Success starts with establishing a set of core values


Kimsoo Gopnik

AMSA is championing the values of “integrity, excellence, and community.”

Integrity. Excellence. Community.

These three values are plastered around all three AMSA buildings this year, whether it is on posters or on the back of faculty T-shirts.

But where did they come from and what do they mean?

“Over the past decade since AMSA has been around, we have had lots of changes: different administration; different teachers; different students,” Executive Director Dr. Anders Lewis said. “A lot of thought last year went into [reflecting about] who we are and what we all agree upon. So we decided to consolidate them into three distinct [values].”

AMSA has faced a number of changes throughout the years. From having the charter renewed with special guidelines to a number of faculty changes, the school has had difficulty maintaining an image of constancy.

During Dr. Lewis’ tenure, AMSA has rolled out new methods of communication through its Instagram page, emailed “AMSA Updates,” and special video messages from Principal Ellen Linzey and Dr. Lewis. Communications Manager Michael Finkle has led an effort to improve publicity through these methods as well.

By being more open to the student and faculty community, AMSA has aimed to consistently redefine itself for families and stakeholders.

The core values, like the other methods, aim to unify the school in an effort to bring it closer together with shared goals and initiatives.

Coming up with three distinct values to define the school was far from an instantaneous process. The administration wanted the values to embody the ideals of the AMSA community as a whole, not just a select group of faculty.

To settle on three model values that encompass the spirit and goals of the school, the AMSA administration worked with teachers, students, and parents alike to discuss both strengths and weaknesses.

Kimsoo Gopnik
Values were the product of administration, faculty, and student brainstorming.

“This process took about six months of discussion and thought,” Dr. Lewis said. “[Afterwards], we re-grouped [and sorted what] everyone was saying into three bubbles and came up with the core values.”

According to Dr. Lewis, to model integrity is to be honest, truthful, and respectful in relationships with both one’s work and with others.

Pursuing excellence is working hard, persevering in the face of obstacles, and embracing the joy of learning. It takes on a different look with every student.

“It’s about being the best for yourself,” Dr. Lewis said. “For some, that can mean all fives on AP tests and for others it can be taking their first test.”

Community, lastly, is caring for and looking after one another.

Dr. Lewis wanted to further emphasize that the values can extend into the AMSA community’s lives outside of school: “They are intended to be both community-wide values, but also individual. I make sure I model integrity; if we all show we care, everyone else will, too.”

The beneficial thing about the values, according to Dr. Lewis, is that they mean something slightly different to each individual.

This year’s seniors, the class of 2019, have been at AMSA for seven years. The sixth graders, the class of 2025, are about the begin the same journey.

Despite the near decade between the two classes, the students view the values in a similar light.

“Community is the most important to me because we need it in order to achieve goals and see different perspectives,” said sixth grader Rachel Chennankara. “Group work is definitely an experience I have had at school that reflects community.”

Nadine Farhat, a senior, thought integrity was the most important: “I think AMSA kids are a lot more responsible with what we do and how we act outside of school than some [other students].”

Although the two students held the values at different levels of importance, their personal emphasis on different aspects of the same three main ideas is a shining example of Dr. Lewis’s point about making the values individual to each student.

AMSA may not be a perfect school, but the hope is that stated core values will lead the way as a model of the integrity and excellence the community wishes to achieve.