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!

 

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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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Stapp Inspires Spotlight Organization-TLC- Learning Center

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Organization Spotlight. Throughout the year we partner with and highlight different organizations that are having a positive and inspiring impact on our community. This month we would like to spotlight TLC Learning Center. Formally known as Tiny Tim Learning Center, TLC has been educating children of all abilities since 1956.
 
TLC first opened its doors as a school for children with cerebral palsy in the basement of a local church. Parents of the students came together to found the school. At the time, families traditionally sent children with special needs to live in institutions. This practice began to change in the 1950’s, and TLC was one of the first schools that enabled children with developmental disabilities to live at home. Over the years TLC has undergone a number of different changes, including location, name and scope of services. Today, TLC classrooms provide care and early childhood education for children from eight weeks old to six years old. Every classroom on campus is fully inclusive, with children of diverse abilities learning side by side.
TLC also offers a range of therapies to its students, all on site. Students often receive therapies sessions in the classroom. This allows the students to stay engaged with their classmates and not miss out on what’s going on. Another benefit of therapy on campus is the presence of other sets of trained eyes in the classroom helping to identify any possible delays in other students as well.
 
TLC has high expectations for all children; they are passionate about preparing children for success in kindergarten and beyond. They do this in a unique way; with small classes sizes, low student to teacher ratios, and a diverse and inclusive learning environment.
 
By focusing on the whole child with early academics instruction and social-emotional and character skill building, TLC is helping nurture success in each student who comes through their doors.
 
Over the years TLC has gone through significant changes. The biggest is going from just offering services to children with special needs to expanding into an inclusive learning center for children of all abilities. TLC positively  impacts the youngest members of our community.
 
We hope you will join us as we continue to highlight TLC Learning Center this year. We would like to extend an invitation to join us at the 5th Annual 2019 Kentucky Party on May 4th at the Shupe Homestead!  
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Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight-A vision after the storm

Welcome back! This is Erin, the Digital Marketing Manager for Stapp Interstate Toyota Once again, we are turning the spotlight on an inspiring educator in St. Vrain Valley Schools. This month’s recipient took me to a different place than before. I hope you are as inspired as I was after my most recent visit.

Andrew Moore

September 2013, in this part of Colorado, is synonymous with the devastating floods that hit the St. Vrain Valley area. We all know at least one person affected by the flood. Despite such devastation, we have heard stories; stories of hope, of neighbors coming together to help each other, and communities becoming stronger. The Town of Lyons was one of the worst areas hit, but it’s here at Lyon’s Elementary School where we have found one of the most inspiring and encouraging stories.

In the midst of cleaning up after the flood and trying to find some normalcy in life, the staff at Lyons Elementary wanted to find a way to take advantage of the resources available to them and make a positive impact on their community. From this vision, The Lyons Elementary Outdoor Science and Leadership youth initiative came to life. The desire of the staff at Lyon’s Elementary School is to connect their students to the community around them. They want their students to know that they have the ability to make a positive change in their world. Through leadership classes and authentic science programs, they are well on their way.

Through this initiative, Lyons students are being connected with their local ecosystem while learning grade appropriate science standards. Students are able conduct real life research, such as collecting data on macroinvertebrate biodiversity, or monitoring river health. They are able to present their research and make recommendations to the Town of Lyons Ecology Board.

Lyons takes a feeder based approach to this program, meaning this program extends into Lyons Middle Senior, where high school students, trained in leadership skills and river quality protocols mentor and lead younger students throughout the school year.  However, our time was spent learning about the elementary school program. In addition to the ecology-based science project, each grade has a project in the production garden. Students have different opportunities throughout their time at the elementary school. From composting; to soil production; to gardening; each grade is actively involved in the school’s initiative. Last year alone the school’s garden produced over 300 pounds of fresh produce that was donated to the Lyons Emergency and Assistance Fund Food Bank.

As with any successful project, you don’t need to look far to find a strong leader. At Lyons Elementary, that would be principal Andrew Moore. Andrew is in his sixth year at Lyons Elementary; quick math tells you his first year as principal was the year of the flood. Andrew is quick to recognize his staff and the hard work and dedication they have put into rebuilding the school and getting the Outdoor Science and Leadership program up and running. He is proud of the growth and the vision his school has, but humbly reflects any praise back to his staff.

He credits the program’s success on his staff’s shared commitment to their mission of “Cooperative, Creative, Community Based” learning.  

As I went on a tour with Andrew, I was able to see why the staff was committed and accountable to each other. The principal helps set the tone of any school, and I was able to see firsthand how this was done. First, Andrew seems to know the name of every student in the school. He is always engaging with them, a quick hello as we passed a student in the hall, or asking what a student was working on. We made a stop in the art room and a student came up and asked Andrew’s opinion on a piece of artwork. The student’s eyes lit up with pride with the genuine praise Andrew so freely handed out. Andrew’s concern extends to his staff as well. A staff member returning to school after an extended absence was asked about their first day back.

Andrew talked about teachers setting an example for their students to show up each day with their “best self”. Andrew takes this to heart and leads by example, and this example has helped the school not only recover from the flood, but become a thriving part of the community that is creating leaders for tomorrow.

To all the staff at Lyons Elementary, we know the recovery hasn’t been easy, but you should take pride in all the hard work you have accomplished. We are excited to watch the Outdoor Science and Leadership initiative continue to grow throughout the feeder system.

Andrew, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and to give us a glimpse of how far the school has come. We wish you and your staff the best.

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – A Teacher Without a Classroom

It’s that time of the month where we get to introduce everyone to our Stapp Inspires Spotlight Educator. If this is your first time stopping by, welcome! Each month we highlight a different educator in the St. Vrain Valley School district who is an inspiration to those around them. If you keeping coming back to see who we highlight next, thanks for joining us each month on this incredible journey. Often our journey takes us into the classroom where we meet teachers who make us wish we could be a part of their class. Other times we are taken on a different path and wind up in some unexpected places. This month we headed down a different path, and what a time we had!

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This month we are excited to introduce you to Ben Kalb. Ben is an Instructional Technologist who supports the Frederick Feeder system. This 2017 Apple Distinguished Educator Award winner (seriously you should check out his application video) started his career in Northern Illinois teaching AP Government and U.S. History. After surviving several years in the Illinois winter, the call back home to Colorado was to strong to ignore. He spent a year in the Poudre Valley School District before joining SVVD four years ago.

 

The first question, obviously, was what is an Instructional Technologist? Quite simply Ben teaches teachers. He teaches them how to use and incorporate technology in the classroom. For example, next week a middle school science teacher is having Ben come into their classroom to teach a lesson. During this time Ben will be instructing students how to use different Apple apps to demonstrate their knowledge of the different prehistoric eras they are studying. Ben also leads training once a month for teachers as well. For Ben every day is different. Another way to look at Ben is local tech support. Another part of Ben’s role is to produce a podcast called Vrain Waves. Ben and Co-Host Becky Peters (Program Manager at the Innovation Center) work to bring some of the most influential minds in education today and make that content available to teachers in the district and beyond. This helps create a common experience for everyone in the district.

 

I asked him about his journey to become an Instructional Technologist. This position is emerging in most districts. Ben started talking about his first year of teaching high school, which he admits was a bit of a failure. At Christmas break he wasn’t sure if he would have a job the next year. Before break his principal gave him a book to read that would radically change his outlook on teaching. The book is entitled The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. This helped Ben see the need to refocus his teaching methods, to look at his content through a 21st century lens. This set him on a path to write a grant to the state of Illinois for classroom iPads. He was awarded this grant and started the change in his teaching. He was drawn to the idea of a student using technology to show what they had learned. From there the draw to help teachers and impact more students helped him into seeking out the Instructional Technologist roles.

 

In speaking with Ben it’s clear to see why he has been so successful in his role and why teachers are so eager to learn from him. He has a care and concern for the teachers and principals that he works with. He wants them to be successful and enjoys helping to expand their skill set. By helping teachers he has a wider impact on students in the district. For Ben, the most rewarding thing to hear from a teacher is how they took what they were taught and had success. Ben has a confident humbleness, evident of the journey he has been on. From possibly losing a teaching job, to being named an Apple Distinguished Educator, Ben has the ability to empathize and encourage teachers across the board. I got the feeling if a teacher was struggling with implementing a practice in the classroom, Ben would be walking beside that teacher providing support and encouragement along the way.

 

Ben, thank you for meeting with us. We wish you the best! And if you want to check out Vrain Waves follow them on Twitter @VrainWaves.

 

Stapp Inspires Spotlight: The Inn Between

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Spotlight! Throughout the year we partner with different organizations that are making a positive impact on the community we live in. We are proud to turn a spotlight on these organizations and this time is no different. We would like to highlight The Inn Between of Longmont.

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The Inn Between was founded in 1993 to address the needs of a diverse population of families and individuals experiencing homelessness by providing time limited housing with case management and life skills training to build their capacity to live self-sufficiently.

 

Each year, The Inn Between serves around 250 adults and children within the St. Vrain Valley. Homelessness in one of the most pressing issues facing our community. And it has the potential to touch everyone. From the aging couple that is facing insurmountable medical bills, to a single mom escaping domestic violence, there is a growing need for supportive housing services in our area. The Inn Between seeks to help fill the gap and set residents up with skills they need to attain sustainable housing.

 

The Inn Between recognizes the needs of the elderly in our community. This year they broke ground on the Micah Homes Project. This new permanent supportive housing project will include six homes, a community room, shared laundry and ongoing support services. This will help provide stability to some of our communities most vulnerable.

 

The Inn Between also provides support to students within the St. Vrain Valley School District. The Student Incentive Program aims to help homeless teens finish high school and provides life skills they will need as they move into adulthood.

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The Inn Between’s programs have proven effective, with 92% of last year’s program graduates moving on to a more stable life. While at The Inn Between, residents are required to pay rent based on income, complete different life skill training classes and undergo progress reviews every 6 months to ensure they are on the path to self-sufficiency.

 

We hope you will continue to check back as we highlight the different programs The Inn Between provides to those who are facing homelessness. If you want to learn more or get involved check out https://www.theinnbetween.org

 

Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – Building A Legacy

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight. Each month we highlight a different educator in the district who are making a positive impact on those around them. This month we visit Mollie Kelleher. Mollie is a Computer Science Teacher at Altona Middle School. She is in her fourth year at Altona and has been a part of the district for 17 years.

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Mollie jokes she is a “recovering English teacher” having spent most of her career teaching English at a high school level. As our conversation moved from learning more about her background and what brought her to being a computer science teacher, glimpses of the legacy she is building started to shine. During her tenure as a high school English teacher in Montana, she noticed how many students needed remedial help. Instead of staying still she applied for and won a grant to establish a family literacy program. This program’s intent was to help students early in their academic career and reduce the need for remedial help later on.

Mollie lights up when talking about her current teaching role at Altona. She is having the time of her life at this point in her career. She confidently and gracefully accepts that she is no longer the expert in the room, and she is learning right along with her students. She wants her students not to be afraid of technology, but rather make it their tool. ‘Leading by example’ is her encouragement not only to her students but her co-workers as well.

Her passion for this space is amplified when she talks about her desire to reach and teach more young women and minority students in this field. She actively recruits these students for her coursework and helps them discover a pathway to a future career. Currently, she’s working on a video with these students to encourage even more students to explore these career paths.

Mollie’s passion extends to her co-workers, freely sharing her knowledge and skills. Mollie took me on a little tour of the school, specifically to the maker room. We walked in and students were using a design development tool called Agile Scrum. Students create projects, assign tasks and complete projects. Mollie attended a conference where she became an Agile Scrum Master. She came back and started a professional learning team at Altona and brought this back to her co-workers. As we walked back to the library to finish up our interview, we stopped by another teacher’s room where they had several scrum boards up and running.

As she goes throughout her day she leaves a little bit of inspiration in each room to challenge what is possible, to test limits and be comfortable doing so. Her legacy will be in helping students and co-workers to find their passions and directions.

Mollie, thank you for taking the time to meet with us, and we wish you all the best!