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.


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!