Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – A Quiet Bridge Builder

This month we head out to Silver Creek and into the social studies classroom of Justelle Grandsaert. Justelle is in her 20th year of teaching and she was one of the first teachers who helped open Silver Creek High School 18 years ago. She grew up in California knowing that her calling was to be a teacher. After she graduated with her bachelor’s degree she spent a year teaching the early grades, but upon completing her Master’s Degree she discovered her passion was teaching high schoolers and never looked back.

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If you are thinking that you may have heard Justelle’s name mentioned in a past highlight, you are correct. Our 2017-2018 ‘Outstanding Student’, Parker Nicholas, said “Mrs. Grandsaert teaches with such passion, and I want to be the kind of teacher she was for me for someone else.” Parker credits Justelle (or Mrs. G as every student calls her) with inspiring her to go into education. Knowing this, I was excited to meet up with Justelle and learn more about what takes place in her classroom.

 

Justelle teaches freshman World Studies – a combination of history and literature. As students study ancient Greece they compliment those studies by reading Homer’s Odyssey. She helps students build bridges between points in time and how those environments influence writing. She wants her students to see history in a different light. It is not about dates and timelines, but rather the stories, the people and experiences that make up our pasts. Justelle encourages her students to look at history through different viewpoints and highlights the dangers of a ‘single story’. She wants her students to understand that some of the greatest heroes in history have flaws. Even if sometimes those flaws are major ones.

She also has a few sections of junior government where she strives to have her students see that it’s more than just three branches, but its alive and relevant to their lives. She provides opportunities for her students to identify a local policy that they would want to change and create a proposal on how to do it and present it to local authorities.

Whether a class is looking at flawed heroes or local policy, they both serve as a starting point to the most important lesson Justelle is teaching her students. Above all Justelle wants her students to know that they have a voice and it matters. She empowers her students to use their voice for good in the world. Justelle’s passion instills a spirit of inquiry that stays with students as they move forward in life.

Justelle has a heart for teaching and her students that is special and palpable. She is the type of teacher that quietly pushes her students to push themselves and go beyond what they thought was possible – without them realizing the journey they are on.

Justelle, thank you for taking the time to meet with us, it was truly an honor. We wish you the best!

 

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Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight- A Cut Above

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight series! We are excited to introduce you to Hope Nazzaro, Culinary Instructor at the Career and Development Center (CDC). Hope is in her 15th year of teaching, having spent the last three years at CDC. She had previously taught at Skyline and Frederick High School. She graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Family Consumer Science.

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Before we settled down to begin our interview, Hope gave me a tour of the kitchen her students use on a daily basis. It’s a very professional kitchen. One of the myths that Hope quickly dispelled was that her classes were similar to the ‘home ec’ days of the past. Far from it.

 

Currently, culinary students complete a program called ProStart. This is a nationally recognized program that students complete over the course of a year. The CDC offers ProStart 1 and ProStart 2 with plans to add ProStart 3 in the future. The program offers students industry certifications they can use upon graduation. First year students are certified as ‘ServSafe Food Handlers’ while second year students complete the ‘ServSafe Manager’ program. These programs help students become industry ready and provide them an edge on the competition when applying for jobs or culinary school. Students are also able to earn college credit from Metro State.

 

Over the past three years Hope and her students have been busy. They attended the Denver Wine and Food Festival where they presented roughly 2,000 servings and competed at the Family Career Community Leaders of America. Each year they continue to improve. They also run Sunrise Cafe, which is an on-site restaurant that is open to the community three days a week for breakfast and lunch.

 

I asked Hope if she went to culinary school or had a lot of restaurant experience in her past. She mostly worked in restaurants throughout college, but also studied food science while attending CSU. I was struck by this. What a great example she is for her students. She never stopped learning or improving her skills. She rose to the challenge of starting a new program from the ground up and met it head on.

 

Hope is in a unique position with her students. She strives to instill valuable skills within her students to be successful in the culinary industry but also the skills to be successful adults. She reinforces accountability and responsibility with her students on a daily basis. This has led to some students labeling her “hard” or “mean”. This doesn’t bother Hope. “If I let up a bit, that’s how accidents in the kitchen happen.”

 

Hope realizes some of her students will choose to pursue other fields of study, but encourages them to stay current with their certifications, to continue to develop skills and to make contacts with other professionals. She wants her students to always have a backup plan. Sometimes life doesn’t work out as planned. The skills and certifications students gain in class can help them through tough times as they plan next steps.

 

I asked Hope what was the one thing she hoped every student would take away from her class. “Excuses are going to set you behind. Make sure you have the right mental attitude and keep going, you can do it.”

 

Hope, thank you for taking the time to meet with us. We wish you the best!

 

Stapp Inspires Spotlight: Longmont Humane Society

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Spotlight series, where we highlight different organizations in our community doing incredible work. This month we are featuring Longmont Humane Society.

 

This past weekend LHS hosted their annual Paws in the Park fundraiser. We loved seeing all the dogs and their people show up despite the weather! LHS is dependent on donations to help fund its mission of caring for the animals in our community.

 

Since 1972, Longmont Humane Society has been the premier animal sheltering and welfare organization in north Boulder County. LHS is an open-admission facility that treats each animal as an individual, offering shelter, food, medical and behavioral support.

In addition LHS offers a wide variety of services in support of the animals and the people who love them. In 2017 veterinary staff performed over 3,000 spay and neuter surgeries and 8,400 pets received low-cost veterinary care through their Well Pet Clinic.

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The Longmont Humane Society Public Training Program offers a wide variety of fun and effective training classes for learners of all levels. The Adoption Follow Up Program offers support to all dogs adopted from LHS for the life of the dog. LHS also strives to reunite lost pets with their owners. Pictures and descriptions of the animals are posted online and are updated regularly.  

We invite you to stop by Longmont Humane Society to check out what they are up to. And who knows maybe you will find a new furry friend.

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – A Field Guide

Welcome back to our monthly Educator Highlight Series. If this is your first time stopping by we hope you leave feeling inspired and encouraged by the stories we have the privilege to share with our community.

A little background, my name is Erin. I am the Digital Marketing Manager for Stapp Interstate Toyota. We are underway in our second year of meeting different, teachers, administrators, and support staff throughout St. Vrain Valley Schools. It’s been an incredible journey to meet these individuals who are helping to shape the next generation. The different backgrounds and paths they have taken to wind up at SVVSD are as unique and different as they are. This month’s recipient is no different! We would like to introduce you to Miki Mills. Miki is a Special Education teacher at Niwot High School. She has been at Niwot for the last 11 years. Before moving out to Colorado, she taught special education in the south suburbs of Chicago.

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The first question I always ask someone is, “Why did you want to become a teacher?” This time my question was a bit different. I asked specifically what was the draw to special education. As the daughter of a special education teacher myself, I knew that it took someone with a certain drive and passion to fulfill this role. Miki’s answer was quite simple and familiar. “Well, I knew I wanted to teach and I knew I didn’t want to teach general education,” she said. Typically, when this question is answered, the person I interview tells a story of how a teacher inspired or encouraged them to pursue teaching as a career. Miki’s story is a little different. Miki wanted to find a way to avoid the gym teacher she didn’t get along with. Her high school offered opportunities to tutor for the Special Olympics, so she signed up and began teaching gross motor and sports skills to athletes.

 

Miki has worked with students across the spectrum, but the typical student she works with today is high-functioning and attending advanced placement or IB classes. The students she works with require support with the social-emotional aspects of school. When working with these students, it’s important to identify the traits of their disability, so the proper tools and skills are used to make that student successful. As Miki said, “The old way of trying to ‘fix it’ doesn’t work, and it shouldn’t work. These kids are who they are. I want to help them find success with who they are.”  

 

Over the years her view has changed on how she interacts with students. “If you listen to your students, they will clearly tell you what they need,” Miki remarked. She continued with, “A student once made a comment, “We know what to do. We just don’t know why we need to do it.” This comment has inspired Miki to look differently at the social skills she was teaching her students. How many times do you have to stop and think, “Do I shake this person’s hand? Or is appropriate to give them a hug or maybe a high five?” For most of us these are split second decisions and we never give what we are doing a second thought. Miki takes the time to break these types of social interactions down for her students and gives them tools to learn these skills.

 

Miki mentioned that she likes to hike in her free time. As our conversation went on, I thought it was a perfect metaphor for Miki and her students. Miki is confident, warm, compassionate,  funny and a lot of fun to be around. She is helping guide her students through a landscape that is foreign and unfamiliar to them. Like any good guide she has the experience to help her students through difficult terrain and know what each one of her students need. She sees the potential in each student to be successful on their own journey with the tools they have, and the ones they need. Miki is that encouraging force for her students that won’t give up on them, even when they feel that their journey is too long or difficult. She rejoices with her students when they tackle that skill for the first time and each time they improve themselves.

 

Miki thank you for your work and dedication to your students. It was a pleasure meeting with you, and we wish you all the success in the future.

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – Eyes to the Sky

Welcome back! This month we are headed over to the Innovation Center (IC) to spend some time with Jake Marshall, Aeronautics Coordinator. Jake is starting his second year at the Innovation Center and with St. Vrain Valley Schools. He was previously a middle school teacher in the Thompson Valley School District. While with Thompson, he created and ran an afterschool club that focused on designing and building aircraft. He has always had a passion for flight and was excited to launch the IC Aeronautics program with St. Vrain.

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When Jake and I sat down to talk, the new IC was still under construction. The excitement in the building was palpable. I asked Jake, “What drew you to St. Vrain.” He said he wanted to transition to working with high schoolers and thought St. Vrain would be a good fit. From what I saw, it has been a great fit. What Jake and his students were able to accomplish in just one school year, is nothing short of astounding!

For the 2017-2018 school year, Jake had 25 students participate in the Aeronautics program. These students worked on building – from scratch – different Unmanned Aircraft to spec for several different clients. They also had the opportunity to film commercials for district use. While enrolled in the Aeronautics program, they also have the opportunity to work towards earning their FAA Part 107 pilot license. This allows the students to fly drones commercially. He is in the process of building a partnership with AIMS Community College to allow his students to dual enroll in aeronautics classes as well.

While Jake has always had a passion for flight, he has not always found himself in the classroom. He spent a couple years as an engineer and quickly found that he did not like missing the important events in his family’s life. He transitioned to a social studies teacher at the middle school level and worked on curriculum and development. Then, he started an afterschool program where students were designing scratch built aircraft.

Jake showed me several different types of aircraft that his students were working on. While he explained the process, I started to hear a bit of the engineer come out. But I was never lost in ‘why things were designed the way they were’. Jake has an incredible ability to convey technical specifications in layman’s terms while sparking interest to learn more. It was incredible to see student work and understand the ‘why’.

Our conversation drifted to what was coming next. How would the move into the new 55,000 sq/ft IC improve the Aeronautics program. Well, Jake and his students will have a 300 foot runway and five acres of flight area to soar in. The smile on his face told me that this new school year couldn’t start soon enough. He gets excited when he thinks about expanding student opportunities – perhaps finding their career path in the sky. The connection with his students and watching them grow is the biggest reward for Jake.

As Jake and his students get ready to take off this year, we can only image where this program will go. We can’t wait to see what his students will design and come up with next. If you want a peek at what is going on in the IC Aeronautics program check out the following video.

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Jake took two of his students out to the construction site to document the progress and turned it into this video. Take a look!

Jake, congratulations on a great first year. We wish you and your students clear skies for flying high!

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – A Student Returns

This month we are proud to highlight Longs Peak Middle School (LPMS) teacher, Colin Rickman. Colin will be starting his ninth year at LPMS when school starts next month. Colin is no stranger to St. Vrain Valley Schools. He grew up in Longmont and graduated from Longmont High School. He has family who were or still are teachers in the district as well. He jokes that he teaches at the middle school his wife attended and she teaches at the elementary school he attended.

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Colin didn’t initially think he was going to be a teacher when he grew up. He attended CU-Boulder with a concentration on biological sciences, while training to be a physical therapist. I asked him what helped changed his view and what he wanted to do. He said two people influenced him. The first was a Spanish professor at CU that helped show him what teaching and education could be. The second was his wife. They had started dating while they were in high school and she was set on being a teacher. Colin said that listening to her talk about her classes with such passion and enthusiasm inspired him to switch fields. He was quick to mention that he looks up to his wife and she still is a source of inspiration for him. So he finished his Biology degree at CU and then started working on his education certification.

He completed his student teaching at Skyline High School and promptly took a job mid-year at a middle school in Lakewood. This was a pivotal point in Colin’s career. He discovered that middle school – not high school – fit is teaching style much better. Colin reflected, “I can focus on relationships as well as content. There is something special about a middle school student. They are still curious and love learning, and I can meet them where they are.” When an opportunity opened up to teach middle school at LPMS, he jumped at the opportunity and never looked back. He enjoys the neighborhood feel at LPMS – being part of the community. He believes that the entire staff is doing a fantastic job of reaching students where they are and can see a lot of growth because of systems in place to help student success. Colin showed a lot of pride when talking about his school and his co-workers. He is the type of teacher who can see the potential in each student.

 

In talking to Colin, you understand just how much he cares about each student and how fortune he feels to be teaching and giving back to the district that gave so much to him. We discussed the classes he teaches which range from basic STEM classes for sixth and seventh graders to advanced robotics. He smiles and says he wants to create classes he wished existed when he was in school. There is a quiet dedication to this line of thought. Colin is looking to keep advancing his classes and challenging his students. He is always looking for that next step to advance his students and their knowledge.

 

At this point I noticed a large ‘check’ on one of the walls. Colin is the 2018 Eleanor Venture Grant recipient. This grant is awarded every year to a teacher in the district with the purpose of helping them further their own education. I asked Colin to tell me a little more about the grant and what he was going to do with it. He is going to travel to Cape Town, South Africa and start creating and innovating. There is not a lot of curriculum for design challenges, so he has to write most of it himself. He is going to study something called “Day 0” which South Africa is predicted to hit in 2019. “Day 0” is the day Cape Town’s water supply is expected to be exhausted. Colin is going there to document the problem and bring it back to his students. He is hoping to instill empathy in his students as well as challenge them to come up with design ideas to address the  water crisis in Cape Town or in their own backyard. While Colin is there he is also going to be documenting his trip with a 360° camera. He has a desire to get his students to explore their world, but realizes that they may not have that opportunity. So he is going to bring the footage back and have it run in the library’s virtual reality system so students can explore Cape Town in their library.

 

Colin’s passion is to see his students succeed beyond his classroom. He loves running to his former students and hearing about their success. He told me that he had taken his STEM Explorers Club to CU for the day and ran into one of his former students. Catching up with that student was a highlight for Colin.

 

Colin, thank you for taking the time to meet with us. The care and compassion you have for each of your students is evident. We wish you the best as you continue to inspire those around you!

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – A Change in Definition

Welcome back to our monthly Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight series. We are starting our second year of highlighting those individuals in the district who are inspiring those around them to reach their full potential. We are excited to share their stories as we go throughout the year.

To begin the 2018-2019 school year we start at Sunset Middle School with School Resource Officer (SRO), Scott Pierce. The very first thing he admitted to me was that he didn’t think he qualified for our recognition, because he wasn’t an “educator”. In the traditional sense of how we define an “educator” he is completely correct. Scott has been on the Longmont Police Department force for 33 years. He has spent his entire career serving the city of Longmont, and for the last 10 years he has split his time between Sunset Middle School and Altona Middle School. By any standard definition Scott is a police officer. However, he is actively challenging what an educator is within the district. He does this in the most graceful and sincere way.

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Before Scott became a SRO he spent time on patrol and was a detective with the Youth and Family Crimes Department. Eventually he transitioned back to patrol and started working with the Longmont Police Cadets. He has spent his entire career working with kids in one way or another. When the position to be an SRO opened up he jumped at the chance to continue his work with students. Make no mistake, Scott has the composure and confidence of someone who has been on the job for 33 years, but a compassionate side kept shining through our conversation.

After interacting with adults on patrol for so many years Scott has a unique view when he enters his school each day. He sees each student as someone who has great potential. This attitude doesn’t change when he is called to assist with discipline. Instead of making quick decisions on the street, Scott has an entire year to interact and work with a student. He says that students have a great capacity to change, and if minor problems are caught early, most students will make better choices and get back on the right path. He gets great satisfaction helping students – and parents – understand the consequences of their actions and steering them to make better choices. He is truly concerned with what is in the best interest of the student. Scott views his school as his school and certain behaviors will not happen in his school. He begins every student conversation in this manner and in the end, encourages the student to view their school in the same manner.

The biggest part of Scott’s job is not discipline, but forming relationships with the teachers, staff and students. From time to time you might catch him in a classroom teaching a lesson or discussing the Constitution in a history class and how it relates to everyday life. He might be in a health class conducting a unit on drugs and alcohol recognition. In each case, he is giving his students a different perspective on how the world works. Students love having him come in a teach, and it’s not hard to understand why. On the day of our our interview, he mentioned that later in the afternoon he would be refereeing a school basketball game – students vs. teachers.

Our conversation started to look ahead to what comes next. After 33 years on the force, Scott’s retirement is on the horizon. One thing Scott was adamant about was his retirement as a SRO for Sunset/Altona Middle Schools. He has no desire to do anything else. He truly enjoys his work and wouldn’t trade the relationships he’s established for anything.

Every once in awhile, Scott will work at a Niwot or Silver Creek High School football game. He says kids will call out to him from the stands – waving – ready to share what they’re up to. Scott has a strong sense of pride when it comes to visiting former students. To see his students prosper and on the right path means the world to him.

 

Scott, thank you for taking the time to meet with us. The impact you are having on the students, teachers and administrators in your school is far reaching. We wish you the best!