Wildflower

Tracey DeBuff is the vice principal of Wildflower Accelerated Academy. (Photo courtesy of Avondale Elementary School District)

The Avondale Elementary School District is no stranger to success, as its schools have won multiple state and national awards for their academic achievements. 

Wildflower Accelerated Academy is one of the district’s successes after being deemed an A+ School of Excellence and recipient of the Founder’s Award from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. 

As first-year principal, previously serving as vice principal, Katelyn Orloski said it’s the accelerated learning model that allows Wildflower students to thrive.

“We fit yearlong work into three quarters,” Orloski said. “So our third graders start on fourth grade work in that last quarter of school. Our kids work at a faster pace, the work in the classroom is at a higher level and the work they’re producing is at a higher level.”

Orloski said Wildflower is committed to accelerating the growth of each individual learner by focusing on individualized instruction at or above grade level. 

To achieve the high standards the teachers and staff set, Wildflower provides small-group instruction. Orloski added that the high quality of the teachers makes a huge difference in the students’ ability to achieve. 

“We have the best teachers at Wildflower,” she said. “Our teachers teach one content area, which allows our teachers to be content experts. I believe this has an extreme impact on students’ success, as well as that small-group setting. Our small-group instruction allows for our teachers to cater to our students. We have had a lot of success with our structures and with the teachers’ knowledge for their students.”

Aware of the many schools throughout the state, Orloski said it’s the “Wildflower Way” that sets Wildflower Accelerated Academy apart. 

“It’s a different mentality here,” she said. “We provide curriculum that challenges them, and we make sure they have access to learn and understand. Our students are really confident, we have confident learners, and they are set up for success. We have high expectations, and we know we set expectations high, and they meet them. They want to meet them. They are tremendous individuals.” 

Tracey DeBuff, Wildflower assistant principal, added that the teachers’ commitment to their students is something special to witness, an aspect that has been a driver in the school’s success. 

“The teachers have a collective commitment to the greater goal, and when you see it in action, it’s a very unique thing,” DeBuff said. 

“We have a champion team of instructors that want to push themselves to meet this goal of developing students for the future. We have a very committed team that is tireless. Everyone is willing to commit and see the light at the end of the tunnel and see the goal we’re trying to meet. It’s the culture that has been created. Parents are aware, and students feel it. There’s a sense of pride in what’s going on here.”

Looking to the future, Orloski said she is excited for Wildflower to implement extracurricular activities next school year after having to put a pause on the special programs due to the pandemic. 

“We had over a dozen clubs before COVID,” Orloski said. “We had to dial down, but right now we are in a really good spot to reintroduce our students in that enrichment piece. We really want to provide as many opportunities as possible, not only for their academics but their social-emotional learning.” 

 Wildflower has 625 students within its boundaries. Over 200 of those students are on variances. As a school that doesn’t offer bus transportation, Orloski said the number of students on variances speaks to the fact that parents want their children to be part of the program. 

“My favorite part of being principal is seeing our kids learn on a daily basis and seeing how engaged they are in their learning and seeing them meet and exceed our expectations,” she said. “They enjoy what they’re doing, both kids and teachers, and seeing them do a phenomenal job is amazing. It makes my heart so happy.”