Instructor Curtis Adney places a transparent copy of his high school report card on the overhead projector.

Not a pretty picture.

Three Ds and two Fs.

Then Adney places another transparent copy of another report card, this time from College of the Sequoias.

Straight A’s.

“Everyone has the brain power to get all A’s,” Adney says. “Everyone in this class has the natural brain capacity to get all A’s in school.”

For students, the ability to turn grades around is as simple as making key lifestyle and academic changes, with a few tips and tricks along the way. Such is the cornerstone of Adney’s class, Natural A’s, at Toll Middle School Monday afternoons, presented by the Glendale Community College Services Education Program.

The program offers individuals non-credit, fee-based classes and activities to further educational goals. Monday’s class was tailored to students ages 10 to 17. Students from Burbank to Eagle Rock attended the three-hour class.

After the kids were settled and materials handed out, Adney asked for those who did not like going to school to raise their hands. A few hands went up.

Adney responds sympathetically. He didn’t like going to school either, as evidenced, he said, by the numerous Ds and Fs on his report card. School, he said, is not always easy.

“Nobody likes doing anything they’re not really good at,” Adney said.

Adney, who holds a law degree from Bringham Young University, has been teaching classes like Natural A’s for more than 10 years.

Adney’s efforts to turn around his academic standing came shortly after graduating — and almost flunking — high school while working for his grandfather.

He found it difficult to arrive to work on time, not doze off in the middle of the day and complete his assigned tasks on time. His poor job performance eventually got him fired.

It wasn’t until later after Adney had successfully “begged and groveled,” he says, to get his job back, that he realized he had to make a life change — and fast. The job itself wasn’t difficult, he says, it was disciplining himself to make the changes necessary to keep his job that he found most difficult.

When Adney entered college, he knew he had to achieve and maintain good grades if he wanted to realize his goal of becoming a lawyer.

Using techniques he developed while in college, Adney graduated at the top of his college’s senior class, with a 4.0 grade-point average. He achieved all of this while working full-time.

His motivation for starting Natural A’s came from a desire to share with others the techniques he had developed, Adney said.

While working, Adney would constantly eat junk food, go to bed late and not eat breakfast. These habits contributed to his tardiness, he said, and his lack of productivity in high school, and later, work.

“It makes you lazy and it makes you stupid,” he said of sugary drinks and snacks. “When I was in high school, I ate a lot of junk food. I mean literally, overnight, when I quit eating junk and sugar, it was just a whole new world to me.”

By ceasing his intake of junk food and sugary drinks and increasing his intake of fruits and vegetables and other healthier foods, Adney was able to be an efficient student and worker.

Basically, take care of yourself, get plenty of sleep, eat a real breakfast — bacon, eggs, hash browns — and watch what you eat, because, “school is there to help you develop work habits and make you much, much more successful,” Adney said.

He also stressed the importance of setting academic goals.

To become a lawyer, Adney said, he had to get “pretty good grades.”

A company is likely to hire someone with all A’s as opposed to someone with all Bs, Adney told his class.

“What does this mean?” he asked the class. “It means the person with all A’s works harder.”

Good classroom actions, such as coming to class early, smiling at the teacher, sitting away from friends and participating in class, are also critical for classroom success, Adney says.

Mastering academic skills like proper note taking are also important.

“I am attempting to get into a good school like UC Berkeley, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to take the class to get higher grades,” said Burbank High School student Rebecca Goldman, 15. “I am getting good grades, mostly A’s with some Bs, but I’m hoping to get all A’s. I thought it couldn’t hurt to get some more tips.”

Each subject taught in Natural A’s builds on the one before it. For example, students can learn to be good note takers, but not before learning how to take care of their physical selves.

Adney also teaches students the best study times, memorization and retention techniques and test-taking tips.

“The class is set up so that it’s understandable for 10-year-olds,” said Adney.

“I have the class set up in such a way that it really simplifies things. I get down to the basic concepts. The trick is getting it across in a way that everyone understands.”

For more information on Natural A’s, e-mail Adney at

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