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Journey just as important as destination in IB programs

When Gema Aleman moved to San Antonio three years ago, she wanted to learn more about the community into which she was moving. She purposefully introduced herself to her elderly neighbors and after talking with them, realized that because of their age and physical limitations, they weren’t able to walk their dogs as much as they would like. So, she started walking their dogs for them. It is this inquisitive nature and willingness to look at the world from someone else’s perspective that makes Aleman an ideal pick for the Burbank International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme.

“IB has helped me be a better student and listen to other people’s perspectives because they are not always the same as mine,” said Aleman, a senior IB student at Burbank HS who will be going to UT Austin this fall to study public health and women and gender studies. “I am really grateful to be a part of this program. I’m glad to get to experience being with an IB cohort – I learned so many new things.”

Students who are driven and willing to look at the world in a way that they may have never considered before can be ideal IB candidates. The IB program is an internationally respected college-prep curriculum that aims to help students develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn, and work in a global world.

Within the past year, three more SAISD schools joined the ranks of IB World Schools when Jefferson HS became an authorized IB World School offering the Diploma Programme to juniors and seniors; Harris MS was named an authorized IB World School offering the Middle Years Programme to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders; and Woodlawn Academy earned the designation for both the Middle Years and Primary Years programmes. Additionally, three more campuses were named IB Candidate schools - Fenwick Academy, Huppertz Elementary, and Woodlawn Hills Elementary - bringing the number of IB Candidate schools in the pipeline to five campuses, which also includes Longfellow Middle School and Briscoe Elementary School. 

It’s not just the students who are learning new things in the Burbank IB Programme - their teachers are learning new things, too. Jennifer Love, Burbank International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme coordinator, spoke about an IB training session that SAISD IB teachers attended last year with other teachers from across the state.

“These IB teachers came up with a zombie apocalypse theme which allowed students to look at the same problem from multiple different perspectives in each of their classes,” she recalled.

From the IB math side, students looked at the exponential functions and explored how the zombie population could grow over time. Then, in IB science class, a “cure” was developed using chemistry. Moving to IB English class, the students wrote a paper for the United Nations that focused on the fallout from the apocalypse world-wide. And in IB history class, the geographical location of where the zombie outbreak began was explored, and the different aspects of the epidemic were examined including the climate and the geographic spread of the disease.

“These are connections that I don’t think anybody would have been able to do if they weren’t in the IB world,” said Love. “This project was awesome! The kids didn’t have to get one project in one class, and then go to another class and get another project that didn’t relate to their other core subjects. Every class was intertwined with this common theme.”

The IB programme encourages both personal and academic achievement, challenging students to excel in their studies and in their personal development.

“You always hear, ‘You guys are just doing project-based learning,’” said Love. “But no! This is inquiry-based learning, and that is the essence of IB. With this inquiry-based learning, you are going to find connections in every single class. And the students can see that as they travel together as a magnet cohort.”

This cohort model is a unique aspect of the IB Programme at Burbank. It allows IB students to travel together through the majority of their classes, year to year, forming strong connections among the other students in their cohort.

“My favorite part of the IB programme is the relationships and bonds with the people here at Burbank,” said Khristian Bayless, a senior IB student who will be headed to Texas A&M College Station this fall to study English education. “You are spending four years with the same kids in the same classes, and that is a really good opportunity to make close friendships and form a bond between the cohort.”

Roberts says that some of the students who end up getting the IB Diploma, which is recognized worldwide, may or may not be the highest achievers in a traditional classroom setting, but they all have one thing in common: a deep sense of curiosity and the realization that the journey is just as important as the destination.

One hundred percent of Burbank’s Class of 2018 has been accepted into a four-year university which isn’t surprising because at its core, IB is a college preparatory program, said Roberts. But it’s much more than just that.

“It’s a chance for future development of opportunities,” he said. “The students are working for both their Texas diploma and their IB diploma. The IB diploma allows them the opportunity to essentially attend any university in any country in the world. A lot of people want to focus on the college credits that can be earned through IB, but the point of the program is to prepare them for college so when they get to college, they have the confidence in themselves to move on and go forward.” 

Burbank IB students earned $3.7 million in scholarships that will help them pay for their higher education at a variety of institutions including New York University, The University of Texas at Austin, Dartmouth College, DePaul University, and Baylor University.

Each year, Burbank holds a Pin and Stole ceremony to gather past, present and future IB students. The event gives students, parents, family and friends the opportunity to come together and celebrate Burbank IB.

“The community really, really enjoys this event,” said Roberts. “We look forward to honoring the seniors who graduated last year and our current graduating seniors, and introducing the incoming class of freshman to their IB classmates.”

To learn more about IB programmes in SAISD, click here.

Burbank IB Khristian Bayless  Burbank IB senior Gema Aleman