An Educator's View

(The following is a speech written by Danielle Montiel, Program Administrator and the "glue" of IVA's Charter to Promoting Class of 2017 on June 15, 2 2017. Danielle passed away in January of 2018 after a year-long battle with cancer. She will be missed.)

I’m so glad to be here with you today.  I’m speaking on behalf of the team of families, some of whom are in this room, who came together with philosophers Dr. Jason Baehr and Dr. Steve Porter in 2010 and wondered, what if a middle school experience could look like a small, intimate educational community centered around the cultivation of intellectual virtues? What if we could offer another educational opportunity to add to the rich legacy of education in Long Beach? We worked for three years, and we got a school, and we got YOU! And while we’ve done our best to build a school that lives out a clear, meaningful mission and vision, our focus has always been on the hearts and minds of our dear students.

Thank you, students for taking the RISK of coming to this school. You left behind close elementary friends to take a step into the unknown. You’ve had awkward moments explaining to friends and acquaintances that you attend a “charter school” (whatever that is), and one named “intellectual virtues”…or is it virtual? Or values? In making some significant sacrifices to attend IVA, you have been co-creators of a very special school. Your enthusiasm, kindness…your growth mindset, your daily practice of open-mindedness, courage, curiosity have made this school what it is. And I’m personally grateful, because your legacy and example now benefit my own daughter, who joined IVA as a 6th grader in the fall.

Just as a group of families reimagined middle school education and so created IVA, we as staff hope we have helped you reimagine what you and your mind can be in the years after you leave IVA. As you know, much of what happens at IVA revolves around “intellectual virtues,” which are nothing more (or less) than the mental habits we all need in order to think and learn well.  You will be thinking and learning for the rest of your lives. And your success in your job, relationships, and many other areas of life will depend on how well you practice these traits. The exposure to and training you’ve had in intellectual virtues here at IVA give you an advantage in these important areas. But they will make the greatest difference if you keep them in your hearts and minds, continue to reflect on your own intellectual character strengths and weaknesses, and seize every opportunity to put the virtues into practice at school and beyond. We encourage you to keep growing your self-awareness, ability to reflect, and understanding of your mind.

And if I might go off script momentarily…I’ll add that my own personal health journey this past year has called on my intellectual character like never before. I’ve had to make some of the most critical decisions of my life to give me the best chances of a long, healthy life. Many times, like you studying for a math unit test that you fear you might fail, I’ve had to will myself to be attentive and careful as I’ve listened to doctors explain options and had to filter a fire hose of medical information coming my way. I’ve had to be courageous in facing my incorrect assumptions. And in all this, I’m so glad to have the language and concepts of intellectual character to understand my own thinking because I truly believe it is helping me to make good decisions, and to live well.

[Students, it has mattered that you were here, each of you, and your presence will be celebrated and missed]. Thank you.