Meeting Students Where They Are

St. Thomas Aquinas High School’s Academic Center Coordinator, Jennifer Dunham, had the opportunity to sit down with our Director of Advancement, Sarah McCluskey, for a brief interview. Read the interview below to learn more about Ms. Dunham and the immediate impact that she has made at STA!

There is a place for all students at STA. Regardless of GPA, our faculty works tirelessly to give them the tools and strategies to help them realize their own unique potential. For students who may need extra help navigating our rigorous curriculum, they can find the support from Ms. Jennifer Dunham, the Coordinator of STA’s Academic Center.

The Academic Center is an environment where students can receive extra help on any subject with which they may be struggling. There are currently about 40 students utilizing this program. Ms. Dunham is part of a larger team that includes parents, teachers, and the counseling department to draft Individualized Student Plans (“ISPs”) that are appropriate for our students to
meet their unique needs. She works hand-in-hand with each student and their parents to develop a plan for prioritizing and completing tasks and sends weekly emails to parents to update them on their son or daughter’s progress. She also checks students’ grades daily. If they receive a C- or below, she will immediately address it and let them know she’s there to help.

Ms. Dunham joined the faculty this academic year. Before STA, she spent the past 24 years in education, teaching a wide variety of subjects and age ranges from elementary, middle, and high school, including special education. With her background and expertise, she provides our students with the extra support they need to excel. She also works with them to harness skills
needed outside the classroom, such as taking ownership over their course load, taking initiative, advocating for themselves, conflict resolution, and being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. When asked what success looks like she replied, “seeing a student go from needing one-on-one attention to working more independently, as well as grade progress.” She recalls
one student who struggled with homework completion and math. She worked with the student to develop their own “language” for the steps needed to solve the problem. Now this student is working more independently and putting in the work. She has enjoyed watching their growth over this past year.

When asked what the best thing is about working at STA, Ms. Dunham replied, “how kind everybody is. It’s like a family here.”