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!

 

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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! 

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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. 

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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 https://blueskybridge.org

 

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!

Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight- A Second Chance

Welcome back to Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight! This month we headed over to Westview Middle School to meet Dan Cribby. Currently, Dan is an eighth grade science teacher. He is in his ninth year at Westview. Before coming to Westview, he taught 14 years at Longs Peak Middle School.

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As we begin our interview, a former student pops in to say hi and catch up. Dan asks if the girl’s basketball season was still going on, and if she was ready for track. After a few minutes she is on her way, and I ask if that was one of his eighth graders from last year. He smiles and says no and then explains that at Westview they employ a Student/Teacher Progression – meaning every three years his team starts out with a new group of sixth graders and they stay together for core classes (science, math, language arts and social studies) until they are finished with eighth grade. Dan explained how he really loved seeing the progression and watching his students grow throughout the years. So, next fall, Dan and his team will welcome a new group of students into their classrooms and journey with those kids throughout their middle school years.

 

With any level of teaching it takes a special person to fill that role. Middle school is no exception, especially with the cliche of being “tumultuous years”. Dan doesn’t see it that way. He sees students more engaged, kinder and gentler than what you might think or expect. He believes, since students have the choice of where to go to school, they are more invested in their education. It’s not something that happened to them. They, along with their parents, make the choice of where to go to school. Dan feels that this helps create a sense of community and helps alleviate some of the anxiety typically associated with middle school.

 

We continue to discuss teaching strategies and how plans are becoming more project-based. Students learn to take an idea through the entire design process. Dan commented that he encourages his students to try something, and if it doesn’t work the first time, stick with it and try again.

 

It struck me at this point. The reason Dan encourages second chances is because of the second chance he received almost nine years ago. To sit down and talk to Dan you get the feeling you are in the presence of someone with a lot more wisdom than you, but with a quiet gentle soul that truly cares about those around him. Nine years ago, he had just started at Westview Middle School, with a group of seventh graders. Around this time of year he contracted strep throat, he didn’t think it was a big deal. He had had it many times before. His doctor said the infection should clear up in about three days, and any medicine at this point would take 12 hours to kick in and only reduce symptoms by 50%. Dan chose to forego treatment and wait it out. In a very rare circumstance, the strep throat entered into his body and became necrotising fasciitis, a flesh eating bacteria. He wasn’t supposed to survive the first night. After being in a medically induced coma for three months, and undergoing at least 15 surgeries to save his life, he was able to come home.

It wasn’t just the medical treatment that saved Dan’s life. He credits the overwhelming,  outpouring of love and support from students, the school and the district as what helped to save him. During his battle, the doctors had to amputate his left arm, collar, shoulder bone and most of his skin to keep the bacteria from spreading even further. After coming out of the coma he had to relearn a great deal. Long walks down to the mailbox were made a little easier that summer with the arrival of letters from his students. Many wrote sending their well wishes and hopes to see him again in the fall.

 

The school and district really rallied behind Dan as well. As you can imagine with an illness that serious, there were medical bills. His friends and family hosted a 5K ‘Fun Run’ called the ‘Happy Smackah’. I asked him where on earth did that name come from and he was happy to explain.

Dan is originally from Maine and this expression refers to someone who is filled with simple joy of life (The French call this “joie de vivre”). He loves people who are “happy smackahs”, and he often refers to his students as happy smackahs. The name was simply a reflection of who this run was going to benefit.

 

The Happy Smackah 5K Fun Run is now an annual event with a different beneficiary each year. The beneficiaries are anyone within St. Vrain Valley Schools – a student or staff member going through a medical hardship. Dan said he is lucky that he is able to help pay it forward.

This year is no different, on May 12, hundreds of individuals will show up to run another ‘Happy Smackah’. All entry fees raised from this year’s race will be donated to Clara Shipp, a 5 year-old in our community facing many medical challenges. We are proud to be apart of this year’s ‘Happy Smackah’ and hope you will join us in supporting this little one and her family.

 

For more information check out http://www.happysmackah.com/the-clara-shipp-story/

 

Dan, thank you for taking the time to share your story and encouraging others to find ways to pay it forward. We wish you all the best!

Stapp Inspires Spotlight- Longmont Symphony Orchestra

Thanks for checking back into our corner of the universe. This month we want to shine the spotlight on another organization that is providing the soundtrack to our area, the Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO). LSO was founded in 1966 and has grown from presenting four concerts a year to presenting a six-concert subscription series, two performances of the 5th Grade Concert, two performances of the Nutcracker Ballet, a Candlelight Concert, a July 4th concert, and a chamber orchestra concert at the Longmont Museum. One of the biggest changes that Symphony has gone through recently is bringing on a new music director, Elliot Moore, after the previous music director retired.

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Photo Credit: Photography Maestro 

I had a chance to sit down with Elliot and learn a little bit more about the man behind the baton and his vision for the symphony. The phrase “music director of a symphony” stirs up stereotypical images of a stiff, formal, serious maestro, with the audience they are performing to an “elite class” that only certain people can access. Elliot in his short time as the music director has shattered that image to pieces. He is far from what you may picture a music director might be. He cares about his community and wants to help make Longmont a better place to live. He is the type of guy you could catch up with after show. Which by the way, after most performances, Elliot along with members of LSO head over to Bin 46 Wine Bar + Restaurant for an “afterglow” party. This is a great chance to interact with members of LSO, other attendees and support a local business at the same time.

I asked Elliot what exactly does a conductor do? We all know they stand up with their backs to the audience and keep time for everyone else. One of his main focuses is to touch and inspire the audience, to encourage his players to give their best and exceed even what they thought they could do. At each performance he wants to create an atmosphere where everyone feels like they are a part of something greater than themselves. A music director needs to be aware of where the community is in terms of its relationship to music, and what he can do to engage everyone and bring them in to go deeper into the music.

“Music is the greatest expression of the human spirit; it can inspire greatness, transform a community, and change lives.” That quote is what guides Elliot in his leadership of the LSO. When planning out this season he was mindful to offer something for everyone. To the patron who has been coming to LSO performances for years to the young family that bravely decides to take their children to the family concert. He also keeps in the back of his mind, what do the musicians need to grow artistically?

This year’s concert series is entitled “New Frontiers,” appropriate for Elliot’s debut season. This series focuses on bringing music to Longmont that hasn’t been represented in recent years. Music from Mozart and Beethoven will fill the Longmont Museum on April 15, while music from Lady Gaga and other pop divas will take center stage at the May 12 concert. Fun fact, this will be Elliot’s first pops concert he has ever conducted.

Elliot was really excited about the world premiere they just performed on February 24. Mountain Myths was written by Longmont resident Michael Udow. The theme of Mountain Myths is to highlight respect of the land and love of nature, which is so near and dear to many of us in Longmont.

In our conversation, it was evident that this transplant from Michigan cared very deeply about his new community. His first day here he joined the Longmont chief of police for a “Belonging Revolution” community outreach walk. He regularly makes himself available to the community to come and learn about what the LSO is doing and answer questions about what to expect in upcoming concerts. We would encourage everyone to take some time and learn more about what the Longmont Symphony Orchestra is doing to make Longmont a wonderful place to live. Check out their website here We wish Elliot and all the members of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra a great season!