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!

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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.

Elliot Moore - Credit Photography Maestro-01

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!