A St. Vrain Valley Schools Publication | 2018-2019
THE FUTURE OF AMERICA Our students are the creators, innovators, and leaders who will shape the future and drive the success of our communities, state, and nation. We are St. Vrain Valley Schools. We are the future of America. We are public education proud.
In this issue:
PARTNERSHIPS CREATING PATHWAYS A WORLD WITH THE ARTS
From the Publisher Dear St. Vrain Valley Community, Welcome to ST. VRAINNOVATION, a publication celebrating the impact of education in our community. Public education plays one of the most significant roles in the advancement of our nation. To ensure the success of our children, economy, and our future, it is essential that we prepare students to meet the challenges they will face. Please join us in celebrating the incredible achievements of our students, staff, and community. Together, we are building a stronger future. Sincerely,
Table of Contents 1
Bond and Finance Update
The Greatest Success Story in American History Public schools provide the foundation for our nation’s success.
Becoming Extraordinary St. Vrain provides opportunities that are expanding students’ capacity for success and give them an advantage for the future.
Don Haddad, Ed.D. Superintendent @SVVSDSupt
ST. VRAINNOVATION was produced in-house by St. Vrain Valley Schools’ Department of Communications
A World with the Arts A well-designed academic experience that encompasses a foundation in the arts creates a positive environment that supports student learning.
Aaron Ford, Graphic Design and Digital Media Specialist email@example.com
Caroline Grundy, Marketing and Communications Specialist firstname.lastname@example.org
Empowering the Future
Kerri McDermid, Executive Director of Communications
Across our schools, students from grades PK-12 are problem-solving
Special Contributors: John David, Theresa Jennings, David Port, Hilary Sontag, and Matthew Wiggins
ST. VRAINNOVATION and other district initiatives are generously supported by these and many other community sponsors.
Partnerships Creating Pathways
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The Middle Years Our middle schools are designing unique programs to foster engagement and advance student achievements.
Homegrown Brilliance These four people are doing amazing things with their lives. And they have
one thing in common: they are all products of St. Vrain Valley Schools.
By the Numbers: Student Well-Being and Safety
Leaders of the Future Schools today are preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist.
All Means All St. Vrain Valley Schools focuses on the potential and unique abilities of
every child to ensure success for all students.
Birth to Graduation Early childhood experiences have a large impact on long-term success.
The Heart of a Volunteer Our volunteers make our schools feel a little more like home.
Class Acts Our schools are full of outstanding educators. Let’s meet four of St. Vrain’s finest...
District Map and School Directory
Bond and Finance Update In November 2016, the St. Vrain Valley community approved a $260 million bond to address rapid continued growth, enhance school safety, and ensure that St. Vrain Valley Schools can continue our commitment to excellence in serving our community. This vote recognized that our community values public education, champions the success of our students, and has strong trust and confidence in the future of our district. Bond projects are on schedule – or in many cases, ahead of schedule – as the district operations and finance departments work diligently to stay ahead of inflation and rising construction costs to ensure that we are receiving the highest value and return on our community’s investment in our schools. LEARN MORE AT SVVSD.ORG/BOND
Timeline of Major Bond Projects Note: this is not a comprehensive list of bond projects. SUMMER 2017
FALL 2017 Eagle Crest and Blue Mountain classroom additions completed
Groundbreaking: New Erie PK-8, Elementary 27, and the Innovation Center
2021 Construction begins for projects at: Central Elementary, Hygiene Elementary, Westview Middle, Spark!, Longmont Estates Elementary, Lyons Middle Senior High, Centennial Elementary, Sunset Middle, Columbine Elementary, Rocky Mountain Elementary, and Thunder Valley K-8
Construction begins on new addition at Mead High
2020 Construction begins for projects at: Erie Middle, Erie Elementary, Main Street, Trail Ridge Middle, Indian Peaks Elementary, Altona Middle,Timberline PK-8, and Burlington Elementary
Design work begins for construction projects at: Erie High, Silver Creek High, Coal Ridge Middle, Fall River Elementary, Alpine Elementary, Legacy Elementary, St. Vrain Community Montessori, and others
Construction begins for improvements and additions to charter school facilities: Aspen Ridge Preparatory Academy, Imagine Charter School, Twin Peaks Charter Academy, and Carbon Valley Academy
Construction projects scheduled for completion at: Mountain View Elementary, Longs Peak Middle, Mead Elementary, Sanborn Elementary, Black Rock Elementary, Niwot High, and previously mentioned projects
2018 Design work begins for construction projects at: Skyline High, Mead Middle, Mead Elementary, Northridge Elementary, Sanborn Elementary, Longmont High, Main Street, and others
Construction projects scheduled for completion at: Lyons Elementary, Erie High, Silver Creek High, Prairie Ridge Elementary, Grand View Elementary, Soaring Heights PK-8, the Innovation Center, the Career Development Center, and previously mentioned projects
ALL 2016 BOND PROJECTS ARE SCHEDULED FOR COMPLETION BY 2022. 1
• S&P bond rating of AA+ and a Moody’s bond rating of Aa • Enrollment has grown by 5,260 since October 2010 • Fortune 500-level corporate sponsors and community partnerships
• National financial award – annual reporting, 14 consecutive years
General Fund Sources and Use
St. Vrain Valley Schools outperformed the 2008 bond by more than $22 million. Funds were reinvested in school buildings throughout the district. Since 2010, the district has refinanced bonds to lower interest rates, saving taxpayers more than $36 million over the life of the bonds. In October of 2018, the remaining $60.3 million in bonds of the $260.3 million 2016-approved authorization were sold. Savings on combined principal and interest payments over the life of both 2016 issuances amounted to more than $21 million compared to what was originally approved by taxpayers per ballot language. Bond spending is overseen by an accountability committee of community members and the district.
Central Support and Admin
How Funds are Used
Mill Levy Override
Specific Ownership Tax
Other State Revenue
Other Local Revenue
School Building and Classroom Support
Direct Classroom Instruction
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
SUCCESS STORY IN AMERICAN HISTORY PUBLIC SCHOOLS PROVIDE THE FOUNDATION FOR OUR NATIONâ€™S SUCCESS
BY DON HADDAD, ED. D., SUPERINTENDENT PHOTOS BY AARON FORD
EIL ARMSTRONG, DIAN FOSSEY, STEVE JOBS, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Meg Whitman, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bezos, Diane Sawyer, Martin Luther King Jr., Ellen Ochoa, Colin Powell, Larry Page, Annie Leibovitz, Ronald Reagan...all of these cultural and industry icons have shaped the past, present, and future of our country. Whether through business, media, science, law, technology, art, or discovery, our world has been transformed by these and millions of others who arose from a common foundation: they are all products of a public school. Throughout the world, the United States is seen as a beacon of invention, with the creation of knowledge, technology, manufacturing, and industry driving the success of the U.S. economy. Central to that growth is the strength of our public schools and the impact of education on cultivating human capital, fostering innovation capacity, and furthering knowledge transfer that leads to technical advancements, and resource development1.
Photo: Madeline Johnson, 2018 Longmont High School Graduate ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
While the first public school in America was founded in 1635, the shift toward public schools as we know them today began in the late 1830s with the Common School model. Throughout that period, the United States experienced continued economic growth, and since the late 1800s has consistently had the largest economy in the world2.
Our public schools are not only advancing our children and giving them a strong competitive advantage for future success, they are also accelerating the progress of our state and nation.
Many factors go into economic growth and development, but at the heart of what makes our communities and our country great are our people – the creativity, ingenuity, curiosity, and drive within all of us to advance our society. In the U.S. today, approximately 90 percent – or 50.7 million – of our nation’s children attend a public school3, and in Colorado, over a quarter of a million students have graduated from a public high school in the past five years. In St. Vrain Valley Schools, we believe public education – second only to parenting – has the most significant impact on our society. Educating students is a mission and a responsibility that we champion with the highest regard to our role in shaping the future for everyone. St. Vrain’s high-quality public schools contribute significantly to our community by driving local economic growth through workforce development and attracting companies that create jobs, increasing public safety, enhancing community health, strengthening our service industries, and increasing property values. “Public schools are the foundation of a city. Of course they are where our children
learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, but they also create the most foundational building blocks of our cities,” said Colorado House Majority Leader, KC Becker. “Civics, parent interactions, special guests coming to display their knowledge, teachers, and administrators engaging young people – these are the things that create healthy and vibrant cities, towns, and communities. Our public schools serve us in so many more ways than the learning that goes on inside.” ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS — TRANSFORMING PUBLIC EDUCATION Over the past decade, St. Vrain has transformed public education in our community to emphasize the needs of the 21st century. In partnership with our teachers, families, students, elected officials, business partners, and other members of our community we have prioritized student learning and instructional programs that are deeply engaging students in critical thinking to develop solutions to global problems, foster entrepreneurial thinking, and deepen cultural understanding and empathy for others. From investments in robust early childhood programming – including high-quality preschool options and fullday kindergarten at every school in the district – to the development of high school academies emphasizing leading industries including aerospace, biomedical sciences, energy, and STEM, students across St. Vrain are graduating more prepared than ever to meet the rigorous demands of our complex society. In partnership with IBM, St. Vrain has taken the role of workforce development a step further. In 2016, St. Vrain launched its first P-TECH program, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School, to Photo: Erie High student, Andrew Jordan, tries his hand at performing robotic surgery.
give students the opportunity to earn an associate degree alongside their high school diploma at no cost to the student. Students who graduate from the program receive significant mentorship and internship opportunities and are first-in-line for in-demand, high-paying jobs, or can continue their studies at a four-year university. St. Vrain’s new PK-14 environment is currently being expanded to continue strengthening workforce development across our community and contribute more deeply to the expanding technology, biomedical, and cybersecurity sectors. “St. Vrain continues to be one of the most forward-thinking, innovative school districts in America, and its educational leadership in workforce development is second to none,” said Pete Lorenzen, IBM Colorado Senior State Executive and IBM Boulder Senior Location Executive. “IBM is
proud of the strategic partnerships we share, such as P-TECH, that provide students with the 21st-century skills necessary to thrive in our nation’s economy, both now and in the future.” THE FUTURE OF AMERICA Our students are the learners, creators, problem solvers, dreamers, competitors, builders, thinkers, and leaders who will join history’s icons and become our country’s future doctors, teachers, scientists, elected officials, artists, armed service members, engineers, and globalized citizens who will change our world. Public education is the greatest success story in American history, and St. Vrain Valley Schools is proud to be advancing the future of our economy and our country through the delivery of a world-class public school system.
“St. Vrain continues to be one the most forward-thinking, innovative school districts in America, and its educational leadership in workforce development is second to none.” PETE LORENZEN IBM COLORADO SENIOR STATE EXECUTIVE
Hanushek E A and Wößmann L (2010), Education and Economic Growth. In: Penelope Peterson, Eva Baker, Barry
McGaw, (Editors), International Encyclopedia of Education. volume 2, pp. 245-252. Oxford: Elsevier. Maddison, Angus. (2018), The West and the Rest in the World Economy: 1000-2030 Maddisonian and Malthusian
By the Numbers N A T I O N A L I M PA C T
K-12 aged children in the United States – approximately 90 percent of our nation’s children – attend a public school3.
When calculating the public benefits of education in terms of high school graduation rates, the net economic benefit to the public is $127,000 per high school graduate4.
A five percent increase in high school graduation rates would produce an annual savings of $5 billion in crime-related expenses5.
High school graduates live, on average, 9.2 years longer than those without a high school diploma6.
National Center for Education Statistics (2018), Back to School Fast Facts. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/
Levin, H.M., et al. (2007). The costs and benefits of an excellent education for all of America’s children. Center for
Benefit-Cost Studies in Education (CBCSE), Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. Justice Policy Institute. (2007). Education and Public Safety. Retrieved from http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/
Feinstein, L., et al. (2006). What are the effects of education on health?, Measuring the Effects of Education on
For every $1 invested in early childhood education, the U.S. economy sees a return of $8.60.
Health and Civic Engagement: Proceedings of the Copenhagen Symposium, OECD.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
ACCELERATING INNOVATION AND ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE BY KERRI MCDERMID PHOTOS BY AARON FORD AND KERRI MCDERMID
Photo: Through community support in passing the 2016 bond, St. Vrain Valley Schools opened their new, 50,000 square foot Innovation Center in Fall 2018.
OW DO YOU DEFINE ‘EXTRAORDINARY’? For St. Vrain Valley Schools, ‘extraordinary’ is exemplified by people across the community who are committed to advancing our public schools. It comes from the P-TECH student who is entering their junior year of high school with their first year of college completed – the first in their family to take a college class. It is expressed by the elementary teacher who calls home after hours to check-in on a student who needs additional support. It is fostered by the aeronautics engineer who donates their time and expertise to mentor students and open pathways for learning and workforce development. In St. Vrain, to be ‘extraordinary’ means to push the boundaries of academic excellence, focused determination, and innovation to achieve remarkable results.
In St. Vrain, to be ‘extraordinary’ means to push the boundaries of academic excellence, focused determination, and innovation to achieve remarkable results.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
Photo: Innovation Center and Erie High student, Alec Fling, flying a drone and using FPV goggles.
CULTIVATING A PASSION TO LEARN Extraordinary opportunities abound across St. Vrain Valley Schools. Whether it is through technology integration, one of 70 instructional focus programs, specialized instruction, or industry connections, students, teachers, and staff are defining remarkable public education for the 21st century. Thom Ingram, an instructional technologist at the Innovation Center who leads the Tech Team and teaches the Apple Technician Certification program, describes a significant shift in the way we approach teaching and education in the modern era. “When I was going through school, it was just about obtaining information, but that is no longer the goal,” said Ingram. “Everyone has a supercomputer in their pocket. The information is out there; it is now about how you use it, how you apply it, and how you add to it.” With the rise of the internet and the ubiquitousness of devices, access to learning is prevalent through every thread of our daily interactions with technology. “Right now you can learn anything if you are curious. You can learn anything if you have somebody who can design an experience for you to go through,” added Ingram. “It is no longer sitting there and taking notes – those notes are already taken; it is applying them to real-world problems and real-world solutions.” Designing experiences for students to apply knowledge and learning in authentic contexts has been foundational in St. Vrain’s journey to becoming an extraordinary public education system. An embodiment of this focus is St. Vrain’s nationally-recognized Innovation Center. Developed through a $3.6 million Investing in Innovation grant and a $16.6 million Race to the Top grant, student learning at the Innovation Center transcends the traditional classroom and
provides experiential opportunities that are developing today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders, innovators, and changemakers. Diverse, remarkable programs include state-of-the-art ventures into engineering underwater robots, designing and flying unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), producing and hosting live radio shows on KGNU, and programming virtual reality environments and artificial intelligence. At the core of the Innovation Center’s curriculum – and across all schools in St. Vrain – is design thinking: a structured process for innovation, problem-solving, and invention that promotes divergent thinking alongside empathy and content knowledge. Students at all grade levels employ the design thinking process to learned content through authentic, problem-based projects. Becky Peters, Program Manager at the Innovation Center, shared one of her favorite design thinking student projects: a refrigerator that scans its contents and gives recipes and meal suggestions based on what is inside to reduce food waste. Student innovations have included everything from designing a cane for the elderly that shoots out sand to prevent a fall during winter weather to reimagining playgrounds and school libraries. “Content knowledge increases as you go through life; you read more and amass life experiences, but I believe divergent thinking – and how we are building that capacity in students – is just as important,” said Peters. “When we encourage divergent thinking
and its accompanying skills, while increasing content knowledge along the way, that is how people like Steve Jobs are born. You look at the world in a different way – you think, ‘I can fix that – it has already been designed but I can redesign it in a better way.’” Another school in St. Vrain thrives at the intersection of divergent and convergent thinking. Soaring Heights PK-8 champions a school focus on STEM with an emphasis in neuroscience. Teachers at Soaring Heights use neuroscience to take student empathy and self-awareness a step further to strengthen emotional intelligence and more deeply connect students to their learning. “Having vertical alignment from preschool to eighth grade has created an enormous growth mindset at Soaring Heights,” shared Anna Mills, the school’s Innovation Coordinator. “The shared foundation in neuroscience has enabled students to deeply understand how they learn best and also gives teachers a framework of understanding growth mindset as a whole. The more teachers understand how our students’ brains work, the more they are able to create a diversified classroom.” Whether it is through neuroscience, STEM, innovation, or another focus program, St. Vrain Valley Schools is advancing excellence through extraordinary learning opportunities for students. “I do not think there are other districts who push design thinking and innovation as a paradigm of excellence for all students in the way that we do,” added Peters.
By the Numbers T E C H N O LO G Y A N D I N N O VAT I O N
iPads throughout the district and approximately 10,000 Chromebooks.
unique applications for learning.
computing devices throughout the district being supported by a team of 11 technicians.
increase in the number of students participating in competitive robotics over the past five years.
in potential college tuition savings from college credits earned by the Class of 2018.
square feet of career and technical education facility space.
credits required for graduation — among the most rigorous in Colorado.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
BY THERESA JENNINGS PHOTOS BY AARON FORD AND KERRI MCDERMID
N EDUCATION, THERE ARE MANY LEARNING INTERSECTIONS THROUGHOUT THE DAY. The patterns and rhythms you feel in music affect neurological pathways that support math. What you learn through art education can be tied to the states of matter, technology, and science. The words you read in novels and textbooks inform your writing. And, the performing arts intersects with all subjects by building confidence, public speaking, problem solving, and leadership skills in students. For many students, arts classes are a time when their interests evolve and they begin to define themselves, discover their passions, and learn new concepts that shape the young adults they become. St. Vrain Valley Schools understands the impact of a well-designed academic experience that encompasses a foundation in the arts, provides opportunities for students to get involved before and after school, and creates a positive environment that supports student learning.
Photo: Kelsea Sibold, Frederick High senior, pulls the curtains at rehearsal for their musical, Disneyâ€™s Newsies.
These foundations are built during art and music classes in elementary school and carried through middle and high school where students can take a wide array of art, music, or theater courses. In addition to learning to draw, paint, sculpt, and code animation, art teaches students planning, reflecting, and perseverance. “Learning how to create art and to be confident in your projects is important,” said Kelly Kleyn, Art Teacher at Hygiene Elementary School. “Art builds students’ confidence in how to draw and allows students to stand by their ideas even if they are different than their neighbors.” The arts are a great way to engage a different part of your brain and help keep your education balanced. When Hygiene became an official STEAM focus school (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), it was a way to be more deliberate in the connections between subjects and highlight the strong arts programs at the school. “I have seen teachers use thinking maps with drawings as a brainstorming tool on a project or story,” said Kleyn. “Drawing a character first and thinking about what the character would like or dislike, and empathizing with that character allows students to then write about the character in a story.” The integration of the design thinking process also allowed students to build connections between classes. “The design thinking process is where we have to think about who we are dealing with (define), then think in their shoes (empathize), next we think of different things of what could work (ideate), we then build our model
(prototype), and finally we see if it works (test),” said Julian Hansell, now a sixth grader at Westview Middle School who learned design thinking when he was a student at Hygiene Elementary. “And if it does work, great, but if it doesn’t work, we (restart) to see where it failed.” One way the entire school incorporates art is through Hawk Air, Hygiene’s annual design challenge where students work to answer one question every year. This theme is incorporated across all subjects. Last year, students created something that could be worn, such as clothing or jewelry, for their theme in art class. “My group made a wheelchair called The Mobile Grandpa,” said Julian. “The user would wear pajamas and could push a button on them connected to an all-terrain wheelchair that was voice commanded.” This team project allowed students to be observant thinkers and create solutions to problems, collaborate, and experiment. The arts are also another way to reach a student and help them develop an interest or passion. Sometimes students who
struggle in core courses learn best through the arts programs. “Every kid has a story, and sometimes words do not tell that story,” said Kleyn. “Art is a way for them to communicate their message and it is a way to reflect on themselves and others.” From the foundations learned in elementary school to theater in high school, the arts take center stage and showcase confidence, teamwork, and critical thinking through lessons learned in the tech booth, the orchestra pit, and across the stage. “I’m honored to be at Erie High because there is an understanding, knowledge, and support of the importance of what is happening in the arts,” said Scott Wright, Drama Teacher at Erie High School. “And, how important that is to student development and social aspects.” Wright teaches six full-time theater classes and he has been able to grow the program to get more and more students involved. “I don’t care if you are going to be the next Broadway star, I want you to love the art,” said Wright. At Frederick High, the theater program is thriving with past productions including
Photo: Kelly Kleyn, Art Teacher at Hygiene Elementary, helping Julian Hansell explore his creativity through drawing.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
Photo: Kelsea Sibold, managing the lights in the control room of Frederick High’s theater.
Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, The Diary of Anne Frank, and many others that draw students from all backgrounds. Kelsea, a senior at Frederick High radiates a passion for theater. “Theater positively influences your academic achievement, GPA, and attendance – all of these things that we are trying to make better in schools,” said Kelsea. “It teaches the skills that are needed to be successful in life. Things like empathy, problem solving, and critical-thinking skills are all found in the theater.” Many students also find their voice and confidence through the theater programs across St. Vrain. “The drama classes are a safe place to make a mistake and work through those mistakes,” describes Wright. “Theater is a family, you open up so much of yourself to perform on stage in front of an audience and you are trusting the people you are with.” 13
From building this confidence, students develop their voice in their classrooms, schools, and beyond. Frederick High senior, Kelsea, is on a mission to advocate for the arts in schools. “A lot of what I do as a State Thespian Officer is advocacy,” detailed Kelsea. “I went to the state capitol and I was able to speak to our state representatives about the importance of theater.” Kelsea was also able to be a voice for the arts on St. Vrain’s Student Advisory Committee comprised of juniors and seniors from high schools throughout St. Vrain, and district and board leadership. She was able to make sure that the issues she cares about are part of the conversation. And, with that voice, Kelsea described what her perfect opportunity for theater would be, “I would love to create a districtwide honor theater program like honors choir, orchestra, and
“It teaches the skills that are needed to be successful in life. Things like empathy, problem solving, and critical-thinking skills are all found in the theater.” KELSEA SIBOLD FREDERICK HIGH SENIOR
By the Numbers I M PA C T O F T H E A R T S
estimated student art pieces in the 2018 Districtwide Art Show.
students enrolled in visual arts, theater, and music classes at the middle and high school levels.
Photo: Sunset Middle School seventh grade students, Izaiah Grimaldo and Kevin Ontiveros, playing their tenor saxophones during band rehearsal.
band,” said Kelsea. “There are so many benefits for college that come from having access to high-level opportunities such as the district art show.” From the front of the house to behind the scenes, tech takes over as a focus for many students who are looking to join the theater family and demonstrate their skills. “What I love about tech is that it gives students who would not normally be involved in the arts a reason to get involved in theater,” explained Kelsea. “We have students who found programs to run, map our projections, and a lot of our animations are done on our own.” From computer technology to science foundations, lessons from these subjects fill the auditorium. “The tech side of theater allows you to learn sound and light techniques in a practical environment and you can see the different ways that you can manipulate it versus a theoretical class where you may only be reading about it,” described Wright. “Here, you are seeing and changing it in class.”
Many skills learned in English inform the students’ ability to dissect scripts and discover where a character comes from. Then there is a direct correlation with history and the time period as students study each new script and play. “They talk about how theater helps in other classes, but those other classes also help in theater,” says Wright. “You need those critical-thinking skills and problemsolving skills for math and science.” Whether it is art, theater, or music, the arts are alive all year in St. Vrain.
secondary classes in visual arts, theater, and music offered across the district.
All-State musicians in the 20172018 school year.
elementary music and art programs – available at every school in the district.
Photo: Scott Wright, Erie High School Drama Teacher, working with students prior to their 2018 performance. ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
Across our schools, students from grades PK-12 are problem-solving real-world issues. From influencing legislation, to advocating for their environment, to designing inventions for positive change – there is no limit to what St. Vrain students can achieve. BY CAROLINE GRUNDY PHOTOS BY AARON FORD AND CAROLINE GRUNDY
ESTING WATER CHEMISTRY, RAISING TROUT TO REVITALIZE A RIVER’S ECOSYSTEM, collecting data on macroinvertebrate biodiversity, and making recommendations to a town ecology board may seem like jobs reserved for those with a Ph.D.; however, Lyons Elementary and Lyons Middle Senior High School students have been trained to do these exact tasks through a partnership with their local scientific community called the Outdoor Science and Leadership Program. When the Town of Lyons was devastated in 2013 by record levels of rain causing flash floods, countless volunteers, community members, and organizations banded together to repair the town – and no hands were too small to help with the effort. It was the lasting environmental damages from the flood, coupled with the staff of Lyons Elementary’s desire for their science curriculum to incorporate their beautiful ecosystem, that became the impetus 15
Photo (Above): Noah Domina, Lyons Elementary third grade student, tracking macroinvertebrates found in the North St. Vrain Creek.
“Science and Leadership has taught me so much about our river ecosystem, working as a team, and being a good leader wherever and whenever.” LAUREN HUNTER FIFTH GRADE LYONS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
for the Outdoor Science and Leadership Program. Principal of Lyons Elementary, Andrew Moore, speaks passionately about the program, “The biggest thing we have learned through this process is that when we provide students with the opportunity to have true student agency, their level of engagement soars. When they know they have the ability to make a difference in their environment through authentic research, their curiosity and investment in the diligence of their work increases tremendously.”
Elementary students partner with high school students to ensure that data collection protocols are managed accurately and effectively. The high school students are trained and supported by various scientific organizations from the State River Watch program, to the Estes Park Environmental Center, to the Town of Lyons Ecology Board Members. This past year, students made a series of recommendations for the St. Vrain Creek based on their evaluation of water chemistry and macroinvertebrate biodiversity.
“When students know they have the ability to make a difference in their environment through authentic research, their curiosity and investment in the diligence of their work increases tremendously.” ANDREW MOORE, PRINCIPAL LYONS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Photo (Left): Isaac Neal, Lyons Elementary third grade student, observing insects through a microscope. Photo (Below): Lyons High senior, Frankie Dorschel, working with elementary students.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
Photo: Volunteers and students from the Career Development Center offer their welding expertise during the construction of the shipping container classroom. Another group of 13 St. Vrain students from Erie High School (EHS) and Skyline High School (SHS) was inspired to create a positive impact based on the effects of several major natural disasters in 2017. The students observed that emergency response teams had trouble rescuing people who had been stranded during a disaster and they utilized technology to create a solution. Working together at the district’s Innovation Center, EHS and SHS students designed a portable rescue beacon intended to be stored in home first aid kits to help rescue people in need. The beacon receives and transmits GPS signal over radio frequency to a drone, and the drone then transmits the signal to the emergency responder’s master station. The team of students was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT program to design their emergency rescue system; St. Vrain was the only district in Colorado to receive the grant. Kelsey Rasmussen is the teacher and 17
program coordinator for the Erie High School Academy of Engineering and Aerospace who supported the Erie students through the project which they ultimately presented at MIT in Cambridge, MA. As a former trace metal geochemical researcher, Rasmussen always needed to connect her work in the lab to how it would help people. She told her students, “If you are not going to be interested in a year, do not pick this topic. It has to be something you care about.” Rasmussen believes engineering allows the opportunity to connect academic standards with the real world saying, “It’s empowering to students to realize they do not need to have a Ph.D. before they can help – before they are technically adults, they can still have an impact.” Senior Design student, Tanner David, shares that his experience through the project “helped shape my future by giving me more knowledge in how to deal with a massive scale problem and create a tangible
solution to this problem without really any guidelines.” Tanner plans to pursue a degree in electrical engineering or aviation upon graduation from high school where he intends to “continue to use this experience to help others.” The Niwot Feeder has been using design to bridge international communities and improve our increasingly globalized world. What started as a pen pal relationship between Niwot Elementary and students at the Mwebaza School in Uganda more than 10 years ago has transformed into a cross Atlantic exchange in more ways than paper. Dale Peterson, teacher at Niwot Elementary, started the Mwebaza Foundation and expanded the foundation to work with Homes of Living Hope based out of Louisville, CO to repurpose shipping containers to serve as classrooms for communities in need. Speaking on the value of the project, Peterson says, “There is an empowerment that happens when kids do
Photo: Dale Peterson, Niwot Elementary teacher, helps students place their painted handprints on the shipping container classrooms during the project’s closing celebration. something for someone else that will inspire them to want to do that in the future.” Just a few miles north of Niwot Elementary, Sunset Middle School students were responsible for designing a prototype for a middle school shipping container classroom in Uganda. “This project is about seeing a need in the world and doing something to help meet that need. Students
are having authentic interactions with local organizations and getting a sense of opportunities that can help the world,” says IB Program Coordinator at Sunset Middle, Alex Armstrong. Armstrong asserts that oftentimes students find solutions to problems that adults do not come up with. In this case, students advocated to include an outdoor patio and second story for the
“Civic engagement is the whole hope for students as they leave our programs and our schools. They will have the knowledge and skills they need to make changes in the world and the belief that they can make a difference. ” ALEX ARMSTRONG, IB PROGRAM COORDINATOR SUNSET MIDDLE SCHOOL
Photo: Alex Armstrong, IB Program Coordinator at Sunset Middle School, making her handprint on the classroom destined for Mwebaza.
classroom in their proposal. The project has required a heavy lift from the Niwot Feeder and additional community members, with Peterson estimating that almost 1,000 individuals have participated. After the Sunset Middle students created scale drawings and printed 3D models of their prototypes, they presented their ideas to architects and the executive directors of several local organizations. Niwot High students volunteered to make the design a reality by building out the containers, while Career Development Center (CDC) students offered their welding expertise in the construction of the classroom. On the importance of student civic engagement, Armstrong responds, “Civic engagement is the whole hope for students as they leave our programs and our schools. They will have the knowledge and skills they need to make changes in the world and the belief that they can make a difference.” ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
CREATING PATHWAYS BY HILARY SONTAG PHOTOS BY AARON FORD
Photo: Students test an underwater robot at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools. 19
N CLASSROOMS AND OFFICES ACROSS ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS, you are likely to encounter an African proverb whose sentiments run deeply throughout our system: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” As a district, St. Vrain’s most important role is to give students a strong competitive advantage so they can compete for any job, anytime, anywhere. While the district’s vision is clear, it is far from a simple task. This level of academic excellence is achieved not only by exceptional staff, but also by local, national, and international partners who leverage their expertise and resources to provide unique opportunities for students. St. Vrain Valley Schools has become a magnet for partnership, with dozens of companies, hundreds of mentors, and numerous philanthropists investing in St. Vrain’s vision for innovation. In 2018 alone, the district has garnered almost $5 million in competitive grant awards and has more than 100 industry, higher education, philanthropic, and government partners. From student wellness to aerospace, partners are accelerating the district’s progress and serving as a catalyst for excellence across St. Vrain. TRAINING SCIENTISTS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY Students like Michelle Tran, now a freshman computer science major at the University of Colorado Boulder, can speak to the benefits of partnership firsthand. While Michelle was a student at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools, a hub for industry partners and hands-on work, the majority (if not all) of the teams she worked on had partners, either through company outreach or individual mentors who came in to help students learn about all of the technical details that would be difficult to learn otherwise. “Having mentors with experience in industry was probably the most valuable thing to me personally – not only did our mentors provide technical insight, but they also told us a lot about their personal experiences as someone who works in the field of computer science,” says Michelle. “It’s that kind of engaging opportunity with people currently in the field that makes student experiences in St. Vrain – and programs like the Innovation Center – so special.” In addition to rigorous extended learning and mentorship opportunities, students at the Innovation Center gain valuable experience through employment that focuses on designing and engineering solutions for industry and community partners. Among the Innovation Center’s many programs is computer science and robotics, where student participation has exploded, increasing by more than 500 percent over the past five years. As industry’s use of technology accelerates, computer science has become known as a “fourth literacy” – and St. Vrain’s schools are keeping pace.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
“When we first started, computer science was more hit or miss – only a small number of students had computer science available to them,” says Axel Reitzig, the district’s Computer Science Coordinator. Over the past ten years, the program has expanded rapidly, with more than 1,200 St. Vrain students taking a computer science class in the 2018-2019 school year alone. Recognizing the many opportunities to enhance computer science education in St. Vrain, businesses, individual volunteers, philanthropists, and government agencies have rallied around the cause. SparkFun, Sphero, and Modular Robotics were three early partners, providing professional development for teachers, equipment, and working with St. Vrain teachers to develop lessons. An early partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Science Foundation paired graduate students with classroom teachers to help non-computer science teachers broaden their understanding of the field. Since then, partners for computer science have ballooned, with the program earning five competitive grant awards since January 2018 alone. Recent grants from Google and the Colorado Department of Education are supporting professional development to advance computer science instruction in St. Vrain. The REC Foundation recently funded a matching grant to support robotics equipment and training, effectively doubling the speed of robotics expansion in the district. Long-time partners like IBM and Apple provide hands-on workforce training in the form of Apple Certifications at the Innovation Center and a P-TECH program, where students can graduate with an associate degree at no cost to the student. New partners like LogRhythm and the National Security Agency are providing mentors, training, and equipment to support the expansion of cybersecurity coursework and after-school clubs. And, the Innovation Center’s dozens of corporate partners continue to work with students and teachers to create hands-on learning experiences alongside industry mentors. As a result of this greater team’s hard work, St. Vrain is now a model for computer science across the state – and the U.S.
By the Numbers PA R T N E R S H I P S A N D G R A N T S
industry certifications earned by students in the 2017-2018 school year.
INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF EDUCATORS While technology is a centerpiece of the Innovation Center’s work, innovation spans across all disciplines. The Innovation Center is also home to St. Vrain’s new Pathways to Teaching (P-TEACH) program, designed to give students a head start on careers in the teaching profession. Through partnerships with the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) and Front Range Community College (FRCC), St. Vrain Valley Schools is creating their own pipeline for high-quality teachers of the future. For public educators, preparing the next generation of teachers is one of their highest callings. “We hope that by recruiting students early in their educational careers, they will be inspired not only to teach, but also to come back home and teach in St. Vrain,” says Dr. Diane Lauer, Assistant Superintendent of Priority Programs and Academic Support. The program will support the interests of students like Allie Nicholson, a sophomore at Frederick High School who was inspired to become a teacher after being asked to help at an elementary school sports camp. “I said yes, thinking it would be a good way to get out of the house before summer ended. I did not realize what kind of impact that these camps would have on me,” says Allie. “Each week I met more and more kids, making more and more bonds. To this day, I still have some of the kids running up and giving me hugs whenever they see me. When I taught and helped these kids learn, I realized this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Providing college-level coursework is an important element of the program’s design, so partnering with higher education was critical. Thanks to partnerships with CU Denver and FRCC, P-TEACH students will have the opportunity to earn up to 21 college credits during their two years in the program, including 12 credits in education-specific courses. That said, “the P-TEACH program is more than just a set of concurrent enrollment courses. It is a bridge into a four-year degree and a career where St. Vrain high school students can become teachers and leaders in their community,” says Dr. Barbara Seidl, Associate Dean of Teacher Education and Undergraduate Experiences at CU Denver. “CU Denver shares the same commitment to ‘growing’ diverse teachers for diverse communities.” St. Vrain and CU Denver are co-developing a course sequence that prepares high school students for teaching careers, particularly in critically important positions like special education, culturally
district-level partners. This number does not include many additional partnerships throughout our schools.
received in competitive grant awards since January 2018.
and linguistically diverse learners, early childhood, and STEM. Not only will students gain college credit, but they will also have a formal classroom internship, helping St. Vrain teachers manage classrooms of eager learners in preschool through high school. The grantmaking community, also seeking to grow teacher pipelines, recognized the promise in St. Vrain’s model. Two recent grant awards from Early Milestones Colorado and the Colorado Department of Higher Education are supporting P-TEACH’s pilot and rapid expansion. “Early Milestones is excited to be working with St. Vrain Valley Schools to implement innovative solutions to address the need for a well-qualified and diverse early childhood workforce. The strong community partnerships and flexible approach used in P-TEACH holds promise for long-term, systemic, and sustainable change, which we hope will lead to the spread of best practices throughout Colorado,” says Jennifer Stedron, Executive Director of Early Milestones Colorado. In addition to these generous contributions, other important programmatic partners have invested in P-TEACH in a variety of ways. Mathematica Policy Research is supporting ongoing evaluation and continuous improvement of the P-TEACH model, ensuring that it delivers on its promises. The LENA Foundation is collaborating to support P-TEACH student teachers around scientific advances in early childhood development. Finally, the Community Foundation is helping P-TEACH to reach its equity and diversity goals, creating a pipeline of teachers whose demographics mirror the St. Vrain community as a whole. Public education has the power to transform both individual lives and communities, especially when coupled with the power of partners. In St. Vrain, organizations large and small are creating rich learning experiences for students like Allie. “This program will help me get into the college of my choice and be completely ready to change someone’s life,” says Allie. “I’ve always wanted to do something to help people and this is it.”
STRENGTHENING CONNECTIONS BETWEEN BUSINESS, INDUSTRY, AND COMMUNITY In the Fall of 2018, St. Vrain Valley Schools launched a new community outreach program called Community Strong. Community Strong is included in St. Vrain Valley Schools’ vision and priority for community engagement. Through this initiative, St. Vrain will continue to build and strengthen connections to small businesses, corporate entities, and industry leaders, while promoting experiential learning, integration of technology, and career/pathway exploration. ADVANCING PUBLIC EDUCATION THROUGH COMMUNITY COLLABORATION The Community Strong initiative is driven by three primary goals: 1. Make it easy for partners to connect with schools and district initiatives 2. Measure partner impact while communicating success 3. Consult with industry partners to cultivate educational programming and career pathways The Community Strong partner portal – communitystrong.svvsd.org – allows community partners to browse current opportunities within St. Vrain Valley Schools. Opportunities vary in scope, but ultimately connect partners and schools for the purpose of experiential learning. Opportunities include: • Classroom Speaking • Workforce Development • Job Shadowing • Community Service • Mentoring • Project-Based Learning • Internships/Apprenticeships • Student Contract Work Once a community or business partner registers with the partner portal, they have the ability to communicate directly with school personnel to learn more about the posted opportunity, track the number of hours spent in schools, and share their experiences. Impact reports are available for publication or can be shared with partners participating in the Community Strong initiative – showcasing measurable results and celebrating successful student impacts. Together with its partners, St. Vrain Valley Schools continues to advance the expectations of education for the betterment of our students, community, and nation.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
These four people are doing amazing things with their lives, and they have one thing in common â€” they are all products of St. Vrain Valley Schools. BY DAVID PORT PHOTOS BY KERRI MCDERMID AND COURTESY OF THE ALUMNI
EMEMBER THE KID you sat next to in chemistry class who got a certain glint in his eye during lab experiments? How about the tall, skinny kid from down the block who seemed to be permanently attached to a basketball, or the classmates who told you exactly what they wanted to do with their careers and their lives — in eighth grade — then actually went out and did just that? Everyone has a story. And thousands of them have begun in the classrooms of St. Vrain Valley Schools over the years, written by people just like you. Here we profile four St. Vrain alumni who are in the midst of writing compelling life stories of their own.
ANNIE GORENSTEIN-FALKENBERG Longmont High School
Next came a switch in majors to English and secondary education, and the rest, as they say, is history. “I went from running from what my parents had done to embracing it, and it felt really comfortable. I was a much happier person.” Fifteen years later, that embrace of teaching has led Gorenstein-Falkenberg back to her high school alma mater, where she teaches English and runs the awardwinning yearbook program. Other than the connections she makes in the classroom, yearbook, she says, “has been the single best thing that has happened to me as a teacher.” “I really enjoy the responsibility that my yearbook students and I have to create a product that people will be able to look back through to remember their high school experience.” Gorenstein-Falkenberg says she is savoring the opportunity that her return to teach in Longmont has given her to re-engage in the community in which she was raised, and to teach alongside some of the educators who helped inspire and guide her, like basketball coach Jeff Kloster. As head of the local chapter of the PEO Sisterhood, a philanthropic organization that helps to advance women through education, she is also helping young women fulfill their dreams. “It is pretty special,” she says, “to be able to help empower other women on their journey to achieving their educational goals.” Gorenstein-Falkenberg appears already to have fulfilled hers.
CLASS OF 2003
ROWING UP IN LONGMONT AS THE CHILD OF TWO ST. VRAIN EDUCATORS, Annie Gorenstein-Falkenberg says she was pretty clear about not wanting to follow in her parents’ footsteps. “At least I wanted to tell myself that,” she recalls. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to live the lifestyle my parents had.” So when Gorenstein-Falkenberg left Longmont to attend the University of Wyoming on a basketball scholarship, her intent was to play hoops and study to become an accountant. A serious knee injury her sophomore year in Laramie not only changed her intentions, it steered her down a familiar path. “After the injury, I looked at what I thought would make me happy and realized maybe accounting was not the right fit for me.”
“It is pretty special to be able to help empower other women on their journey to achieving their educational goals.” ANNIE GORENSTEIN-FALKENBERG LONGMONT HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 2003
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
ANN YANG Niwot High School CLASS OF 2011
T WAS INSANE,” 25-YEAR-OLD ANN YANG SAYS OF THE BLUR THAT WAS HER FINAL TWO YEARS OF COLLEGE. When she was working to complete her undergraduate degree in culture and politics at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C., she and her best friend were launching a business at the same time. Three years later, her cold-pressed juice company, Misfit Juicery, is now established and growing. Yang admits she might never have followed her entrepreneurial muse if it weren’t for the inspiration, guidance, and financial support she got as a student at Niwot High, where outstanding academic performance earned her both a Daniels Scholarship and a Gates Millennium Scholarship, covering the full
cost of college, including expenses. Those scholarships “fundamentally changed my life,” she says by phone from Misfit’s offices in Washington. “Without them, my college experience would have been a lot different. I was able to live the normal life of a college student, without having to work outside of school. Graduating without college debt was probably the biggest gift in my life. If I had that debt, I would probably be doing something in finance or investment banking.” Instead, Yang, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, is building a flourishing business around a socially conscious concept: tackling America’s massive food waste problem by turning “misfit” produce — fruits and veggies that have been deemed unfit for retail sale because of their appearance — into products like “24 Carrot Gold,” a healthful blend of carrots, apples, lemon, and turmeric. At least 70 percent of the juices the company makes come from produce that otherwise would likely go to waste. The concept is catching on. Not only can Misfit products be found at retailers from D.C. to Boston, the company also is in the midst of a capital-raising effort to fund growth and the launch of a second, undisclosed non-juice product, proving, says Yang, that “a business can be socially impactful and financially sustainable.”
JORDAN CARDENAS Erie High School CLASS OF 2014
O SAY SCIENCE IS IN JORDAN CARDENAS’S DNA WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT. This past spring the 22-year-old graduated from New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) with a degree in molecular bioscience and biotechnology, the latest step in pursuit of a Ph.D. in a field that, he says, has long beckoned him. “I knew I wanted to be a scientist throughout most of my life,” says Cardenas as he prepares to depart for New Haven, Connecticut, and Yale University, where he plans to begin graduate work in immunology, with a focus on cancer research.
While Cardenas credits his AP Biology Teacher at Erie High, Shelley Greves, with helping to stoke his interest in science at a molecular level, the educator whom he says has had the biggest impact on his life to date — and the one he ultimately invited to stand with him during a ceremony last year honoring RIT’s outstanding undergraduate scholars — does not even teach science. Erie High Social Studies Teacher Kaitlyn Gentert, he explains, “had a huge influence on me developing as a person and an adult. She teaches more than history, she shows you different perspectives.” Now Cardenas says he, too, wants to teach someday, perhaps as a university research professor. Before that, though, Cardenas will invest five or six more years of classroom work and lab research at Yale University, home to one of the world’s best immunology programs.
Cardenas says he’s ready for the challenge. “I’m looking forward to being on the forefront of cancer research, and to sharing that research.” Apparently a desire to use science to do good is in Cardenas’s DNA, too.
Lyons Middle Senior High School CLASS OF 2014
RADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL, PIPER DOERING KNEW EXACTLY WHAT SHE WANTED TO DO when she left Lyons for the University of Colorado Boulder. She wanted someday to be a pediatric speech pathologist.
Now, having graduated from CU this past spring with undergraduate degrees in speech/language and neuroscience, Doering, 21, is poised to fulfill her dream. She departed Colorado for Seattle to pursue a master’s degree in medical speech pathology at the University of Washington, a twoyear program that she hopes will lead her to a hospital job helping kids who have had a traumatic brain injury regain their speech. By the time Doering left high school, she had already taken important steps down that career path, having spent a year as a speech pathology intern at Lyons Elementary School. “It was hands-on work,” she recalls, “where I got to see kids make great progress. I discovered how resilient kids are, and how their brains have an amazing capacity to keep growing.” Looking back, Doering says she is grateful to the faculty and administration at Lyons Middle Senior High School for supporting her with a flexible learning plan. “To make the internship work, I had to miss two days of calculus class a week, and they said, ‘Great, go do it!’ They gave me the freedom to choose my own path.” That path led her to land a coveted Boettcher Scholarship for college. And someday, says Doering, perhaps it will lead her back home to Colorado. “I’d love to come back here to work. This community has given me so much. I want to be able to give back.”
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
By the Numbers:
STUDENT WELL-BEING AND SAFETY ENSURING HEALTH AND SUCCESS FOR ALL ST. VRAIN VALLEY STUDENTS
Across St. Vrain Valley Schools, districtwide safety, and student and staff well-being are among the highest priorities in our approach to ensuring a world-class learning environment.
“When I think of school safety, I think of a student’s mental health, the quality of life in school, or relationships developed between students.”
OFFICER STACI STALLINGS SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER SILVER CREEK HIGH SCHOOL
Campus Supervisors who support school administrators, SROs, teachers, and staff in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy school environment.
School Counselors, Psychologists, Interventionists, and Social Workers who are dedicated to supporting student mental health and overall well-being. This year, St. Vrain Valley Schools added a counseling position to each high school, as well as increased counseling support at all elementary schools across the district.
School Resource Officers (SROs) who support student safety in every school across the district through strong partnerships with our local law enforcement agencies. Over the next two years, St. Vrain Valley Schools will add additional SROs to secondary schools and increase support at elementary schools.
DRILLS AND TRAINING
safety practice drills are performed every school year. These include fire, off-site evacuation, shelter in place, lockdown, and lockout drills.
hours of safety training in the past year for campus supervisors, SROs, school leadership, and district administration.
94% 96% 100% 162%
of high school students report feeling safe in their community and/or neighborhood over the past 12 months.
of high school students reported having goals, plans, and hope for their future.
of St. Vrainâ€™s schools prioritize social-emotional learning and by the 19-20 school year, all schools will have implemented an in-depth, evidence-based social-emotional curriculum program, including InFocus programs at the elementary level, InFocus and 7 Mindsets at the middle school level, and Sources of Strength at the high school level.
decrease in expulsions in the past ten years.
877-542-7233 or safe2tell.org
invested in school safety and security upgrades in the past ten years, including secured double-vestibule entrances, security cameras, and other building upgrades.
20 Million ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
EARLY CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES HAVE A LARGE IMPACT ON LONG-TERM SUCCESS
BY KERRI MCDERMID PHOTOS BY AARON FORD
ALKING INTO ALYSSA REHDER’S CLASSROOM AT GRAND VIEW ELEMENTARY, you cannot help but smile as you are greeted by a flood of song as she captures the attention of a room full of active preschoolers. “I did not know that being a preschool teacher also meant being a pop star,” joked Rehder as she talked about her use of singing throughout the day to engage students in language and their learning. From the moment a child is born through the time they enter kindergarten – and far beyond – exposure to words and numbers is foundational to brain development and school success. For Rehder and her teaching partner, Joan Scheuerman, their approach to teaching not only focuses on language through song but also on developing authentic experiences that bridge play with literacy development. “We are encouraged to be emergent with our students and that is not always the norm
importance of literacy and provides support to increase language development skills. Once a week, children in the program wear a special vest that records a full day of their language environment, including words heard from those around them and words spoken. The recording is then processed through LENA’s technology platform, and parents receive data highlighting verbal interactions and skills that could be improved. “It is well understood that the highest return on investment is in the earliest years,” shared Steve Hannon, President of the LENA Research Foundation. “Interactive talk (serve and return conversation) in the earliest years is super important, affecting brain structure, brain function, and longterm outcomes. LENA Start focuses on the essential skill of interactive talk so that gaps in language and vocabulary skill do not form in the first place. This way, more children enter kindergarten ready to learn.”
across early childhood programs,” shared Scheuerman. “We create experiences that are advancing their learning, joy, wonder, and questioning.” Emergent teaching aligns curriculum and coursework to students’ rising interests and their developing skills. “It is all around their play,” added Scheuerman. “We say kids learn through play but in reality, they need to play in order to learn. They do not do that when they are just sitting and listening to a teacher talk.” In St. Vrain, engaging students in authentic experiences takes many different forms. For our community’s youngest learners – birth to preschool – a program started last year is accelerating their exposure to language and words while also building stronger connections between parent and child. Last year, in partnership with the OUR Center and the LENA Research Foundation, St. Vrain launched a LENA Start program in Longmont. LENA Start offers a series of classes for parents to understand the
Recognizing the critical role of high-quality early childhood programs, St. Vrain Valley Schools has invested in 0-3 learning initiatives, implemented preschool programs across every community in the district, and launched full-day kindergarten options at every elementary school. At Rocky Mountain Elementary, investments in rigorous and engaging STEM-focused preschool curriculum has had a significant impact on student outcomes and success, where a focus on language is even more critical. With approximately 63 percent of the student population identified as English Language Learners, language development and literacy is foundational to work across every content area and STEM lesson. “We look for opportunities to get students to think and be problem solvers,” said Jenny Rojas, STEM Coordinator at Rocky Mountain Elementary. “We are unique at Rocky Mountain because we have a blended library space that merges a traditional library and computer lab to create a more collaborative learning environment.” Photo (Above): Rocky Mountain Elementary kindergartener, Ruby Santillan, listening to her teacher, Araceli Kennedy. Photo (Below): Sebastian Ordonez, Grand View Elementary preschooler, and Joan Scheuerman doing what they do best, playing (and learning).
Known as the iRock Lab, this space uses technology enrichment to deepen and extend literacy and curriculum that takes place in the classroom environment. Alongside their math skills and language development, preschool students are utilizing robotics, design thinking processes, and coding. Most importantly, they are learning to understand problem-based thinking and develop solutions to complex problems. Rojas shared, “When they have rich early childhood experiences, you can really see that when they enter fifth grade. They bring all of that to the table, and it makes a difference in what kids are able to do and how they perceive school.” From Ms. Rehder’s and Ms. Scheuerman’s classrooms at Grand View Elementary, to the iRock Lab at Rocky Mountain, to every preschool classroom in the district, St. Vrain Valley Schools is providing a strong foundation that will support and strengthen students throughout their academic career. “We have the responsibility of being these students’ first interaction with a school,” said Scheuerman at Grand View. “We set the tone of the curiosity and the joy of coming to this building every day, ready to learn.” By the Numbers E A R LY C H I L D H O O D
anticipated births in our footprint over the next 20 years.
of St. Vrain Valley elementary schools offer a full-day kindergarten program; high-quality preschool programs are available in every school community.
High-quality preschool programs can increase graduation rates by 11 percent. ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
OUR SCHOOLS ARE FULL OF OUTSTANDING EDUCATORS. LET’S MEET FOUR OF ST. VRAIN’S FINEST... BY DAVID PORT PHOTOS BY AARON FORD AND KERRI MCDERMID
UTSTANDING STUDENTS ARE THE PRODUCT OF OUTSTANDING TEACHERS, and St. Vrain Valley Schools has no shortage of either. The four teachers profiled below stand out, not just for the consistently excellent results they produce in the classroom, but also for the important role they play in inspiring students in St. Vrain to do great things in their schools and with their lives.
Mead Middle Teacher, Sara Hopp
SARA HOPP, SCIENCE & YEARBOOK, MEAD MIDDLE SCHOOL “I teach because… I want kids to come away with a love for science.” The epiphany for Sara Hopp came during a commute home from her job as a chemist at a Colorado pharmaceutical company, upon hearing a radio commercial inviting listeners to try the teaching profession. “I called the next day, and two days later, I was signing up for classes” toward a master’s degree that would allow her to leave the corporate world to become a teacher. “Fourteen years later, here I am,” says Hopp, the enthusiasm evident in her voice, even at the close of a long school day. Hopp says the chemistry class she took during her sophomore year of high school convinced her of two things: that she wanted a career in science, and “that someday I would be a science teacher, because science has always been my passion.” Teaching seventh and eighth graders not only has allowed Hopp to pursue that decidedly left-brained passion, it also has allowed her to cultivate another, more right-brained passion, as coordinator of Mead Middle School’s yearbook. “I love it because being a scientist, I’m very analytical,” she explains. “Yearbook is different. It lets me use my creative side.” Whether it is producing a yearbook or reproducing a chemical reaction in the lab, Hopp is of one mind when it comes to her approach in the classroom: “Learn by doing. I try very, very hard to make sure my kids are ‘doing,’ because that’s what science is.” There was plenty of “doing” in Hopp’s classroom during the past school year, when she had her seventh graders design and build earthquake-resistant structures, then test them on an “earthquake shake table,” and had her eighth graders design and build race cars powered by the potential energy of a mousetrap. Whatever Hopp has them “doing,” when they are in the classroom with her, she says, “they are no longer students, they are my scientists.” ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
STEPHEN TOBIN, MATHEMATICS, NIWOT HIGH SCHOOL “I teach because… I love seeing students’ sense of accomplishment from being able to solve a problem.” Stephen Tobin is well aware that mathematics, the subject he teaches at Niwot High School, can turn even the most unflappable of people into a hot mess, which is why he strives to keep the classroom vibe as low-key as possible, whether the subject is standard-level geometry or college-level calculus. “Everybody talks about math anxiety,” the affable Tobin says. “I’m about making it a relaxed, fun, comfortable environment for people to talk through a problem, ask questions, and find answers.” The approach that Tobin honed during his more than two decades as an educator in Illinois is more about guiding students to seek and find solutions their own way. “As a teacher, it is important to realize there are always different perspectives in solving a problem. What I try to do is ask more questions than I answer for the kids, so I am not telling them how to do things. I am trying to understand how they are seeing things, what they are understanding and not understanding, to help them become better problem solvers.” An avid outdoorsman, cyclist, and runner — he has completed six marathons — Tobin
Niwot High Teacher, Stephen Tobin
moved to Colorado in 2016 with his wife, a St. Vrain kindergarten teacher, and their six kids. “We’re like the Brady Bunch,” he says, referencing the 1970s-era TV sitcom about a blended family. Even after raising a half-dozen kids of his own and helping to shape hundreds of others over a quarter-century in the classroom, Tobin says he remains passionate about teaching — and about helping people work through their math anxiety. “I’m always trying to figure out ways to do it better, to reach more kids. I have fun doing what I do and I enjoy problem-solving. I think that just carries over to the kids.”
Legacy Elementary Teacher, Kim Westmoreland
KIM WESTMORELAND, SECOND GRADE, LEGACY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL “I teach because… one effective teacher can change a student’s life for the better.” The old “better late than never” adage certainly applies to Kim Westmoreland’s teaching career. “When I turned 50, I realized I did not love my job,” she recalls, referring to her more than two decades in the accounting and finance world. “It just wasn’t healthy for me, sitting in front of a computer monitor all day long, manipulating data. So I started from scratch.” That meant returning to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in education, then taking a student teaching post, an experience that confirmed trading accounting for education was the right move. Now, entering her fifth year of teaching elementary school and her fourth in St. Vrain, Westmoreland says unequivocally about the late career change: “It was worth it. I absolutely love what I do.” Seeing kids recognize and tap their unique talents makes teaching worthwhile, she says. “I believe truly, in my heart, that every kid is gifted — that each of them has a gift. It is my job to help them find it.” Westmoreland says she has done plenty of learning herself in her first four years leading a classroom. “My first year teaching,
I probably let children be children too much. My classroom management was pretty loose,” she says with a wistful chuckle. “But I got a handle on that, and I have realized that the best approach for me as a teacher is to make whatever subject you are teaching exciting, then let kids explore.” Westmoreland is an explorer herself. Besides the career pivot as a 50-something, she is a mentor at her church, and also finds time to ski, hike, and help her husband tend to their bees. But above all, she is a teacher, the job she wanted since she was a girl who preferred to play school when her friends wanted to play house. “Teaching does end up being your hobby as well as your job. And I’m fine with that.” TARA WINGER, FIFTH GRADE, SANBORN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL “I teach because… I want to make a positive difference in kids’ lives.” Teachers were instrumental in helping support and guide Tara Winger through what she says was a “rough time growing up” in Longmont. And now, as a teacher in the town where she spent much of her youth, Winger is paying it forward. “There were individual teachers who took an interest in me and encouraged me to keep pushing forward, and that made all the difference for me,” recalls the Niwot High School graduate (Class of 1984), who has been teaching in St. Vrain for 20 years, and whose husband was a principal before retiring.
Each school year, and each group of kids, has its own unique identity. So how will Winger remember her latest crop of fifth graders? “This particular group of children pushes the envelope,” she says, “and I mean that in a good way. They are questioning, they are wanting their voices heard, they challenge things.” Whatever the age of her students — Winger has taught first, second, and fifth grades, as well as second-language learners, over the course of her career — the priority is always making individual connections. “It’s about getting to know what makes each kid tick, what sparks their interest, then trying to teach them based on what I learn about them. Relationships are huge for me.” And through teaching, she has built plenty of lasting ones. “With teaching, you don’t always see the impact you have on kids the year you have them. I know I impact them because they come back to see me, years later. “Those,” she says, the emotion evident in her voice, “are some of my most gratifying moments.”
By the Numbers E D U C A T O R S I N S T. V R A I N
teachers with graduate degrees.
professional development credits earned by teachers and staff last year.
total employees in St. Vrain Valley Schools, all advancing public education in our community.
“I know I impact them because they come back to see me, years later.” TARA WINGER FIFTH GRADE TEACHER SANBORN ELEMENTARY
Sanborn Elementary Teacher, Tara Winger ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
STORY AN D PH OTOS
BY CA RO LI NE GR UN DY
Photo: Julie Blackburn, working on a bike at the Longs Peak Bike Shop.
ACROSS ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS, OUR MIDDLE SCHOOLS ARE DESIGNING UNIQUE PROGRAMS TO FOSTER ENGAGEMENT AND ADVANCE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENTS. NTER ROOM 406 AT LONGS PEAK MIDDLE SCHOOL and you will see dozens of bikes lined up on the floor and hanging on racks from the wall. Students work in groups of two and three to change bike tires, repair broken chains, and replace old bike grips. Home to the Longs Peak Bike Shop, this program is run by Instructional Coach, Josh VanAuken, who had a vision to increase students’ sense of belonging with a broader goal of increasing attendance rates. In 2016, a $700 grant from the Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley provided the seed funds needed to start the shop. With degreasers and tools in place, the bikes came pouring in from community donors. Now students are busy refurbishing old bikes, knowing that better versions will go back out to members of the community. The program has partnered with nonprofits like the YMCA of Longmont and Bicycle Longmont to donate over 200 bicycles during the holidays, in addition to providing 35
ongoing donations to individuals in need. VanAuken was not bike savvy prior to the start of the program. In fact, when asked about the Longs Peak Bike Shop, VanAuken will consistently repeat that “this program has nothing to do with bicycles – even though it seems to have everything to do with bicycles.” Rather, he explains, the program is an active process to build student engagement. The Bike Shop is a place where students collaborate to work on problems, build relationships, and find their sense of self to feel a part of the larger community. Achieving these social-emotional successes
Photo: Longs Peak Middle School students, Autumn Harvey and Antonio Alaniz, working together to change a tire.
helps students academically and allows them to consider positive next steps. Autumn Harvey is an eighth grade student whose participation in the program has encouraged her to think of her future. According to Autumn, “One of my goals next year is to be a part of the MBSA (Medical and BioScience Academy) program at Longmont High School. In part, my time in the Bike Shop has helped me make this decision. Although building bikes and the MBSA program are not exactly the same, the Bike Shop showed me that a real-world, practical program inspires me and motivates me to be a contributor in the community.”
“The Bike Shop showed me that a real-world, practical program inspires me and motivates me to be a contributor in the community.” AUTUMN HARVEY EIGHTH GRADE, LONGS PEAK MIDDLE SCHOOL
Photo: Josh VanAuken helping students repair a broken bike chain. BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS “The more connected students feel to the school community the more likely they are to succeed and excel in academics and beyond,” says Principal of Coal Ridge Middle School, Liza Nybo. In the 2017-2018 school year, a team of teachers at Coal Ridge Middle School worked together on a design thinking challenge focused on staff passion projects. This group wanted students to feel more engaged with the hope to enhance school culture and community. In looking at the data, they saw that students who did not have equal access to after-school activities were not performing as well academically. The team noted that, while the school has a wide offering of academic support programs, athletics, arts, and other co-curriculars, many students do not have access to transportation in order to participate in activities outside of normal school hours. Lance Yoxsimer, Director of St. Vrain Valley Schools’ Transportation Department, has worked with schools like Coal Ridge Middle to “break down the barriers between academic support programs and students’ transportation needs.” Hearing stories of students’ lack of access to support programs, Transportation now provides an afterschool academic bus at four St. Vrain
Photo: Sam Degen, eighth grade student at Westview Middle, using an iPad in Tech Squad.
schools. The buses transport students to a central walking location at the end of the after-school activities. After-school programming expands connections throughout the school because students interact with peers they do not see during the school day. Principal Nybo has seen some sixth graders who will try every after-school club before they find their right fit within the community. Through afterschool academic supports and activities, Nybo says, “students see themselves overcoming challenges which boosts their confidence and willingness to try new things.” STUDENTS SUPPORTING STUDENTS When Westview Middle School received a large stipend for new technology several years ago, it was as exciting as it was overwhelming. With an influx of laptops, document cameras, and iPads came a need for a group of trained personnel to manage the devices and troubleshoot problems. Instructional Librarian, Cindy Thompson, knew the best group for the job would be Westview Middle students. What started as a volunteer effort of students has grown into the popular elective class, Tech Squad, where students receive a week of “boot camp” training and travel throughout the school
during their elective period to solve tech issues as they arise. Tech Squad sees up to 50 student and staff members daily seeking support with technology and devices. Sam Degen is an eighth grader at Westview Middle School who has been participating in the program for three years. After seeing his sister’s experience in Tech Squad, he was inspired to also join. She would come home every evening and enthusiastically share what she had accomplished through Tech Squad, which encouraged him to also want to help people throughout his school. According to Sam, “Tech Squad has improved my leadership skills in helping others and has made me more of an empathetic person.” Sam says that the customer service element to Tech Squad comes first, sharing that many people who reach out to Tech Squad are frustrated about an issue. According to Sam, “Just a smile can do better than anything else. It’s a very powerful and simple tool that people overlook.” St. Vrain Valley Schools’ goal is to ensure that every student is involved in some activity within their school community. Whether it be arts, athletics, co-curriculars, or student-led clubs, student engagement exponentially increases social and academic success. ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
LEADERS OF THE
F U T U R E BY KERRI MCDERMID CHOOLS TODAY ARE PREPARING STUDENTS FOR JOBS THAT DO NOT YET EXIST. As we imagine possibilities for careers of the future – perhaps a lunar horticulturist, air traffic crossing guard, or telesurgeon – our classrooms and learning opportunities must provide foundational skills that will empower student success, regardless of what industry (or planet) they end up in. A decade ago, St. Vrain Valley Schools began a transformation to become a system that would not only provide students with a high-quality education but would also spark their interests and empower success beyond the classroom walls. Early conversations with the business community, students, teachers, parents, elected officials, and others were the catalyst to developing a suite of instructional focus programs, designed to give choice across the district and propel the development of skills essential to the future. In a recent survey of 350 executives across eight industries, the World Economic Forum identified skills that would be most in demand by 2020. Cognitive flexibility, creativity, service orientation, negotiation, and complex problem solving were key skill areas that would be most important and influential. Anticipating these trends years ago, St. Vrain Valley Schools cultivated a portfolio of 70 instructional focus programs across the district that not only emphasize focused programming within high-interest growth industries – such as Medical and BioScience, Business, Aerospace and Engineering, Energy, Biomedical Sciences, STEM, and Visual and Performing Arts – but also build strong connections to the skills that will be needed for any job: existing now or just in our own imaginations. At Silver Creek High School, the approach to 21st-century skill development goes a step deeper through student opportunities within their Leadership Academy. The Silver Creek Leadership Academy (SCLA) was founded in 2009 to provide a deliberate and purposeful way to connect classroom learning to real-life skills that are needed regardless of profession. All schools across St. Vrain emphasize leadership development, communication, teamwork, and collaboration. Students in SCLA take this even further by implementing community-based capstone projects that showcase their leadership skills and have a significant impact on the community. 37
“We wanted to develop a way for students to have a real sense of responsibility and how they fit in their community, their country, and their world,” said Carrie Adams, Program Director for the Silver Creek Leadership Academy. “Recognizing how important it is for our students to grow and be challenged, we design activities and experiences that help our students persevere through struggles, resolve them within the confines of our supportive program, and ultimately find success.” Curriculum in the program includes workshops on running successful meetings, conflict resolution and conflict management, design thinking, creating professional social media, building high performing teams, followership, cultural intelligence, respectful partnerships, developing a growth mindset, networking, and business ethics. Student outcomes focus on what the program refers to as the ‘BIG 6’: respect, teamwork, critical and creative thinking, vision, communication, and ethics. By May 2019, the program is anticipated to have graduated over 200 students, with hundreds more participating in SCLA coursework throughout their four years at the school. Past student capstone projects have included everything from running Girls STEM Camps for elementary and middle school students, to hosting golf tournaments to raise funds for local nonprofits, to developing apps that support medical patients with a concussion. The experiences and opportunities to collaborate and lead such significant projects across the community are having a tremendous impact on students’ success after high school. Emma Pearson, 2018 SCLA graduate, shares how the opportunities she has received through the program have had a lasting impact. “I am currently in the Leeds Scholars Program, which is a prestigious group of students within the Leeds Business School at the University of Colorado Boulder. The acceptance into the program was only about seven percent, and I know I would not have been accepted had it not been for my experiences at Silver Creek High School. My involvement in SCLA, combined with my capstone project, are the main reasons why I was given these opportunities.”
LEADERSHIP BEGINS IN PRESCHOOL Teachers do not wait until high school to begin cultivating critical thinking, leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills. Across St. Vrain, cultivating student agency begins in preschool. As young students at Blue Mountain look forward to their future walking the halls of Silver Creek High School, connections to leadership curriculum and skill development are already integrated across every classroom in the feeder. Students have opportunities to hone and flex their leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills, whether it is through design challenges, coding, Genius Hour projects, student council, or National Elementary Honor Society. “While determining the focus of our school, we asked ourselves what skills our students would need in order to be successful in life. It did not take us long to agree that our students need to be able to think critically for themselves, to confidently face problems and work towards finding solutions, and to have the curiosity and motivation to take ownership of their learning. Thus, the inquiry part of our focus was born,” shared JoLene Lewis, Third Grade Teacher at Blue Mountain Elementary. “By having our students ask their own questions and work toward finding answers, we are laying the foundation for Altona and Silver Creek to create our community’s future leaders.” As fast as technology and our greater world are evolving, no one knows with certainty what the future has in store for the approximately 33,000 students who are enrolled in St. Vrain. What is known, is that St. Vrain students are graduating more prepared than ever for success wherever their path may take them. “St. Vrain Valley Schools is always looking to stay ahead of trends and remain current in what is happening, in education, in business, in politics, and in the nonprofit world,” said Adams at Silver Creek. “Teaching leadership is one of the best investments of our time and energy that we can do with our kids, as the future is truly in our schools right now.”
VIDEOS See the progression from elementary students to graduating seniors, as they interview each other about their time in St. Vrain and their hopes for the future.
Across all schools in the St. Vrain Valley, our students are advancing excellence and will be the future leaders who will change our world.
Our teachers are essential to shaping the future for our students. Watch as three teachers read letters from graduating students, thanking them for guiding them into the future.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS FOCUSES ON THE POTENTIAL AND UNIQUE ABILITIES OF EVERY CHILD TO ENSURE SUCCESS FOR ALL STUDENTS.
BY CAROLINE GRUNDY PHOTOS BY AARON FORD AND JOHN DAVID T BENEFITS ALL STUDEN TS W HEN T HEY H AV E OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN, GROW, AND INTERACT WITH EACH OTHER,” says Stephanie Erbland, Special Education Teacher at Niwot Elementary, home to one of the district’s center-based autism programs. Since she began teaching at Niwot Elementary, Erbland’s goal has been to increase integration between the students enrolled in the center-based autism program and those in the general education courses. Through her vision and leadership, her students have increasingly engaged within the larger school community during lunch time, art, music, PE, and school assemblies. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, the school enacted the Peer Buddy program for all students in the autism based-center program. Through the program, students enrolled in general education classes join Erbland’s class for a portion of the learning day. It was Erbland’s third grade son, Jackson, who encouraged her to start the program because he had shown a strong interest in engaging with her students. The students collaborate to improve communication skills and work on design challenges in the school’s Discovery Lab, covering a range of topics related to 21st-century skills including airplane simulators, robotics, and design structures. Erbland shares that her students love interacting with the general education students saying, “When they are going to specials or when their Peer Buddies come in the classroom, their faces brighten. They are more engaged with whatever it is we are doing. It is more fun to be doing the activity alongside another friend and learning something together.” The participation interest of the general education students has been overwhelming with over 45 students currently serving as a Peer Buddy. Erbland says that through the program, students have become more empathetic and compassionate. The Peer Buddies seek to include Erbland’s students in more activities and want to learn more about special needs and autism. When the school participated in putting their handprints on the Mwebaza shipping 39
container classroom, students scanned the containers to make sure the hands of their friends in the special needs program were also present. Third grade Peer Buddy, Giuliana Batmazian says the program is important “because they can learn just like us and every day they improve something new and it makes me proud.” Across St. Vrain Valley Schools, we are providing opportunities for all students to have an authentic school experience supported by our strong communities. High school athletics is one of the most impactful aspects of a student’s high school journey. St. Vrain has expanded sport offerings to include the Unified Sports League, a program where student athletes with special needs are partnered with general education students who coach and encourage them through their chosen sport of football, basketball, and/or soccer. “THIS IS HOW SPORTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.” The Unified Sports programming has also bridged the gap between students enrolled in special needs courses and those in traditional courses. Michelle and Eric Peterson, two engineers – chemical and mechanical respectively – have lived in the Mead community since 2008 and have witnessed this inclusive culture firsthand with their son, Noah. When Noah was in eighth grade, the Peterson’s were worried about his transition to high school and Mead High teacher, Amber Vanzant, recommended that he participate in Unified Sports. This decision not only made Noah’s transition to high school more successful, it dramatically changed his life. Michelle shares, “The first time he stood on the basketball court, he stood there and watched the clock;” Now three years into the program, “he watches the clock because he wants to score.” Noah’s athletic, academic, and social abilities have soared and his parent’s attribute this to the community that has been cultivated through Unified Sports at Mead High. His talent for basketball has transformed him into a public figure within the community, where the Peterson’s are constantly being stopped when they are out and about together. The Peterson’s reflect on the positive environment that Unified Sports has created saying, “the Unified Athletes cheer for both sides.” When Noah sees an opponent score a touchdown in football, he is just as happy for his opponent as he is for himself. Whether it’s on the field or the court, the stadiums are filled with community support of all different backgrounds, with the school band and cheerleaders setting the tone for the crowd. Noah’s partner in Unified Sports, Skyler Sheffer, has equally grown through the program. According to Skyler, “Unified Sports has given me a chance to help other people and make more friends. I am now not quick to judge because people might have a hard time doing something that they do not want to tell other people about. It has given me the confidence to be more of a leader and makes me more aware of my surroundings and how I act around people.” The Unified Sports program has been so successful in creating positive school culture that middle schools across the district are adopting their own programs and a Unified music program is currently being developed. Learn more about Noah’s journey “Across St. Vrain Valley Schools, we prioritize the success of all students,” shares Laura in a spotlight video from the Special Olympics. Hess, Executive Director of Special Education. “I am so proud to work alongside our students, parents, principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, and other staff who champion programs that are giving students with special needs opportunities to further engage HTTP://STVRA.IN/UNIFIED with their school communities.” Through collaboration, we are shaping experiences and deepening our understanding of each other. In the wise words of third grader, Giuliana, “I can help people learn that everybody’s different and that’s okay.”
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
BY THERESA JENNINGS PHOTOS BY AARON FORD HEN THE FIRST MORNING BELL RINGS AT A ST. VRAIN SCHOOL, YOU SEE OUR STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND STAFF BUZZING WITH EXCITEMENT AS A NEW DAY OF LEARNING BEGINS. After the second bell, you begin to see the next wave of individuals arrive to support our schools. This diverse group consists of individuals ranging from high school students to retirees. Their actions impact the entire school and they move with grace from the office to classrooms. They sit alongside kindergarteners learning to read, speak to students about careers, maintain school gardens, and serve as industry mentors. When they visit their local grocery store, they smile as student passers-by recognize their faces and whisper their names, “that’s Mrs. Heath!” These individuals are volunteers who make our schools a little more like home, they remind students of their own parents and grandparents, and they build relationships and connections, helping them with everything from academics to providing an extra shoulder during a time of need. Our volunteers come from all walks of life, 41
including retired community leaders, industry experts, small business owners, and parents. Each volunteer brings their own set of skills and knowledge that they can share within our schools. For some interested in volunteering, getting started is the hard part. Betty Heath, a longtime volunteer in St. Vrain Valley Schools, said the best way to start is to jump in. “You don’t know what you are missing and the rewards of volunteering are just phenomenal,” said Mrs. Heath, who is known to students throughout the Carbon Valley. “It helps you realize what actually happens in school and what goes on in the minds of kids today.” Dave Fowler – or Grandpa Dave as he is widely known – is a famous volunteer at Burlington Elementary. “I just love being around kids and learning from and with them. The world is so different inside these four walls compared to when I was a student. They are learning math topics in third or fourth grade that I did not start until seventh grade.” “If the children take advantage, and the parents help them take advantage, they can do anything they want because the education
Photo: Volunteers Dave and Robbie Fowler read to students at Burlington Elementary, including Robbie’s two daughters and Dave’s two granddaughters.
they are getting here is very solid,” explained Dave. “We are preparing them to do whatever they want to do.” The role of the volunteer does not go unnoticed. George Heath, a Carbon Valley community member and husband to Betty Heath, describes the opportunity as fun and rewarding. “I would recommend it to anyone. Sometimes you don’t know when you are making a contribution, but you can look around and enjoy seeing students achieve their goals,” said Mr. Heath. “If someone volunteers as part of their lifestyle the rewards are far greater than just signing up to do a project. I have found the community appreciates it, too.” Robbie Fowler, son of Grandpa Dave and proud parent of three St. Vrain students, says that individuals should get involved in local schools to improve the community. “You want to show the kids that even if individuals are not connected to students at a school, they can still have a positive impact,”
he explained. “Just having that positive impact on a young person’s life brings back memories of volunteers from my childhood.” Volunteers are also the connectors. “Volunteering connects the everyday citizens with the institutions,” explains Dave. A volunteer provides an outside perspective, and a different way to reach the student. “I believe that kids learn differently and volunteers can bring out the best in students. I like helping kids find the tools to get to the next step,” Dave says. When asked about their favorite part of giving back, every volunteer marveled at the students and their desire to learn and grow. Mrs. Heath loves the lifelong relationships she builds with students through reading and writing. She continues to keep track of many students, all of whom remember her fondly. “I want to help students fulfill their goals. I helped a group of students at Legacy Elementary create a newspaper and they were awesome,” described Mrs. Heath, who had a long career in journalism and still writes a column for the Times-Call. “They opened their heads up and when their work was published, they were ecstatic. They had a goal and desire and I was able to help them a little bit.” Dave highlighted the value of life-long learning, “The kids are learning so much, so early and every little thing you notice encourages them, because they realize you are an old guy who is still willing to learn,” said Dave.
“The world is so different inside these four walls compared to when I was a student. The kids are learning so much, so early, and every little thing you notice encourages them...” DAVE FOWLER VOLUNTEER AT BURLINGTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Robbie echoes his father. “The kids look up to those parents who come in and spend their time with them. I don’t know all of the students yet, but you get a smile from them that warms you up inside. It is nice to have that parent figure, that is not a teacher, come in and spend some time with students in the classroom and out at recess.” It is hard to quantify the impact our volunteers have on students and the feelings of purpose our volunteers gain by working in our classrooms. But, as these four volunteers all agree, you get more than what you give. They all hope that the students are getting as much from them as they get in return for volunteering.
SENIOR VOLUNTEER PROGRAM
There are many ways for volunteers to get involved in our schools. Whether through the Community Strong program (communitystrong.svvsd.org) or directly through the school, opportunities across St. Vrain are endless for those who want to engage with our learning communities. One way that many people in our community volunteer is through the district’s Senior Volunteer Program. Made possible by the 2012 Mill Levy Override, the program provides financial assistance with county property taxes for qualifying seniors who volunteer up to 40 hours at a school between January and April every year. Learn more at HTTP://STVRA.IN/SENIORVOLUNTEERS
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
Dacono Erie Firestone Frederick Longmont 34 32
21 53 26
45 14 16 40
25 19 46 49
20 Grand View Elementary
37 Niwot High School
IB World School, STEM
21 Hygiene Elementary
38 Northridge Elementary
22 Imagine PK-8 Core Knowledge IMAGINEFIRESTONE.ORG 23 Indian Peaks Elementary
40 Red Hawk Elementary
BRES.SVVSD.ORG 5 Blue Mountain Elementary
24 Innovation Center
Science, Technology, and Inquiry BMES.SVVSD.ORG
25 Legacy Elementary LEGACYES.SVVSD.ORG 26 Longmont Estates Elementary
41 Rocky Mountain Elementary
6 7 8 9 10 11
42 Sanborn Elementary
Carbon Valley Academy
27 Longmont High School
43 Silver Creek High School
Career Development Center
Medical and BioScience, Advanced
Placement, High School of Business
44 Skyline High School
28 Longs Peak Middle School
IB Primary Years Programme
29 Lyons Elementary
45 Soaring Heights PK-8 STEM with an Emphasis in Neuroscience
Coal Ridge Middle School
30 Lyons Middle Senior High School
46 Spark! Discovery Preschool STEM
AES.SVVSD.ORG 2 Altona Middle School Leadership AMS.SVVSD.ORG 3 Aspen Ridge Preparatory School
ASPENRIDGEPREPSCHOOL.ORG 4 Black Rock Elementary
A Gifted and Talented, World Language School
12 Columbine Elementary STEM
CSU Online Program
8 Olde Columbine High School OCHS.SVVSD.ORG
39 Prairie Ridge Elementary
STEM, Visual and Performing Arts, P-TECH
13 Eagle Crest Elementary
31 Main Street School
32 Mead Elementary
47 St. Vrain Community Montessori School SVCMONTESSORI.ORG 8 St. Vrain Online Global Academy
14 Erie Elementary
33 Mead High School
48 Sunset Middle School
15 Erie High School
49 Thunder Valley K-8
34 Mead Middle School
50 Timberline PK-8
16 Erie Middle School
Engineering and Aerospace, AP Capstone
Energy Academy, CU Succeed, AP Capstone
EXCEL: Extraâ€”Curricular Engagement and
35 Mountain View Elementary
51 Trail Ridge Middle School
17 Fall River Elementary
Rigorous Academics Enhanced
Through the Arts, STEM
18 Flagstaff Academy FLAGSTAFFACADEMY.ORG 19 Frederick High School
36 Niwot Elementary
CU Succeed, Biomedical Engineering
School of Differentiated Instruction
52 Twin Peaks Academy TWINPEAKSCHARTER.ORG 53 Westview Middle School STEM WMS.SVVSD.ORG
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
St. Vrain Valley Public Schools RE-1J 395 S. Pratt Parkway Longmont, CO 80501
Across St. Vrain Valley Schools, we are taking public education by St. VrainStorm â€“ our shared passion and commitment to advancing academic excellence and student success. Follow our #StVrainStorm hashtag on Twitter to see the outstanding things taking place every day across all of our schools and departments. HTTP://STVRA.IN/STVRAINSTORM
Photo: Longmont Estates Elementary teacher, Chelsea Rickman, taking South Africa by #StVrainStorm! ST. VRAINNOVATION was produced in-house by the district communications team. This and other district initiatives are generously supported by: