TCA Arshag Dickranian School: 30 Years in Retrospect


The class of 2011

By Salpi Asayan

LOS ANGELES — The TCA Arshag Dickranian School marked its 30th anniversary during the 2010- 2011 scholastic year with curricular and extracurricular activities. This milestone was also highlighted by the major steps teachers took to improve their instruction skills in order to provide students with a more conducive educational environment and to stay aligned with the school’s mission.

In the area of mathematics, middle and high school mathematics teacher, Vergine Harutunian, had great success in the improvement of students’ results in the Stanford Test Results, a nationwide test issued by the state of California. “Since my tenure at the school in 2009, the test results improved 8 percent in 2010 and 10 percent this year,” she said. “My goal is to improve this in the upcoming year by fostering a fun learning environment, motivating my students and helping them achieve higher educational standards.”

Harutunian holds a master’s degree in mathematics from Yerevan State University and has completed the Eisenhower Intensive Staff Development Program for Secondary Mathematics Teachers. She participates in the California Math Council-Southern Section Conference in Palm Springs every year and is a member of Golden Key Math and Science Honor Society and the Mathematical Association of America. She has served as a mathematics teacher at Yerevan Community College from 1977-1984 and at AGBU High School from 1989-2009. During her tenure at the university and AGBU, she implemented lesson plans for at least five classes annually in basic math, pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, math analysis and calculus. This experience has provided her with the ability to explain complicated mathematical concepts in an effective manner, engage students of different learning abilities and support struggling students in learning.

Second-grade students had a noteworthy experience in the past months as well, in which they took a field trip to the California Science Center, where students were able to tie their knowledge to actual experiments. “California Science Center is a great way to get students excited about science,” said second-grade homeroom teacher, Lusine Asatryan. “It allows them to move out of the classroom and experience the hands-on exhibits, from the shaking Earthquake Room to Tess, the 50-foot body simulator.”

Second-grade students also visited the Travel Town Museum, which is located on a nine-acre site at 5200 Hollingsworth Dr. in Griffith Park in Los Angeles City Recreation and Park Department and has a unique display of vehicles representing many modes and eras of conveyances. The youngsters enjoyed and were interested in the historical development of transportation.

“Other than our field trips, this year I encouraged my students to write poetry which was later sent out to a poetry contest. The purpose of the poetry contest was to bring recognition to student writers. Entries of high merit were accepted to be published in anthologies. With the publication being regionally based, students compete against their peers in both age and location. Creative Communication is selective and students can consider it an honor if their work is accepted. Half of my second graders’ works were selected to be published.”

Asatryan currently holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts studies from CSUN, a Preliminary Multiple Subject Credential and will obtain a master’s of education in Education Leadership from Grand Canyon University in February 2012.

Another interesting educational journey middle school students made this year was with their Armenian teacher, Alvard Uzunyan, and their English teacher, Jose Castillo. With a master of arts in pedagogy from Yerevan State University and an associate of arts degree in public speaking from Glendale College, Uzunyan dedicates her time to enrich the students at ADS with Armenian arts, language and literature by involving them in several projects. This year, the students participated in recitation and various cultural contests.Uzunyan also accompanied the eighth-grade students on a six-day educational trip to Washington DC and New York in March. Uzunyan also composes articles for a range of Armenian newspapers such as Asbarez and New Armenia and writes book reviews and critiques for Tekeyan Cultural Association.

As a graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a master’s degree in education, Jose Castillo focuses on teaching ADS students English literature and improving their language- arts skills. This year Castillo encouraged students ranging from sixth to ninth grades to participate in a poetry contest in which an impressive number of 44 students were selected to have their individual poems published by Poetic Power, a website that circulates outstanding students’ writings. Castillo also engaged sixth through ninth-grade students in drama presentations as a final project at the end of the year, an activity designed to prepare students for next year’s Drama Fair. “Overall, students showed great growth academically, emotionally and spiritually,” said Castillo. “Other teachers have noted improvements in students’ reading, writing and speaking abilities.”

In order to improve his skills as a teacher, Castillo recently attended seminars and workshops at LAUSD headquarters to improve lesson quality and effectiveness while accommodating to students’ individual strengths and weaknesses.

The high school English department also experienced some positive developments this year. English Department Chairman head, Ricardo Rocha, saw that all English teachers at the school attend LAUSD’s Title III Private Schools Institute for “Teachers of English Learners,” “Teaching Analytical Writing” and “Thinking Maps.” These conferences were primarily aimed at helping teachers gain better skills at teaching English to bilingual students. In addition to this development, AP Literature and Composition was offered for the first time this year to junior students and passing results improved considerably. Furthermore, this year’s AP exam results showed marked improvement with a much higher passing rate compared to last year. Another major highlight was the very successful stage presentation of Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” by the 12th graders. The four-day play was directed by Rocha, who is also a professional actor. “Our student actors worked like professionals,” said Rocha. “Their performance brought the social political and psychological truth of Tennessee William’s characters to life.”

Rocha holds a master of arts in comparative literature from University of Milwaukee and recently received a PhD in comparative literature from the University ofWisconsin. He is currently trying to complete and publish his dissertation called Latin American Literary Adaptations for Stage and Film in the US.

In the area of sports, the Arshag Dickranian varsity team, otherwise known as the Dickranian Lions, won first place in the CIF Mulholland League and second place in the CIF Championship in March 2011. They also participated in the Double Pump Tournament held in Las Vegas in April, winning two games and losing one, whereas the Dickranian Lions Junior- Junior Boys Basketball Team won first place in the AGBU Basketball Tournament held at the AGBU Pasadena Center in June. All of these were victories for the school teams, proving to be challenging teams to play against.

Head coach Rudy Rameh attended the training session at Michael Jordan’s Camp at University of California Santa Barbara in July taking six ADS student along for training to improve their playing skills.

Beside the improvements made in the academic and sport programs at the school, the school also focuses on the Armenian cultural arts education as well. The school held special celebrations this year for its 30th anniversary, one of which was the 30th anniversary Cultural Extravaganza which took place in May at the school’s Walter and Laurel Karabian Hall.

These were some of the developments that took place this year at Dickranian School and plans for more improvements are already in progress in preparation for the upcoming year. Visit www.dickranianschool.org for more information.