Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight – A Quiet Bridge Builder

This month we head out to Silver Creek and into the social studies classroom of Justelle Grandsaert. Justelle is in her 20th year of teaching and she was one of the first teachers who helped open Silver Creek High School 18 years ago. She grew up in California knowing that her calling was to be a teacher. After she graduated with her bachelor’s degree she spent a year teaching the early grades, but upon completing her Master’s Degree she discovered her passion was teaching high schoolers and never looked back.

Justelle .JPG

 

If you are thinking that you may have heard Justelle’s name mentioned in a past highlight, you are correct. Our 2017-2018 ‘Outstanding Student’, Parker Nicholas, said “Mrs. Grandsaert teaches with such passion, and I want to be the kind of teacher she was for me for someone else.” Parker credits Justelle (or Mrs. G as every student calls her) with inspiring her to go into education. Knowing this, I was excited to meet up with Justelle and learn more about what takes place in her classroom.

 

Justelle teaches freshman World Studies – a combination of history and literature. As students study ancient Greece they compliment those studies by reading Homer’s Odyssey. She helps students build bridges between points in time and how those environments influence writing. She wants her students to see history in a different light. It is not about dates and timelines, but rather the stories, the people and experiences that make up our pasts. Justelle encourages her students to look at history through different viewpoints and highlights the dangers of a ‘single story’. She wants her students to understand that some of the greatest heroes in history have flaws. Even if sometimes those flaws are major ones.

She also has a few sections of junior government where she strives to have her students see that it’s more than just three branches, but its alive and relevant to their lives. She provides opportunities for her students to identify a local policy that they would want to change and create a proposal on how to do it and present it to local authorities.

Whether a class is looking at flawed heroes or local policy, they both serve as a starting point to the most important lesson Justelle is teaching her students. Above all Justelle wants her students to know that they have a voice and it matters. She empowers her students to use their voice for good in the world. Justelle’s passion instills a spirit of inquiry that stays with students as they move forward in life.

Justelle has a heart for teaching and her students that is special and palpable. She is the type of teacher that quietly pushes her students to push themselves and go beyond what they thought was possible – without them realizing the journey they are on.

Justelle, thank you for taking the time to meet with us, it was truly an honor. We wish you the best!

 

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!