Austin ISD Keeth Matheny From left: Austin High School Principal Amy Taylor, Austin High School teacher R. Keeth Matheny; Associate Director of School-Connect Julea Douglass and Aaron Vohl, Assistant Principal of Austin High School, attend the 2015 National Dropout Prevention Network Conference in San Antonio.[/caption]

An Austin ISD teacher received an award from the National Dropout Prevention Network Conference in October for his work on teaching a program that guides incoming high school freshmen.

Austin High School teacher R. Keeth Matheny was awarded the 2015 Crystal Star Award of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention and Prevention.

On Dec. 8, Matheny and two of his students were featured as part of the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network’s monthly webcast to talk about how the freshman year of high school sets the tone for the rest of a student’s high school experience. If they succeed freshman year, then they will likely succeed the remaining three years, Matheny said.

Matheny helped start AISD’s version of the Methods for Academic and Personal Success (MAPS) program.

Since it began four years ago at Austin High School, MAPS reduced course failures by 41 percent, dropouts by 30 percent and discipline referrals by 71 percent, according to AISD.

“I’m very honored to be a part of [MAPS],” Matheny said. “I think it’s a sign of something much bigger than what I’m doing.”

Matheny said the program at AISD includes a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) component, which helps students manage emotions, set goals and build relationships.

“These types of skills are foundational for just about any kind of success in life, whether you’re talking about school, work or relationships,” Matheny said.