Bel Aire Park Magnet School: A Partnership in Teaching and Learning

Bel Aire Park Magnet School is a special place: a Title 1 International Baccalaureate school, California Distinguished School, and a Magnet School of Distinction. In addition Bel Aire Park has been implementing Collaborative Classroom programs for 14+ years, and we’re honored to call them our partner.

In this interview we have the great pleasure of speaking with Stacey Abeyta, recently retired as the school’s program coordinator, and Bel Aire Park’s new head of school and instructional leader, principal Kim Title.

Interview with Stacey Abeyta, Program Coordinator (retired), Bel Aire Park Magnet School

Stacey, tell us a little about yourself, Bel Aire Park Magnet School, and the school community. 

Last June I retired from Napa Valley Unified where I served as the program coordinator for an International Baccalaureate school, Bel Aire Park Magnet School. Additionally, I have worked as a Professional Learning Lead for Collaborative Classroom for the last 21 years, coming alongside educators.

Stacey Abeyta

Bel Aire Park Magnet School is a Title 1 school in the Napa Valley. The school has been the recipient of two federal magnet grants and has been an authorized International Baccalaureate school since 2010. 

Our teachers are committed to dialogic classrooms where students are supported in developing independence, critical thinking, inquiry, and agency in their learning. Bel Aire Park is also a California Distinguished School and a Magnet School of Distinction. 

Bel Aire Park’s student population mirrors our community at large: 61 percent Hispanic, 34 percent White, 0.5 percent Black, and 4.5 percent other ethnicities. Fifty-five percent of our students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and 34 percent are multilingual learners.

Stacey, what is the most rewarding part of being an educator for you?

Peter Brunn of Collaborative Classroom once said that supporting students in becoming literate is equity. I firmly believe this to be true. The responsibility that teachers have in doing this work is immense. 

Being able to take a child from an emerging reader to a confident, thoughtful reader is something that still takes my breath away. That is powerful. That is life changing.

The other most rewarding part of being an educator for me is the people. Teachers are the most dedicated, hard working, passionate individuals I know. They care deeply about their students and do the best they can for them. 

While we may not always agree on the “What,” we always agree on the “Why.”

While we may not always agree on the “What,” we always agree on the “Why.” Teaching is hard, hard work. Those people who step into classrooms each day don’t shy away from it—they embrace it.

Please share about the history of Bel Aire Park — specifically the school’s journey to becoming an International Baccalaureate campus.

We were two schools on one campus. One school was a parent participation school with higher socioeconomic status and a high level of parent participation. The other school was a traditional school that received Title 1 monies. 

We recognized a big discrepancy between what students in each school were receiving in terms of instruction, opportunities, and parent participation. 

Combining these schools was beneficial for everyone. We became an International Baccalaureate school in 2010 and we have been implementing Collaborative Classroom’s programs ever since (though SIPPS has been around even longer). 

How do Collaborative Classroom’s programs support your International Baccalaureate school?

We have found Collaborative Classroom’s programs to be very supportive of International Baccalaureate priorities. They share the following commonalities:

  • There is a focus on the whole child—both the academic and social aspects of school life
  • Instruction is tailored to the needs of the individual
  • Students show agency for their learning and actions
  • Independence is fostered
  • Students have voice and choice 
  • Learning is student-centered
  • Inquiry drives instruction
  • Cultural representation and diversity are valued
  • Equity is central to the work
  • Learning looks different for each learner
  • The skills being developed by the learner are just as important as what is being learned
  • The Learner Profile in International Baccalaureate is consistent with the learner characteristics that Collaborative Classroom strives to develop with their lessons and texts. 

Tell us about the culture of Bel Aire Park. 

International Baccalaureate believes that education can help to connect and build a better, more peaceful world.

To support that belief, the program uses a Learner Profile that identifies the types of individuals that we are all striving to be. The list of qualities in the profile includes: knowledgeable, thinking, communicating, open-minded, caring, principled, balanced, risk-taking, and reflective. 

At Bel Aire Park Magnet School, educators seek to embody that list and to nurture those traits in our students as well as ourselves. We believe deeply in the work and, as a result, have very little turnover of staff. We have committed and seasoned teachers. In fact, we have only one teacher with less than five years teaching experience at Bel Aire. All of our other teachers have been teaching with Collaborative Classroom’s programs for 10+ years, some for 20+ years

Tell us about Bel Aire Park’s implementation of Collaborative Literacy.

We began with SIPPS many years ago because we needed strong foundational skills instruction. 

We then were part of the team that supported Reading for Real, which became the Making Meaning reading comprehension program. This program transformed whole-group instruction. It provided a clearly articulated scope and sequence for reading, which we did not have with Writer’s Workshop.

Then Collaborative Classroom published the Being a Writer program for comprehensive writing instruction. We implemented it, and our students began to LOVE writing! We saw a complete shift in instruction and students’ desire to write. There was strong support for peer conferring and for students conferring with teachers. The rubrics were comprehensible to students and teachers, and we appreciated the vertical alignment. 

Coming back to the present, Bel Aire Park has already pre-purchased the third edition of Being a Writer because we are excited about the new mentor texts, digital instructional media, and additional support for multilingual learners.

Let’s return reading instruction. Through our partnership with you, we brought on the first edition of Being a Reader when Collaborative Classroom published it for grades K–2. Being a Reader marked the first time we had cohesive, clearly articulated and aligned Tier 1 reading instruction for small groups. 

We are now using the current second edition of Being a Reader across K–5 and are glad to have a comprehensive literacy suite in our upper elementary grades. We have seen that Being a Reader’s Word Study lessons have a significant impact on both reading and spelling.

Bel Aire Park knows the importance of alignment across tiers of instruction. Tell us about Being a Reader and SIPPS at the school.

Our first focus is strong Tier 1 instruction and Being a Reader supports that work in a comprehensive way. 

Following the pandemic, we have had many more students who need Tier 2 support. We track SIPPS data and meet monthly to ensure every student is progressing. We intake students who may need some additional support as well as exit students who are ready to return to solely Tier 1 instruction. We have had to prioritize students who are one year  or more below grade level. In Kindergarten, we look at intervention beginning in January/February of the year. We track our data on a spreadsheet that we share with intervention teachers, the program coordinator, the principal, and classroom teachers.

As students gain the foundational reading skills they need, instructional time is freed up for the implementation of Book Clubs which, to date, have not proven accessible to all third graders. We’re excited to start using Book Clubs more robustly as the texts are amazing and represent a broad range of cultures, characters, and more.

Interview with Kim Title, Principal and Head of School, Bel Aire Park Magnet School

Principal Kim Title, thank you for speaking with us! Please tell us a little about yourself.

I have been in education for 30 years and have been teaching alongside Collaborative Classroom since 2000. I became an International Baccalaureate teacher in 2006. Last year, I served as Head of School and I am excited about what is to come. 

Kim Title

Kim, what is the most rewarding part of being an educator for you? 

Honestly, the connections that are made to make us a community. I love my new position. I get a bird’s eye view of the connections that all teachers make with each other, families, and students. Instead of thirty students and families to form connections with, I now have 417. 

It is easy to form connections with people with whom you are similar. The teachers at Bel Aire Park are masters of looking for those students who aren’t easily forming bonds, and commit to creating a safe place for them.

The teachers at Bel Aire Park are masters of looking for those students who aren’t easily forming bonds, and commit to creating a safe place for them.

Our curriculum and philosophy are the vehicles in which this happens, but the consistent effort by the staff to make students feel a sense of belonging is really what makes this worth it.

As you lead Bel Aire Park Magnet School forward, what will come next? What are you excited about?

First and foremost, Bel Aire is continuing to grow our literacy program with the implementation of Being a Reader for Grades 3-5. This work supports our school-wide priorities around nurturing quality discourse and ensuring that we hear and honor every voice throughout the International Baccalaureate.

Collaborative Classroom’s programs will continue to be integral to our work moving forward. The curricula equalizes the field of learning for our students. As Stacey mentioned earlier, we have 34 percent multilingual learners and 61 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic. Creating a place for these students to feel safe, strong, and valued will set the stage for learning. We are grateful for our long-term partnership with Collaborative Classroom. Long after the purchase of a program, Collaborative Classroom is there supporting us.


Learn more about Bel Aire Park Magnet School:

Explore Collaborative Literacy and SIPPS.

Read about another long-term partnership: How a District-Tutoring-University Partnership Serves Striving Readers and Preservice Teachers with SIPPS