Stapp Inspires  Educator Spotlight – A Time of Reflection

Hello! Welcome to our little corner of the world. We are so thankful you have taken a moment to stop by. We do want to thank everyone who has supported and encouraged us these last few weeks. We have all had concerns about the COVID-19 virus and how it affects our lives. We appreciate your patience as we navigate this together. We hope today’s blog will provide a little encouragement today. Now more than ever, we are so excited to share our newest Educator in our Stapp Inspires Educator Stoplight Series. We had the opportunity at the beginning of last month to meet with Jennifer White. Jennifer is a first grade teacher at Lyons Elementary. She is in the middle of her 12th year at Lyons, but has over 20 years of teaching experience in a variety of settings. 

Jennifer White


Jennifer freely admits she “fell into teaching” by chance. When she was living in San Francisco there was a substitute teacher shortage. She applied and had a principal encourage her to develop her skill as a teacher. The rest, as they say, is history. Jennifer has a calm presence that is the perfect fit when working with first graders. She loves first grade because of the growth she gets to see each year in her students. She thoroughly enjoys her families, staff and community support at Lyons Elementary School. 


Jennifer was at Lyons during the Flood of 2013. Lyons Elementary was shut down for months while the town regrouped and recovered. She spoke of how the entire St. Vrain community rallied around the Lyons schools providing support, oftentimes without being asked. She spoke of her concern for her students during this time and how they were doing. This is who Jennifer is, those students are like her own kids. This care and concern does not end when students leave her classroom. She talked about how she still runs into her former students even when they are in high school and wants to know what is happening in their lives. We have no doubt that this trait will help guide her current students through these challenging times. 


Jennifer, we thank you for taking the time to meet with us. And to our readers, thank you for supporting us. We are honored to be a part of this great community, and we will get through this together!


Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – Soaring to New Heights

Welcome back! We have to admit after taking last month off for Winter Break, we were anxious to go meet our next Stapp Inspires Educator. We would like to honor Chris Schmitz, Middle School Computer Technology Teacher at Soaring Heights PK-8, as our February 2020 Stapp Inspires Educator! If this is your first time visiting us, welcome! Each month we take the time to highlight an educator in St. Vrain Valley Schools who inspires others. We are right in the middle of our third year of highlights, and we always leave each meeting inspired by our recipients. This month is no different.

Chris Schmitz

We had the opportunity to visit Chris and learn a little more about this incredible educator. Chris has been in education for the last five years. He started his teaching career at Red Hawk Elementary before coming over to Soaring Heights when it opened. Chris spent many years in the mobile tech arena, before a need at his children’s school brought about the opportunity to go back for his teaching certificate. 


His excitement for this field and the opportunity to encourage his students to explore this space is evident. Chris sees himself as a guide to his students, not someone who has all the answers. He will admit he does not have all the answers, and allows his students to work on projects that spark their interest. He wants his students to try out their ideas, make mistakes, and then learn from those mistakes. Chris believes this allows his students to be resilient and persistent, which will lead to creative problem solvers. He will lead students through their thought process in order for students to process their project plan and the success or failure of that plan.


This skill is a valuable asset as his students approach high school. Chris is inspired by his students when they have an idea. He strives to have his students own their own body of work and become creators – not just consumers of technology.


Chris believes that if he can instill the flexibility of the mind – critical thinking, and problem solving skills – his students will continue to find success long after they leave his classroom. He wants his students to find success in whatever path they carve out for themselves. His positive influence on his students’ lives will be with them long after their days in middle school are over. 


Chris we want to thank you for taking the time to meet with us. We learned a lot and left inspired. We wish you the best this upcoming year. We hope you will join us next month as we highlight another Inspiring Educator!


Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – A Teacher For The Generations

Welcome back, thanks for checking out our little corner of the world. Every month we highlight an educator in St. Vrain Valley Schools. One who is making a positive impact on those around them. We have been on this journey for two and a half years now, and it has been a privilege to bring their stories to you. This month we are excited to highlight José Quezoda, World Language Teacher at Skyline High School. 

Jose Quezada


José has been teaching within St. Vrain Valley Schools for 24 years – the last 13 years at Skyline High School. His classes include Spanish and AP Spanish. He might be a high school teacher right now, but that hasn’t always been the case. At certain times in his career he could be found in a kindergarten classroom or in a middle school math class. You don’t often find a teacher and think, “Yes, I can see you teaching and having a positive impact no matter what level you are teaching.” 


In talking with José you quickly discover how one person could be a great teacher no matter what classroom they are in. José puts an emphasis on building and maintaining relationships with his students and their families. He spoke passionately about the joy he gets from being with his students, helping them embrace multiple cultures. He spoke of a time when he taught English as a second language through Adult Education classes. Teaching students and their parents at the same time. He laughed as he said, “I had parents tell their kids, you better do well because Mr. Quezoda is a great teacher.”


We asked José what took him from the elementary level to the high school level. His answer was simple, yet powerful. “As a young teacher, I started in secondary grades, but quickly realized I needed to develop my skills as an educator. Moving to elementary grades allowed me to do that and gain confidence. I began to see a need in my community for a Hispanic male role model in the schools. That is when I decided to pursue a teaching position within a high school.” 


He saw students struggling to engage with their learning and knew that he had the power to make a difference in his community. He sees the potential in his students and pushes them to excel. This relationship doesn’t end once a student graduates – most of his students are in his class for three years. Students actively seek José out to update him on their lives. More than once he has had a former student tell him he couldn’t retire until their child had been in his class. 


José, thank you for taking the time to meet with us. It was an honor to meet you and we wish you every success in the future. To our readers, thank you for joining us every month. We hope you will come back next month. 


Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – A Lifelong Learner

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight Series. Each month we highlight a different educator, administrator, support staff, or student who is inspiring those around them. This month we are so excited to highlight Kathy Digsby, a first grade teacher at Centennial Elementary. 

Kathy Digsby

When we visited the weather was a bit snowy and cold, but we were immediately greeted with warmth the moment we stepped into Kathy’s classroom. Kathy has been at Centennial Elementary for four years, having spent another 16 years teaching at the elementary level at another school district. Kathy always had the desire to teach in the community she lives in, so when the opportunity opened at Centennial, she jumped at the chance. 


Kathy has a gentle and understanding personality that helps foster a learning community in her classroom. She is fascinated by her students and the leaps they make in their learning. Kathy believes that young students have an innate yearning to learn and at this stage are little sponges that soak up everything. This foundation permeates throughout her classroom. She was intentional in how she set up her classroom. She wanted to create a warm and welcoming environment where students feel comfortable taking risks as they learn. Kathy wants to empower her students to take control of their learning and create a community where students lean on each other for support. 


Students are encouraged to work where they feel comfortable. If they have a question they are encouraged to ask three classmates for help before asking ‘Mrs. D’ for assistance. Kathy said that this helps cut down on interruptions while she is teaching a smaller group, but also empowers students to take control of their own lessons. She believes classwork should be more authentic and relatable for students to succeed.


We asked Kathy what was her motivation, what kept her going. She said, “If you don’t continue to learn, you stop growing as a person. You grow when you are exposed to different thinking.” It is worth noting that Kathy went back to college later in life to compete her teaching degree. Since then, she has continued to expand her learning, which she brings back to the classroom. 


She enjoys collaborating with her younger colleagues, adding that they help her think outside of the box. Although, if we had to guess, her colleagues are just as encouraged by Kathy’s insight and knowledge. She also enjoys collaborating with her daughter, who teaches 2nd grade.


Kathy, thank you for inviting us into your classroom. It was a joy to meet you. We wish you a wonderful school year! We hope you will join us next time as we continue highlighting the incredible people who make St. Vrain Valley Schools great!


Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – The Magician

Hello again! Thank you for spending time with us as we highlight our October Stapp Inspires Educator. If this is your first time visiting us, welcome we are so glad you found our little corner of the blogosphere. Every month we highlight an educator within St. Vrain Valley Schools who is inspiring those around them. This month is no different, we would like to introduce you to Jason Kelsall, Instructional Technology Coach for the Niwot Feeder System. 


Jason is in his fourth year in this district and his tenth in education. He started out in another local school district as an elementary Visual Arts and Technology teacher. In this role, he started to explore how to bridge the gap between art and technology students coming to ‘Mr. K’s’. He was able to see how technology could amplify what is going on inside the classroom. This early career challenge has helped fuel his drive and passion today. 


Jason was drawn to education with a desire to have the most impact on the world around him. He wakes up each day with a desire to make the world a better place and by supporting students and teachers to be their best, he believes he is meeting his goal. Jason strives to help students and teachers achieve that “magic moment” – where students go from being consumers of content to creators of content. Teachers are empowered to take the skills they have learned and use them in their classroom to further enhance their student’s learning. 


Jason is at his best when he is in the classroom working side by side with students and teachers. The privilege and ability to help integrate technology into learning drives Jason to explore new and different ways to push boundaries of what is possible in the classroom. While Jason no longer has a classroom he calls his own, he feels he has one big classroom at each of the schools he supports. He is on a first name basis with many of the students in the Niwot feeder, and he is encouraged and inspired when his students come up and ask when he gets to come to their classroom again. 


While Jason does focus on helping students use technology in their learning, he also has a passion to equip teachers to do the same. Jason helps run and maintain Schoology, a platform utilized by the district to deliver content to students and teachers. Jason is also dedicated to the teachers he works with.  He helps creates professional development classes for his peers in the district, so they can be confident in implementing new and different technologies in their own classrooms. He gets just as much satisfaction watching teachers have their “magic moment” as the students he works with. Jason truly looks for ways to help elevate and encourage those around him in everything he does. 


Jason, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and we are inspired by your thought and dedication to your students and staff. We wish you a wonderful school year. We hope everyone will come back next month as we highlight another educator in the district who is inspiring others to do their best!


Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – Strength In Numbers

Today is our favorite day around here. Every month we have the opportunity to introduce you to another inspiring educator in St. Vrain Valley Schools. This is our third year of traveling around the district getting to know the people around us who are inspiring the next generation. If this is your first time visiting us, thanks for stopping by. We hope that you will continue to join us and the rest of our community as we highlight a different educator each month. 



We are so excited to introduce you to Mead Middle School Math and Special Education Teacher, Amanda White. Amanda has been teaching at Mead Middle School since 2011 and taught at the high school level for four years before moving to Colorado. 

Amanda has a warm and welcoming personality and this is reflected in her classroom. She understands her students’ struggles when they enter into her classroom. Often these students have given in to “labels” that have been assigned to them at some point in time in their life.  Middle chool can be a challenging time in a student’s life. They are learning who they are, what they want to be. To be different or to stand out from everyone else can be discouraging. Amanda creates a safe place for these students.

Amanda is inspired by the relationships she is able to build with her students. By building a relationship built on trust, she is able to push her students to the point of frustration. But she doesn’t leave them at that point. She comes alongside her students, helping them walk through that point and peel back the layers. When her students make that breakthrough, that “lightbulb” moment, she sees their confidence grow. Not only are they able to learn content, they are given the opportunity to become leaders, to advocate for themselves. Amanda allows her students to teach their peers, because the best way to learn something is to be able to teach that content to someone else. 

Amanda wants to help her students flip how they see themselves. That they are able to thrive, advocate for themselves and be leaders in the school. She wants her students to celebrate their mistakes, ‘fail forward’, as she calls it.

She has walked in their shoes. She had two teachers one in middle school and one in high school, who encouraged her to change her thoughts about herself and what she was capable of doing. Amanda was shown how to play off her strengths and be successful. If Amanda can change one student’s path, her journey was worth it. 

We asked Amanda what she would tell her eighth graders on the last day before moving on to high school. “First and foremost, if you are present and trying you are 90 percent of the way there. Our relationship isn’t ending, it’s just changing.” 

Amanda, thank you for all that you do for your students. We are certain you have changed more than one student’s path! 


Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – Diffusion of Innovation 

Summer might be in full swing, but that doesn’t mean we are on vacation from our Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight Series! This month we are so excited to introduce everyone to Kristen Brohm. Kristen is the Innovation Center’s (IC) STEM Project Manager, and she focuses on students from preschool to fifth grade. Kristen has been an educator in the district for 12 years, having first taught kindergarten and first grade before taking on the role of STEM Coordinator for Northridge and Alpine Elementary Schools. We had the chance to meet with Kristen and quickly discovered what a dynamic person she is. 


Kristen has charisma that naturally draws people to her and puts them at ease. She has an energy and excitement that is contagious when she speaks about bringing STEM to the youngest students in the district. This drive comes from her belief that each student has the potential to change their world. Every child has ideas that are relevant to their world and their ideas matter. Kristen looks for ways to encourage students to make that connection to their world and how they can impact it. 


Bringing younger students to the Innovation Center is a relatively new practice. This was the first year to incorporate a third grade field trip to the IC. In connection with the Longmont Museum, a Past, Present, and Future field trip was planned out. Students learned about the history and geography of Longmont and then traveled to the Innovation Center to complete their field trip. At the IC they learned about a current problem facing the city and came up with ideas on how to solve it. Back in the classroom students would then write a paragraph on the solutions they came up with. These were then forwarded to different members of the community for consideration. This experience is two fold. One, students are able to make a connection to their community and help take ownership. The second is to expose students at a young age to the Innovation Center, so as they grow they are able to take full advantage of what programs are available to them. 


Another aspect of Kristen’s job, especially with elementary teachers, is to help them understand and implement different aspects of a STEM program into their classrooms. Kristen and her team also lead professional development teams to help implement the STEM standards the district has. Kristen noted that unlike in middle or high school, where there are specialized tracks and classes, students stay together in the same classroom. So how do you bring computer science, down to an elementary level? By encouraging teachers to change a little bit of their vocabulary throughout the day. By giving a name to what is always being taught, patterns at calendar time, teachers are able to expose and highlight different aspects of STEM. Students do not have the fear or the “I can’t do it, it’s too hard” mentality when they get to specialized classes. They have been learning for years, offline and can transfer those skills online. 


Kristen has several other projects that she is currently working on, The Teacher’s Guild, developing assessment metrics, and defining what field trips to the IC look like are just a few she mentioned. What stood out was her passion to tackle all of these and more. Kristen is the type of person that you walk away feeling encouraged and inspired to improve. She believes that everyone can grow from failure. You get the sense you could come to her with a struggle or failure and she would be understanding, supportive and your biggest cheerleader. Kristen has a certain grace and humbleness about her. She spoke of how she loves to create something, get it up and running, and pass it own to let another make it their own and repeat the cycle. 


Kristen, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with us. It was an honor to see your dedication and passion for what you do. We wish you the best upcoming school year!