us to focus on four key areas in all that we do: disposition, knowledge, reasoning, and creativity. We have chosen programs and curriculum that fit into our framework and philosophy. They also allow us to easily differentiate in order to meet the needs of both accelerated learners, as well as struggling ones. It aligns with my values because I helped to create the educational program for this school and is what I truly believe in as an educator.  

As an administrator, I have seen the positive impact that this school has made on so many students over the past 9 years. I have also been fortunate enough to have my daughter, Amelia, go through AACA since Kindergarten and she is now in 6th grade. Her experience at AACA has far exceeded what I could have ever imagined for her, both socially-emotionally and academically.

AACA is small, but mighty. Our faculty is extremely dedicated to all students.  They go above and beyond daily to work with students based on their individual needs in all areas.

What do you love most about your role?

I absolutely LOVE the team of people that I work with…they are so supportive personally and professionally. They bring happiness and laughter to my days! I LOVE seeing the teachers grow as educators and succeed because we truly have the most amazing educators! I LOVE watching students experience aha moments, build confidence, and shine in the ways that they are most talented. 

What else would you like us to know about YOU?

I own another business in downtown Paso, so when I am not at school, I am often there! I LOVE to spend time with my family and friends, as they are the most important part of my life. I LOVE games, especially board games, and sports, especially college basketball, professional baseball, and football. I LOVE watching productions, especially the ones that my daughter is in. I LOVE to travel throughout this country and to other countries whenever possible. I LOVE helping people.   

Profile picture of Amy Brabenec, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Coordinator at Almond Acres Charter Academy

Amy Brabenec, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Coordinator

How long have you worked at Almond Acres?

This is my 10th year at AACA. I taught kindergarten for the last nine years at AACA! 

When did you know you wanted to work in education?

At the end of the school year, teachers would give me their extra copies of worksheets and I would play school in the summer. That is probably the first clue that I wanted to work in education.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite elementary school teacher was Mrs. Walters in 2nd grade. She brought out the best in me.

How does AACA’s mission and vision align with your personal values?

Our goal at AACA is to teach students how to learn and to be comfortable with the process of learning. I grew up in 4-H and earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal Poly where the motto is Learn by Doing. There are principles and habits we teach at AACA that apply to all areas of life and I am a better wife, mother, friend, and teacher when I live by them.

What do you love most about your role?

I get to work with students of all ages and that makes me very happy!

What else would you like us to know about YOU?

We are big San Francisco Giants fans in our family, so any chance to watch a game is fun for me. At least once a day you can find me walking with my husband, Mike, and our dog, Piper. Our son, Noah, and daughter, Ava, are young adults now, and it’s an awesome gift to watch them continue to grow.

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!