Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – Manufacturing Futures

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight Series! If you are joining us for the first time, thanks for stopping by. Each month we highlight a different educator within St. Vrain Valley Schools – individuals who are making an impact on their students, staff, and the entire community. We hope you will continue to join us as we travel around the district each month. 

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This month we headed to the Career Development Center (CDC) to meet with Neil Shupe, Director of Manufacturing at St. Vrain’s new Advanced Manufacturing Academy (AMA) – a program providing students with the opportunity to explore careers in welding, machining, optics and electronics. Over the last year, Neil and his team reclaimed the space vacated by the Innovation Center and transformed it into several state-of-the-art work stations, focusing on career paths within the field of manufacturing.

 

Over the past year, St. Vrain has devoted a great deal of time to develop curriculum and relationships with industry partners. By forming these connections Neil and his team are able to learn what skills employers are looking for and how to create programs fostering those skills. Students who complete a path within the AMA have the opportunity to walk away with several industry recognized certificates and/or robust skill sets to establish themselves in the workforce.

 

Another goal of the AMA is to challenge the notion that everyone must attend a 4-year college or university. Neil wants to highlight the demand and sophistication of manufacturing careers and break the stereotype of what technical education might look like. But there is so much more to this beautiful story.

 

Neil started his career in education teaching chemistry and biology. But also enjoyed working with his hands, making things. In college he had a woodshop set up in his closet that he would roll out to the patio and create wooden longbows. Today, the same passion extends to his classroom. Neil plans to be the heart and soul behind the AMA, encouraging students to find their greatest potential. His passion is not so much for the subjects that he teaches, but the students who come to take his classes.

 

He shared a story of a student greatly impacted by a caring teacher. This student spent a lot of time sitting in the hall, just outside the classroom, for one infraction or another. The student struggled to sit still, talked to everyone, and was considered ‘hyper-active’. As this student grew older, test anxiety also became an issue. The student comprehended what was being taught and excelled at other assigned projects; however, tests were a struggle. School was tough.

 

Believing a four-year degree was the only way to be successful, the student continued on to college. Testing remained a challenge and threatened the possibility of graduating.

Luckily, this student had a professor in his corner. Someone who saw beyond what a sheet of paper said, beyond a single test result. The professor recognized the student’s ability and allowed him to conduct classroom labs and went as far as to invite administrators to attend these labs. Neil was this student, and with the support of his mentor, he graduated.

 

Just as his professor believed in him, he believes in his students and strives to be open and available to each of his students. We can’t wait to see the AMA take off and the success of the students that have the opportunity to interact with Neil.

 

Neil, thank you for taking the time to meet with us. We wish you and the entire AMA team the best of luck as you start this new adventure in education! 

 

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Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – Diffusion of Innovation 

Summer might be in full swing, but that doesn’t mean we are on vacation from our Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight Series! This month we are so excited to introduce everyone to Kristen Brohm. Kristen is the Innovation Center’s (IC) STEM Project Manager, and she focuses on students from preschool to fifth grade. Kristen has been an educator in the district for 12 years, having first taught kindergarten and first grade before taking on the role of STEM Coordinator for Northridge and Alpine Elementary Schools. We had the chance to meet with Kristen and quickly discovered what a dynamic person she is. 

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Kristen has charisma that naturally draws people to her and puts them at ease. She has an energy and excitement that is contagious when she speaks about bringing STEM to the youngest students in the district. This drive comes from her belief that each student has the potential to change their world. Every child has ideas that are relevant to their world and their ideas matter. Kristen looks for ways to encourage students to make that connection to their world and how they can impact it. 

 

Bringing younger students to the Innovation Center is a relatively new practice. This was the first year to incorporate a third grade field trip to the IC. In connection with the Longmont Museum, a Past, Present, and Future field trip was planned out. Students learned about the history and geography of Longmont and then traveled to the Innovation Center to complete their field trip. At the IC they learned about a current problem facing the city and came up with ideas on how to solve it. Back in the classroom students would then write a paragraph on the solutions they came up with. These were then forwarded to different members of the community for consideration. This experience is two fold. One, students are able to make a connection to their community and help take ownership. The second is to expose students at a young age to the Innovation Center, so as they grow they are able to take full advantage of what programs are available to them. 

 

Another aspect of Kristen’s job, especially with elementary teachers, is to help them understand and implement different aspects of a STEM program into their classrooms. Kristen and her team also lead professional development teams to help implement the STEM standards the district has. Kristen noted that unlike in middle or high school, where there are specialized tracks and classes, students stay together in the same classroom. So how do you bring computer science, down to an elementary level? By encouraging teachers to change a little bit of their vocabulary throughout the day. By giving a name to what is always being taught, patterns at calendar time, teachers are able to expose and highlight different aspects of STEM. Students do not have the fear or the “I can’t do it, it’s too hard” mentality when they get to specialized classes. They have been learning for years, offline and can transfer those skills online. 

 

Kristen has several other projects that she is currently working on, The Teacher’s Guild, developing assessment metrics, and defining what field trips to the IC look like are just a few she mentioned. What stood out was her passion to tackle all of these and more. Kristen is the type of person that you walk away feeling encouraged and inspired to improve. She believes that everyone can grow from failure. You get the sense you could come to her with a struggle or failure and she would be understanding, supportive and your biggest cheerleader. Kristen has a certain grace and humbleness about her. She spoke of how she loves to create something, get it up and running, and pass it own to let another make it their own and repeat the cycle. 

 

Kristen, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with us. It was an honor to see your dedication and passion for what you do. We wish you the best upcoming school year! 

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight- A Mirror of the Intangible

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight! If you are joining us for the first time, we are glad you found us. If you have been following us, thank you for keep coming back every month as we highlight different educators making a positive impact on St. Vrain Valley Schools. Every June is special, as we start another year of inspiring stories. This month we are headed to Westview Middle School to highlight Spanish and Computer Science Teacher, Monica Moreno-Martinez. This St. Vrain alumnus finished her 15th year teaching in May.

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Monica credits her parents and former Skyline English teacher, Roger Hebert, for inspiring her journey into teaching. Her parents encouraged her to continue, furthering her education and supported a strong work ethic. Mr. Hebert also sparked her interest and desire to go to college. Her goal has always been to come back to St.Vrain Valley Schools and give back to her community.  She has found a passion in education that will have lasting effects on generations to come.

 

One of Monica’s favorite classes is her Computer Science or STEM class. This past semester her class was comprised primarily of young Latina women. She said that she has been able to create a community for these students that is family-like. She relishes in her roll of being a cultural mirror to her students of what is possible for them. Her heart for these underrepresented populations can not be contained. Her excitement and passion to help her students is why her classroom is always full during passing periods, lunch, and after school.

 

A co-worker noticed this and encouraged Monica to launch Earth Explorers. This is a class meant to attract underrepresented youth in science fields which includes minorities and women. This class meets and works with scientists from labs such as CU and NOAA in order to see real science, math, and technology in action. Students experience the scientist’s labs first hand.

 

Monica explained the challenges she faced as a minority student and how she desires to be a role model for her students. She wants to be the teacher she needed when she was in middle school. This desire allows her to bring and celebrate not only her culture but her student’s culture into her classroom. Her classroom is a space where students can feel a sense of belonging and to learn that they have a cheerleader in their corner.

 

Monica’s concern and care for her students lasts long after her students leave middle school. She has been known to offer assistance in helping her former students find scholarships and navigate the college admissions process. She will always offer advice to anyone who asks for it. She finds satisfaction in teaching the intangibles and watching them succeed beyond her classroom.

 

I asked Monica for ‘the one thing’ she wanted her students to take away from her classroom. She responded, “Never lose sight of who you are and where you came from. Use the past to embrace new experiences. Reach for the stars and don’t let obstacles stand in your way. Find a way to see past them.”

 

Monica thank you for taking the time to share your heart for your students. We wish you another wonderful school year!

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – 2019 Outstanding Graduate

Welcome back to our monthly Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight! It’s hard to believe it, but we are at the end of another school year. We have enjoyed the privilege of traveling throughout the district for another year highlighting some incredible individuals. It’s been a journey and we hope you have enjoyed the ride as well. As we wind down another year, we want to focus not on an educator, but a graduate. A student who is an inspiration not only to their peers, but to the educators as well. This month we want to recognize 2019 Mead High School Graduate, Ryan Yancey. We had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan and we hope that you will be inspired and encouraged just like we were.

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To say Ryan has a creative streak is a bit of an understatement. This young man has been creating short films since he was in 7th grade. This interest in film led him to take video production classes at the Career Development Center and become Adobe Certified in Photoshop, Premier, and Illustrator. This opened up several opportunities to create short films and enter them into different film festival competitions, both locally and internationally. At one such festival he had a film nominated for ‘Best Writing’. This past year he was the editor for MAV TV, a biweekly news broadcast for the High School. Thankfully, these are also online so you can see the talent and where this young man is headed. Take a look here!  He credits his time between classes at the CDC and his involvement with Mead High Schools Musical Theatre program as helping to build a foundation for his future.

 

It should be no surprise that Ryan is headed to the Colorado Film School after graduation. He made the observation that everyone is consuming media on a daily basis, but not everyone has what it takes to create that content. Ryan’s passion, dedication and curiosity to this space will no doubt serve him well as he continues his education. Ryan is still narrowing in on what aspect of content creation he wants to explore. He has a strong interest in writing and directing films. In addition to creating films, Ryan has explored both photography and graphic design. He has used these skills to help design programs, and posters for school performances.

 

Using these platforms, Ryan has been able to use his voice and those of his peers to elevate their thoughts and ideas. He is able to see how he can have a positive impact on the world around him through the use of media. His most recent project, “ The After Hours Incident”  highlights where Ryan is in his journey and where he is going.

 

As we wrapped up our interview, I asked Ryan if he had any advice he would like to pass on to the incoming freshman class. “Try a little bit of everything, even if it’s not a “fit” or something you normally would do. We have some great people at Mead High School, so don’t be afraid to go for it.”

 

We would like to wish Ryan and the entire class of 2019 congratulations! We can’t wait to see where you will go and what you will do next.

 

Stapp Inspires Organization Spotlight- The Longmont Chorale

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Organization Spotlight blog! If you are joining us for the first time, thanks for taking the time to stop by and check out who we are highlighting this month! Throughout the year we highlight different organizations that are making a positive impact in our community. At Stapp Interstate Toyota we believe that changing the world begins right here, in our backyard! We are proud to partner with and introduce you to the Longmont Chorale.

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Did you know that we have had a community choir in Longmont since 1937? Formed as the Longmont Community Chorus and rebranded in the 1980’s to Longmont Chorale, the choir has been filling community with music for more than 80 years. One unique aspect of the Longmont Chorale is that it is open to all who want to sing. It is one of the only non-auditioned choirs left on the front range. Singers also have the opportunity to choose which concerts they want to perform in.

 

The Longmont Chorale is open for membership by signers of all ages and abilities, from the beginner who is trying their voice for the first time to the signer with years of experience under their belt. Since the Chorale is open to everyone, it is not unusual to see a high school senior singing side by side a senior citizen. This helps build a camaraderie between members. The Chorale have members who have been performing for decades. Through this open approach to a community choir, the Chorale seeks to enrich the lives of singers and patrons through the study, creation and performance of beautiful choral music.

 

The full Chorale currently performs four major concerts a year, featuring an extremely diverse repertoire across genes such as; Pops, Jazz, Showtunes, Hebrew, Celtic, Modern, new music and so much more. In addition, the Chorale hosts several smaller events with the Chorale Singers. The Chorale Singers perform at special events and gigs around our community. Any of these concerts can also be paired with other local groups. In the past the Chorale has partnered with guests artists, children’s choirs, symphony or band to bring a truly unique experience to the Longmont area.

 

The Longmont Chorale is also invested in supporting the youth in our community and the future of vocal music. To help encourage youth to participate high school students and college age students up to age 22 have their membership fees waived. In addition, the Longmont Chorale hosts their annual Youth Vocal Competition.  Winners receive a cash prize, the first place winner earns an opportunity to perform at a Longmont Chorale concert, and all participants receive valuable feedback from the judges.

 

A special thank you to the Longmont Chorale for enriching the lives of all our community members and bring us together in a way that only choral music can. We want to encourage everyone to take the time and attend a Longmont Chorale concert. You won’t be disappointed, as they say they are “Singing From Our Hearts To Yours!”

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – A Coach for All Teams

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight! This month we stopped by Skyline High School and spent some time with Casey Luker. Casey Luker is the Learning Technology Coach for the Skyline Feeder System. She has been in this position for the past three years and spent seven years as a high school English teacher. Casey has always had an interest in technology; her Master Thesis project was based on The Scarlet Letter and creating a virtual world like those found in Second Life – an online virtual world. So she created a similar world for The Scarlet Letter, and students would have to take different characters to different places that followed the story’s plot line. Casey’s main focus is helping teachers take the available technology and pairing it with their lessons, helping enhance student learning. When the district rolled out iPads for every student, Casey was there helping teachers and students utilize this new technology in the classroom.

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Casey is passionate about her current space. Her eyes light up when describing how she is able to help her fellow teachers. She looks for creative ways to share her knowledge with others. Casey is able to take her passion for technology in the classroom and combine it with compassion. She understands the constraints and challenges teachers face and looks for ways to help teachers grow professionally. Bringing blended learning into a classroom can be a challenge, but Casey is there to coach teachers on best practices. Casey also steps in to assist teachers. When trying something new, it’s helpful to have an extra set of eyes. Casey’s there to support teachers however she can.

 

Casey shared that it’s the period after a professional development – while reflecting on successes and missteps – that she learns the most. She encourages and supports teachers by providing a time and space to do the same. Casey has a soft spot in her heart for classroom teachers and their continuous work with students to help them succeed.

 

There is a gentleness within her. One that will go that extra step with a teacher who might be struggling to incorporate the blended learning concept into the classroom. Casey is full of ideas and shares them freely with the staff she supports. One way she helps encourage collaborative learning with students is by helping facilitate the use of BreakoutEDU boxes within the classroom or professional development. Similar to an escape room, students have boxes that can only be unlocked by solving puzzles that must be done collaboratively. After uncovering clues, solving puzzles, and unlocking the locks, or running out of time, students are given a chance to reflect on the processes they used to solve the puzzles and how they might work together differently the next time.

 

While we were in our interview, I had this feeling that others are naturally drawn to Casey. She has a great joy that fills up a room, and a way to make you feel better about what’s going on. She is confident in who she is and has a subtle way of encouraging you to find it in yourself.  Casey is the type of coach you want in your corner, supporting you and cheering you on as you challenge yourself to take new ideas in the classroom. While she admits she does miss her own classroom, it is clear that the entire Skyline Feeder system benefits from her role as their Learning Technology Coach.  

 

Casey, thank you for taking the time to meet with us. You are an inspiration to the next generation of teachers and students. We wish you all the best!

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – Collaborative Control

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight series. This month we are headed over to Erie High School to meet Kelsey Rasmussen. Kelsey is in her fourth year at Erie High School and she is the Focus Program Coordinator of Erie High School’s Academy of Engineering and Aerospace.

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Kelsey is also one of the founding teachers of the program. When I met with Kelsey, her students were getting ready to pitch a presentation to a local CEO to request funding for an upcoming national competition. Her students competed and won the state Real World Design Challenge and are preparing to go to the National Competition in April. In fact, her students greeted their guest and began their presentation on their own while we were meeting, and this stood out in a positive way. Kelsey talked about having confidence and trust in her students. It’s one thing for a teacher to tell students what they think, but it’s completely different to actively demonstrate what they truly believe about them. This simple act of releasing control of the learning process to students is a strong component of this program.

 

Kelsey sees herself in a support role with her students. She strives to challenge her students, she sets them up for success, but when her students do not put in the work, she will allow failure in her classroom. When this happens, Kelsey is the first one to build that student back up, evaluate what went wrong, and help decide what next steps need to be made. Some of her high achieving students have never experienced failure in the classroom or had a problem they couldn’t solve on the first try. They struggle with anything less than perfection. Kelsey allows students to develop coping skills, to pick themselves back up, and not be discouraged in the process. By allowing her students to develop these coping skills, she is setting them up for success that will last far beyond their time in her classroom.

 

Another aspect of Kelsey’s classroom is providing a safe, nurturing learning environment. She prioritizes collaboration over competition and interdependence to complete projects. Kelsey loves watching her students grow from shy freshman to independent, confident seniors. Kelsey is proud of her students and what they accomplish each year. She has confidence and trust in her students, even when they might struggle to believe it themselves. She sets her standards high because she knows what they are capable of achieving. She challenges her students to take what they know and solve the next challenge.

 

Kelsey will challenge her students and while they might not like it at the time, they can look back and see the benefit and how far they have came in their own journey.

 

Kelsey, thank you for inspiring the next generation. We wish you and your students the best of luck at the National Real World Design Challenge!

 

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