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.


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.

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.

Scott Pierce


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!


Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight-A Reflection

We started out on this journey June 2017 to highlight the teachers, staff, administrators in the St. Vrain Valley Schools who inspire those around them. We had an idea of the type of people that we were going to meet and learn about. But each and every time we have left the interview completely blown away.

My name is Erin Wuestenberg, I’m the Digital Marketing Manager at Stapp Interstate Toyota. I have been the on the other side of the screen sharing the stories of the district this past year. I wanted to give a little insight on how our interviews are done. I have a few questions that I ask each person I’m highlighting such as, how long they have been with the district, educational background, etc. I don’t research anyone before I meet them, and I love the adventure of finding out why they were chosen to be highlighted. 

By taking this approach I have been fortunate to hear some beautiful stories. Without a planned list of “questions to ask”, I have been able to notice little things in the environment. Perhaps it was a 5k sticker, a picture from a parade, a student drawing or a college t-shirt, that opened the door to those moments where I was left encouraged and inspired. I hope I have been able convey to you, how incredible these people are. And how fortunate we are to have them apart of SVVS.

To everyone I had the opportunity to meet and interview this year, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, and allowing me to share your story to the world. In your own unique way you are making a life long impact on each student with in the district.  A special thanks to SVVS Communications Director Matt Wiggins for making initial contact with our Educator Highlights and help in the editing process. Thank you Dr. Don Haddad for identifying the individuals who are truly inspiring in every sense of the word.

Starting later this month we will begin our 2018-2019 Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight Series. We hope you will keep checking back as we travel around the district learning about the exceptional people with in SVVS. We also created a page with our past highlights as well.  Thanks for taking this journey with us, we are excited to see who we meet next! 


Stapp Inspires Community Spotlight-Blue Sky Bridge

When a parent’s worst nightmare becomes a reality, what do you do? Who will help your child and your family? Residents of Boulder County have an advocate in Blue Sky Bridge. We are proud to partner with this child and family advocacy center as they help families answer these tough questions. Blue Sky Bridge focuses on the prevention and intervention of child abuse with four different areas of work: child advocacy, medical treatment, therapy, and education.

Blue Sky Bridge offers a neutral and child focused environment for children who have been abused to tell their story. They coordinate with several different agencies to ensure that children and their families receive comprehensive and professional support that is needed at a critical time.  Part of keeping the environment child-focused is the facility itself. Blue Sky Bridge blends into the neighborhood with it’s home-like appearance. Waiting rooms and interview rooms look more like living rooms with toys, coloring books and crayons. The interview rooms are equipped with audio and video equipment so the appropriate agencies can have copies and the child does not have to keep retelling their story. Blue Sky Bridge is also equipped with a medical examination room so that a child’s needs can be cared for in one place.  When a child and their family enter into the therapy part of their recovery they cross an enclosed walkway to the other side of the house. This helps build familiarity and comfort to aid in healing.


After the interview process is done, Blue Sky Bridge assists in the healing process as well. The therapy program is available to children 3-18 years old who have participated in a forensic interview after a traumatic event. These sessions are between 30-60 minutes in length and go for 12-25 weeks. Sessions are offered at no cost to the family.  They employ Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) – an evidence-based, short-term treatment model for children and youth impacted by trauma. TF-CBT includes parents or caregivers for portions of the therapy. Research shows that TF-CBT successfully resolves a broad array of emotional and behavioral difficulties associated with single, multiple, and complex trauma experiences.


There is one staff member that needs recognition. Meet Marion, a two year old Golden Labrador. Marion knows 40 commands and can help reduce stress and anxiety at Blue Sky Bridge. Her most important quality is the unconditional love she provides everyone she comes in contact with. 




Blue Sky Bridge also has an educational outreach program as well. Every year about 30 volunteers along with a Blue Sky Bridge staff member will go into classrooms and give presentations to third graders on the difference between a safe touch and an unsafe touch, the difference between secrets and surprises, trusted adults, and the “No, Go Tell” plan. The program consists of four 30 minute class presentations that are developmentally and age appropriate. Presenters use puppets and dolls to role play situations that children may encounter and teach practical ways for children to cope in an uncomfortable situation. During the 2017-2018 academic year, the program was in 36 schools and reached roughly 2,000 children. Blue Sky Bridge hopes to bring their message to as many schools, children, parents and teachers in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley School Districts as possible.


We as adults have a responsibility to keep children safe. Blue Sky Bridge has some wonderful resources for parents and caregivers in help facilitating those difficult conversations.  Colorado now has one statewide number to report suspected neglect or abuse. If you see or hear something that concerns you, please call 1.844.CO.4.KIDS (1.844.264.5437) or contact Blue Sky Bridge at 303.444.1388 or visit


Thank you to Blue Sky Bridge and all the staff who are working hard to keep the children in our community safe.


Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – The Other Side of the Mountain

As we close out this school year, we want to wish the graduating class of 2018 congratulations and good luck on your next adventures! This month’s Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight takes a look at the other side of the desk. We want to recognize an ‘Outstanding Graduate’ from the class of 2018. This lead us to Silver Creek High School’s Parker Nicholas.

Parker Nicholas


It goes without saying that Parker is at the top of her class and has excelled during her time at Silver Creek. She has been accepted into Colorado Mesa University and the school’s Ambassador Program. She plans to major in Secondary Education with a focus on English and History. She is excited to explore “the other side of the mountain” and tap into her outdoor self that is deep within her.


Parker has more than a head start on her peers when she continues on her journey to become an educator. Her involvement with Silver Creek’s Leadership Academy – a four-year program where students develop and refine leadership skills – has primed her for success in higher education and beyond. One specific component of the Leadership Academy is a Senior Capstone project.


As a junior, Parker was part of a pilot program called, Instructional Student Assistant (ISA). Juniors and seniors were placed in a classroom to act as a tutor to their peers. Parker found her passion in helping students and decided to extend this program into her capstone project.


I asked her to explain how the program works and how she has developed it over the year. Her eyes began to light up as she started to explain the growth of this program. A junior or senior applies to get into the program. They need two references, one from a teacher who thinks they are “the bomb dot com” and the other from a teacher in the content area the student would like to tutor in. Once the student is accepted into the program, they are placed in a ‘general education’, ‘special education’ or an ‘intervention class’ to serve as a tutor to those students.


The program focuses primarily on freshman because data shows that if a student completes their freshman year on track, the chances of graduating high school with their class were far greater than if they were not on track. Parker put it very simply, “Freshman are the future and we want them to succeed.”


An ISA does more than just tutor students in the classroom. They are also responsible for planning and leading activities in class. Parker actually wrote the curriculum used by ISAs this school year – curriculum she presented to the school board for approval. This program is being rolled out across all St. Vrain high schools next school year. I asked Parker if there were any loose ends she needed to tie up before graduating. Very nonchalantly she said, “I’m in the process of contacting in-state schools explaining what we are doing. I’m hoping one would agree to award students some practicum hours.”


I asked Parker why she was so passionate about her project and what was motivating her to go into teaching. She loves watching others fall in love with learning and experiencing the “I got it” moments that happen with students she tutors. She credits her teacher, Mrs. Justelle Grandsaert, as her biggest inspiration. “Mrs. Grandsaert teaches with such passion, and I want to be the kind of teacher she was for me for someone else.”


Our conversation moved away from her capstone project and back to other activities she was involved with during her high school career. Here she displayed wisdom beyond her years. She played basketball and threw shot and disc for the track team. Basketball was her “serious” sport while track was her “social” sport. I asked her to define the difference. Basketball was her competitive sport – always practicing, finding ways to improve. Track. Well that was her fun sport. It taught her to laugh at herself and enjoy the people around her. She admits she is not the best thrower on the team and is more of the team ‘mom’. She appreciates both sports for what they add to her life. She had the chance to play basketball at the collegiate level but decided to opt out because it would prohibit her from playing intramural sports.


Our time was drawing to an end and I had one last question for her. I wanted to know if she could go back in time, what would she tell herself as a freshman on her first day of high school. She explained because of open enrollment she didn’t know anyone coming into Silver Creek on the first day. She remembers being upset the night before the freshman retreat, worrying that she wouldn’t meet anyone. She said she would tell herself, not to worry about that, you are going to meet some great people. She also said she would tell herself to stop trying to fit in, be who you are. “Don’t try to be better than the next person, but be better than you were yesterday.”


Parker we wish you all the success as you continue your journey to the other side of the mountain. Congratulations from all of us at Stapp Interstate Toyota!


Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight- The Art of Teaching

Welcome back to Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight! This month we are taking a stop at Skyline High School to meet up with art educator, Sara Fadenrecht. Sara has welcomed students into her classroom for the past 17 years. She graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in Graphic Design. After graduation she started her career in the corporate world with the Boys and Girls Club in Laguna Beach, California. She eventually made her way back to Colorado and transitioned to a position at Longs Peak Communications. She knew this wasn’t a good fit for her, and when she received a call from her former high school basketball coach and assistant principal, Sherri Schumann, she jumped at the opportunity to join the school and never looked back. As she says, “Skyline is my home”.

Sara Fadenrecht


Sara’s main goal for any student who comes through her doors is to get them excited about art again. She said that somewhere between elementary school and high school, students lose the excitement of creating and instead fear starts to creep in. She encourages her students to explore mediums that spark their interest.  


I asked her what has been the biggest change she has seen in her classroom over the years. She said the shift to blended learning has been the biggest change and she is excited for it. She herself has been learning how to say “yes” to her students when they ask if they can work on a certain project or in a specific medium. In the past, she might have said “no” because the request of the student was outside the scope of what they were focusing on. Sara said now students are coming in outside of class time and figuring out things on their own. They are more engaged and exploring in ways they haven’t before. They are taking ownership of their projects and coming up with suggestions on what they want to focus on.


Sara stressed that art is a means to express yourself. It is a way to think creatively and problem solve. Art is not about comparison. It is about intent and purpose. And comparison is the killer of creativity. She challenges her students to see their art and design process through that lens. She reminds them that art, like anything else, needs to be practiced. She asks her students, “Did your intent and purpose come through? Were you able to communicate what you wanted? If not, what would you change? If you were successful at answering those questions, then don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.”


One thing that truly stood out to me was her dedication – not only to her students, but herself as well. At a time when high school students have multiple obligations, she serves a quiet reminder, “Put what truly matters first.” Sara stepped away from coaching because she realized it was keeping her from becoming the teacher she wants to be. Sara strives to improve upon her teaching skills. She has attended various art workshops, the National Art Education Conference, and the Colorado Art Education Conference in the past and is getting ready to attend an art workshop in California in a couple of weeks.


For Sara the most rewarding thing about her job is the relationships she develops with her students. To have students come back and visit after they graduated and share memories with her is the best. To her, that signifies that she has made a positive impact on that student’s life, and it was meaningful enough to maintain the relationship.


Sara, we wish you the best as you continue to inspire the students at Skyline High School!