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 Teacher Highlight- An Agent of Change

Welcome back to Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight! This month we are proud to introduce you to Alex Armstrong, International Baccalaureate Coordinator for Sunset Middle School.

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Alex has been a part of St. Vrain Valley Schools for the last 17 years. She started at Prairie Ridge Elementary School and has been at Sunset Middle School for the last 13 years. We decided that a coffee house would be a fantastic place to meet and talk about Alex’s role as the school’s IB Coordinator.

I had heard of the International Baccalaureate (or IB) program before, but didn’t know much else about it. It is a rigorous academic program that focuses on preparing students to be agents of change. Helping students see themselves in this light begins with the Primary Years Programme (PYP). Each of the subsequent programs build on the foundation that students need to be both active and serving in the community. In the PYP, students have the opportunity to present a capstone project. The Middle Years Programme continues on that foundation with Community Projects as well as preparing students for high school. When a student enters the Diploma Programme in high school, the idea of being  strong, active global citizens is firmly established. The Diploma Programme also requires students to submit an Extended Essay project. This helps ensure that students who graduate from the Diploma Programme are college ready. St. Vrain Valley Schools is fortunate to be able to offer the IB program between kindergarten and twelfth grade. Alpine and Central Elementary are the IB elementary schools in the district with Sunset Middle School and Niwot High School rounding out the program.

Part of the IB program is to develop the 10 attributes of the Learner profile. This is applied to every student in an IB program, no matter where they may be going to school. Alex explains that every subject is balanced and interconnected and the projects are supported by the academics. This allows students to see how what they are learning in math, science or language arts is connected to each other and to the real world. By taking this approach students are given the opportunity to see how they can make real-world impacts on their community.

This is what drives Alex, to encourage her students and team of teachers (she still teaches part time in addition to being the IB coordinator) to figure out how they can make a positive impact on the world around them. She told me that the coolest part of her job was watching her student’s growth and the gains in confidence. She loves talking to her students about what their plans are and how they are going to execute them. She is the calm, quiet cheerleader in the back inspiring her students to push themselves beyond what they thought that they could do.

She is dedicated to the teachers who are journeying along side her. She helps coach her fellow teachers in what the IB program is, how to write unit plans that make the lessons relevant to the students, and what they are learning in other classes. Alex never hesitates to praise her co-workers saying, “They are the most incredible group of teachers. Everything they do is for the students. We come up with really innovative ideas on how to make learning relevant to the students.”  Alex is trying to get her students more tied into the community and make the classroom more real for her students. She wants her students to leave knowing how to inquire about the world around them.

I had one question for Alex I had meant to ask in the beginning. I knew in high school being a part of IB was an option. I asked if that was the case for middle school as well. She said that in middle and elementary schools it was “wall-to-wall”, meaning everyone was a part of the IB program if they attended the school. As with any school in the district, they accommodate all students. Alex spoke of a student with an IEP who was shy and quiet. During this student’s eighth grade research night, they were able to share, and answer questions about their project proudly and confidently. Alex said watching this student’s growth was an encouragement to the entire staff. She hoped that she had been able to make a positive impact on this student and that they continued to push themselves when they went to high school.

As our time wrapped up, I asked Alex a question. If she could tell her eighth grade students one last thing before they went to high school, what would it be. She laughed and said I should have sent that question over before we met. She reflects on the question and answers, “You each can change the world.”

Alex, thank you so much for all the effort you are pouring into each student who enters Sunset Middle School. Thank you for encouraging your students that they can change the world at a young age, they don’t need to wait until they are grown. We wish you the best!