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Jason Romero is helping scholars at STRIVE Prep – SMART get in touch with their ancestral roots.

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Chicano studies scholars found the same symbol the Aztec people did at the end of their journey – an eagle with a snake in its mouth.

As a part of his year-long curriculum focusing on the history of Chicano Studies, Mr. Romero planned a recent lesson that involved students traveling through the campus and imagining their path as the same one that the Aztec people took when they migrated from their homeland.

The interactive lesson engaged students differently than if they had been listening to a lecture in the classroom. On this unique journey, students were able to explore their surroundings and envision the hallways they walk everyday as if it was the same path that some of their ancestors took thousands of years ago.

“In Chicano Studies, students learn what it means to be a human being through the exploration of indigenous epistemologies and by embracing the traditions of their ancestors,” Mr. Romero explained.

“These experiences allow for students to engage with the process of decolonization, see themselves as producers of knowledge and gain a critical consciousness through their reflections on society and their own lived realities.”

Scholars were excited to come to the final stop on their journey to find the same symbol that the Aztec found at the culmination of their journey – an eagle with a snake in its mouth – symbolizing that this was the location that they should make their home.

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During the past couple weeks, scholars from STRIVE Prep – RISE have spent many class periods suited up in rubber gloves, goggles and aprons, morphing from students in high school to scientists in a lab.

This fun and scientific transformation is all thanks to the creative and hands-on Diversity of Life unit created by 9th Grade Biology teacher, Ms. Cate Dance. Her lesson plans, which included two dissections in the past month, have inspired a joy of learning and enthusiasm for science.

Scholars have been building their understanding of vertebrae anatomy through dissections of bonefish sharks and frogs, and will end their unit with a dissection of fetal pigs later this month.

“We were lucky to have the funding to do this [three dissections] and I was more than willing to lead them,” said Ms. Dance.

Scholars have been both delighted and, some might even say, disgusted by the sight of shark intestines and frog abdomens, but one thing is for sure – every scholar was fully engaged and immersed in the unique discovery that can only come from dissection.

Ms. Dance and Biology Teacher Resident Ms. Kelsey Batz floated around the lab, helping scholars secure their specimen or providing assistance locating an organ, but for the most part stepped back to let the scholars fully explore and thoughtfully examine the anatomy of vertebrae.

The engaging lessons definitely ignited a passion for biology in some scholars.

“I don’t even know what to say, that was so… just thank you,” freshman, Carlos Preto told Ms. Dance and Ms. Batz as he left class after the first dissection day.

There’s sure to be more gratitude and excitement soon as scholars delve into their next dissection next month.

Check out the photo gallery of STRIVE Prep – RISE scholars dissections days:

 

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STRIVE Prep – Southwest Elementary will open as our second elementary campus in the region in fall 2017. For information on enrollment visit: striveprep.org/enroll.

“I have faith in your ability to learn, I care about the quality of your learning, and I commit myself to making sure that you will learn.” – Geneva Gay

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Elizabeth Craig will lead STRIVE Prep – Southwest Elementary as the founding principal next school year.

The frightening reality that plagues Denver education is an urgent crisis we must address. In 2007, there were 1,338 students who started school in public high schools in Southwest Denver. Of that number 399 reported that they had plans to enroll in a college- only 30 percent. This compares to the statewide average of 57 percent.  Trends in completion rates for children in Southwest Denver project that of the 399 who have plans to attend college, only 155 will graduate from college. That is just 12 percent. The education of the children in our community is in crisis.

At STRIVE Prep – Southwest Elementary, we promise that your scholar will be safe and prepared for a 4-year college. I personally commit myself to STRIVE Prep Southwest Elementary as a transformational leader who will raise the bar of expectations for every single student.  I will uphold and embody the qualities of love, lead, achieve, grow and preserve.  I will do for my scholars what I would do for my own children because together these young minds shape our country’s future.  I commit to working side by side families and community members in Southwest Denver to begin the journey of addressing this crisis in education. Every child deserves an excellent school in their neighborhood.

Education is one of the few fields where we have an impact on many lives every day, and this comes with a responsibility I do not take lightly.  The opportunity is one that demands honesty, courageous conversations, dependability, creativity, enthusiasm, and a level of caring for students and the greater community.  I believe that true educational leadership has its essence in the relationships developed between staff, students, parents and the community.  That can happen in the classroom, boardroom, or living room.  It can happen in school or in the larger community.  These relationships throughout the family of a school are the wonderful thing about education, and the reason great schools are truly great institutions.

No one would ever say inspiration is easy, but there are few goals more challenging or satisfying, and as an educator and leader I have the privilege of striving to reach that every day.  We do whatever it takes, we teach until the students learn and because of that commitment, unity and dedication we will help change history and continue to raise the bar for the scholars of Southwest Denver.

At STRIVE Prep – Southwest we believe that our work is part of one of the biggest civil rights movements of our time. Please join me in this movement.

Thank you,

Elizabeth Craig
Principal

“Tengo fe en tu capacidad de aprender, me preocupo por la calidad de tu aprendizaje y me comprometo a asegurarte de que aprenderás”. – Geneva Gay

La aterradora realidad que asola la educación de Denver es una crisis urgente que debemos enfrentar. En 2007, había 1.338 estudiantes que comenzaron la escuela en las escuelas secundarias públicas en el suroeste de Denver. De ese número 399 informaron que tenían planes de matricularse en una universidad, sólo el 30%. Esto se compara con el promedio estatal de 57%. Tendencias en las tasas de terminación de los niños en suroeste de Denver proyectan que de los 399 que tienen planes de asistir a la universidad, sólo 155 se graduarán de la universidad. Eso es sólo el 12%. La educación de los niños en nuestra comunidad está en crisis.

En la escuela primaria STRIVE Prep – Southwest, prometemos que su estudiante estará seguro y estará preparado para una universidad de 4 años. Personalmente, yo me comprometo como un líder transformacional de la primaria STRIVE Prep Southwest que elevará la barra de expectativas para cada estudiante. Yo sostendré y encarnaré las cualidades del amor, del liderazgo, del logro, del crecimiento y de la perseverancia. Haré por mis estudiantes lo que haría por mis propios hijos, porque juntas todas estas jóvenes mentes configuran el futuro de nuestro país. Me comprometo a trabajar lado a lado con las familias y miembros de la comunidad en el suroeste de Denver para comenzar el viaje de enfrentar esta crisis en la educación. Cada niño merece una excelente escuela en su vecindario.

La educación es uno de los pocos campos donde tenemos un impacto en muchas vidas cada día, y esto viene con una responsabilidad que no tomo a la ligera. La oportunidad es una que exige honestidad, conversaciones valientes, fiabilidad, creatividad, entusiasmo y un nivel de cuidado de los estudiantes y la comunidad en general. Creo que el verdadero liderazgo educativo tiene su esencia en las relaciones desarrolladas entre el personal docente, los estudiantes, los padres y la comunidad. Eso puede suceder en el salón de clase, sala de juntas o la sala de su hogar. Puede ocurrir en la escuela o la comunidad entera. Estas relaciones entre toda la familia de una escuela son lo maravilloso de la educación, y la razón de que las grandes escuelas sean realmente grandes instituciones.

Nunca nadie diría que la inspiración es fácil, pero hay pocos objetivos más desafiantes o satisfactorios, y como educador y líder tengo el privilegio de esforzarme por llegar a eso todos los días. Hacemos lo que sea necesario, enseñamos hasta que los estudiantes aprendan y debido a ese compromiso, unidad y dedicación, ayudaremos a cambiar la historia y seguir elevando el listón para los estudiantes del suroeste de Denver.

En STRIVE Prep – Southwest creemos que nuestro trabajo es parte de uno de los mayores movimientos de derechos civiles de nuestro tiempo. Por favor únase a mí en este movimiento.

Gracias,

Elizabeth Craig
Directora de la Escuela

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Since 2006, STRIVE Prep has relied on talented educators to lead our scholars toward the kind of community transformation where every student has access to a free, high-quality, college prep education.

They’ve helped 92 percent of our first graduating class in Southwest Denver with their acceptance to a four-year college.

They’ve sparked a love of reading and writing through inspiring materials to help a Northwest Denver school move from yellow to green on the DPS School Performance Framework.

And, they’ve set an example of success for students in Far Northeast Denver.

As we approach 2017, and admire the educational and community changes that have shaped new opportunities for students in Denver, we know these transformations didn’t just happen.

They were made by choice, or rather a series of choices by educators who want their scholars to thrive.

Mr. Dowden, the Dean of Students at STRIVE Prep – SMART Academy, chose to recognize a student’s strengths, rather than writing him off as uninterested in school, and helped guide him on the path to college.

At STRIVE Prep – Lake, Ms. LePage chose to teach with STRIVE Prep for her tenth year this school year, grading over 12,000 essays and inspiring and teaching more than 1,000 students along the way.

Mr. Williams chose to return to the community that shaped him at STRIVE Prep – Montbello and act as a role model of success for students in the Montbello neighborhood.

These educators, and hundreds of others at STRIVE Prep, are making the choice to teach and transform the lives of thousands of students, while building a fulfilling career for themselves at the same time.

As our network continues to grow in Denver, we need the help of even more outstanding teachers and change-makers to choose a similar path.

Are you, or someone you know, ready to join us on this journey of community transformation

Learn more about career opportunities at STRIVE Prep.

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Eleven years ago, STRIVE Prep’s second class of scholars was nearing the end of their first semester of sixth grade in the network’s first campus off of Federal Blvd. Among these scholars was Billy Morse, who now is nearing the end of his first semester of work as a paraprofessional at STRIVE Prep – Excel.

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Mr. Morse has enjoyed working one on one with scholars in the Affective Needs center at STRIVE Prep – Excel.

Mr. Morse is the first STRIVE Prep alum to be hired for a full-time position on a STRIVE Prep campus, and is excited to be giving back to the community that guided him through middle school. He’s humbled to show his students in the Affective Needs Special Education Center one example of a pathway to success.

“I like being able to tell them [the students] that I went here, and I know a little of what they’re going through because I’m from Denver,” said Mr. Morse. “It’s nice to be able to give them some of that guidance.”

It isn’t difficult for Mr. Morse to keep busy in his spare time as he is also working toward getting his degree in Special Education from Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“I get up early and do some homework before the kids get here, then after school I head over to Metro where I’m taking Trigonometry and Developmental Psychology,” he explained.

He looks forward to completing his degree and hopefully becoming a Special Education teacher, with a focus in Math, at one of STRIVE Prep’s schools so he can continue to be an example of success for his students.

“I remember in high school not knowing a lot of people from my neighborhood who had gone to college and actually graduated,” Mr. Morse added. “It’s nice to show them that it isn’t rare to go to college in their neighborhood.”


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If you’re a working professional or perhaps have a child in school, you have probably heard a little bit about “mindfulness” lately, but what is it and how can it help STRIVE Prep scholars manage their different, and sometimes competing thoughts and emotions? Hear from STRIVE Prep – Lake’s mental health team about how they’re utilizing mindfulness across the network to help scholars succeed.  


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Moving from New York to Colorado to pursue a career change isn’t easy, but when STRIVE Prep – Westwood Math Department Head, Ms. Katie Chambers, discovered a passion for teaching – she set her sights on the mountains and put a plan together to earn her teaching license.

Ms. Chambers first realized she loved teaching when volunteering for a program in New York City that offered free Saturday morning math tutoring and mentoring for middle schoolers.

“I loved spending time with my students and looked forward to working with them every Saturday morning,” she said.

At the time, she was working full-time in Financial Services, and her days were spent traveling to client offices and training investment bankers on how to use the technology and analytics programs that her company provided.

After two years of working in that position and volunteering on the side, Ms. Chambers decided she wanted to move to Colorado and make a difference in the lives of students full-time.

Making the leap from financial services to teaching would require equipping herself with additional skills and knowledge to transform her passion into a positive impact for Denver students.

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Ms. Chambers works with her scholars to blend math and technology.

So, she researched a variety of programs that would help build upon her one-on-one tutoring skills, transfer them into effective classroom management techniques and make it possible to earn her teaching license. She was accepted into Denver Teaching Fellows, a rigorous alternative certification program that trains talented career changers and recent college graduates to be outstanding teachers in high-need schools across the country.

“The hardest part of my career change was creating a resume and cover letter that would convince hiring managers of the connections between my business and leadership skills and the requirements of teaching,” she said.

As a fellow who had shown mastery of critical instructional practices that increased student achievement, she began applying to teaching jobs. At the recommendation of her program manager, she applied to STRIVE Prep, where she’s been teaching 7th grade math for five years. And, as a Math department head, Ms. Chambers helps other teachers create dynamic lesson plans and lead instruction in ways that impact more than just the students in her own classroom.

Today, her afternoons are spent teaching middle school students rather than adults, but she still uses the technology skills from her previous career. As the Ed-Tech specialist for her campus, she’s always looking for ways to incorporate technology into her lessons and help students apply their knowledge in new and unexpected ways.

“I love the challenge of teaching middle-schoolers. I can try to anticipate the way they will solve problems and the questions they will ask, but they still surprise me every day.”

If you or someone you know interested in making a career change that could transform your life and the lives of thousands of Denver students, visit our careers page to learn more about how you can gain the skills and qualifications to become a teacher.

Transformation is a choice. Teach and transform at STRIVE Prep today.

 

honoring-our-changemakers-2016To celebrate the end of our 2015-16 school year, STRIVE Prep recognized the excellent teachers and leaders who go above and beyond to serve their students at our network closing ceremony. We appreciate all of the hard work these individuals have put into creating joyful learning environments and setting the high standards that challenge their scholars, their teams and themselves to be their very best every day.

  • Service Leader of the Year: Christine McDermott | STRIVE Prep – Excel
  • Inspiring Excellence Award: Nathan Pai-Schmitt | STRIVE Prep – Excel
  • Rising Star Award: Amanda Moss | STRIVE Prep – Lake
  • Operations Person of the Year: Jean Lo | STRIVE Prep – Ruby Hill
  • Educational Assistant of the Year: Jim Fitzpatrick | STRIVE Prep – Montbello
  • Leader of the Year: Susan Morris | STRIVE Prep – Lake
  • Central Department of the Year: Technology | Jeff Estes, Nikki Brown, Tina Watson, Keji Amos, Jonathan Fast, Sarah Shorey, Rick Roberts, Cassandra Young, Steve Holtz-Russell
  • STRIVE Prep – Lake Teacher of the Year: Lindsay Miller
  • STRIVE Prep – Excel Teacher of the Year: Cara Hoagland
  • STRIVE Prep – Sunnyside Teacher of the Year: Tyler Bolden
  • STRIVE Prep – Montbello Teacher of the Year: Meg Grable
  • STRIVE Prep – Green Valley Ranch Teacher of the Year: Jessica Bird
  • STRIVE Prep – Ruby Hill Teacher of the Year: Kelsi Robinson
  • STRIVE Prep – SMART Teacher of the Year: Joshua Andert
  • STRIVE Prep – Westwood Teacher of the Year: Katie Mast
  • STRIVE Prep – Federal Teacher of the Year: Wendi Sussman


Teaching for his Community

When Chauncey Williams graduated from Montbello High School, he didn’t think he’d ever come back to the neighborhood. But, this year he found himself walking the hallways of his former high school daily – this time as a paraprofessional at STRIVE Prep – Montbello.

After receiving his degree in Human Development from Metropolitan State University last May, Williams set out to apply for jobs in special education, finding an opening for a position at STRIVE Prep – Lake that sounded like a great fit. What he didn’t know is that an even better and more familiar fit existed in the same building where he once learned as a student himself.

“After I applied for STRIVE Prep – Lake, they called me and told me the position was moving to the Montbello campus,” Williams said.

While his original plans may have shifted from one side of town to another, the perspective Williams has today couldn’t be found anywhere else.

“These are the classrooms I spent four years in, and being in the old classrooms where I had memories with my friends, and seeing the students do things that remind me of what my friends and I used to do is cool.”

But Williams knows being back at the campus brings more than just nostalgia. He’s relating to his students on a deeper level, because they see him as a successful product of their community.

“They feel more comfortable knowing there’s someone from their community and it’s a way of bonding with my students,” he said. “This neighborhood lost it’s identity in 2012 [when the high school closed]. Coming back and helping the community rebuild has been an awesome experience.”

While Williams has enjoyed his experience as a paraprofessional, he looks forward to making the transition to teaching next year as a 6th grade mild to moderate special education teacher at STRIVE Prep – Montbello. Through STRIVE Prep’s partnership with ASPIRE to Teach, he was able to earn his special education teaching credentials while working in a full-time position at STRIVE Prep. The program offers aspiring teachers like Williams, who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, the opportunity to further their training and obtain licensure through a program designed to meet the unique needs of those already working full-time in an education setting. Participants also benefit from the guidance of a personal coach to help individuals meet their goals.

Williams is set to complete the program at the end of May, and as a result, will receive tuition assistance forgiveness as he continues to serve and lead in his community.

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When Chauncey Williams graduated from Montbello High School, he didn’t think he’d ever come CWnewsletterback to the neighborhood. But, this year he found himself walking the hallways of his former high school daily – this time as a paraprofessional at STRIVE Prep – Montbello.

After receiving his degree in Human Development from Metropolitan State University last May, Williams set out to apply for jobs in special education, finding an opening for a position at STRIVE Prep – Lake that sounded like a great fit. What he didn’t know is that an even better and more familiar fit existed in the same building where he once learned as a student himself.

“After I applied for STRIVE Prep – Lake, they called me and told me the position was moving to the Montbello campus,” Williams said.

While his original plans may have shifted from one side of town to another, the perspective Williams has today couldn’t be found anywhere else.

“These are the classrooms I spent four years in, and being in the old classrooms where I had memories with my friends, and seeing the students do things that remind me of what my friends and I used to do is cool.”

But Williams knows being back at the campus brings more than just nostalgia. He’s relating to his students on a deeper level, because they see him as a successful product of their community.

“They feel more comfortable knowing there’s someone from their community and it’s a way of bonding with my students,” he said. “This neighborhood lost it’s identity in 2012 [when the high school closed]. Coming back and helping the community rebuild has been an awesome experience.”

While Williams has enjoyed his experience as a paraprofessional, he looks forward to making the transition to teaching next year as a 6th grade mild to moderate special education teacher at STRIVE Prep – Montbello. Through STRIVE Prep’s partnership with ASPIRE to Teach, he was able to earn his special education teaching credentials while working in a full-time position at STRIVE Prep. The program offers aspiring teachers like Williams, who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, the opportunity to further their training and obtain licensure through a program designed to meet the unique needs of those already working full-time in an education setting. Participants also benefit from the guidance of a personal coach to help individuals meet their goals.

Williams is set to complete the program at the end of May, and as a result, will receive tuition assistance forgiveness as he continues to serve and lead in his community.

Trying-Through-a-Teachers-EyesBurgess LePage came to STRIVE Prep nine years ago as an energetic college graduate ready to help prepare the next generation.  As an English Language Arts teacher, currently at STRIVE Prep – Lake, she’s worked hard to help her scholars build reading and writing skills through inspiring and relevant materials.  Ms. LePage is a teacher who believes in the possibility of each and every student and her impact on the thousands of students she has taught to date is undoubtedly immeasurable. This year, she was honored at the STRIVE for College Annual Breakfast as one of STRIVE Prep’s 10th Anniversary Honorees, which included a teacher, scholar, family, board member, and other contributors and community leaders who have helped STRIVE Prep grow from a single middle school, to a network that now serves 3,200 kids across Denver.

At the breakfast Ms. LePage shared about her journey with STRIVE Prep and a poignant moment that reminded her of the awesome potential of her scholars.

“I’ve taught at STRIVE Prep for nine years now. I came to Denver straight out of college and took a chance to become a teacher at school called West Denver Prep, which at the time was only one grade with around 100 students in a building that was once a morgue and a nursing home.  I came because I trusted the vision of Chris Gibbons and I believed in his capacity to build a team of intelligent, driven, and passionate educators to fill a community need.  I continue to return to STRIVE Prep each year for the same reason.  I’ve now taught more than 1,000 students, graded upwards of 12,000 essays, and have been called “mom” by mistake more times than I’d like to count.

And, I will be honest.  It is not always easy.  In fact, sometimes it’s just hard – plain and simple The reaction I get when I tell people that I teach middle school is so unwavering: “God Bless You” is an all too common response.

Sometimes, though, when I talk to people about our work, they just don’t get it.  So, I’d like to tell you a story about one such moment.

A few years ago, after my second year of teaching, I was at a gathering hosted by my parents in Maine, where I’m from.  At one point in the evening, my dad called me over to introduce me to a couple who lived in Denver, hopeful I could make a new connection.  Soon they were asking me about what I did for work in Denver.

I told them that I was a teacher.  They smiled.  I told them I taught middle school.  They were impressed.

“Where is the school located?” the husband asked me, genuinely curious.

“Federal and Jewell,” I began.  I was about to continue, but stopped when I saw the look on this man’s face– astonishment.

“Wow,” he said to follow up his look.  And then, he asked the question that will forever haunt me.

“Do they even TRY?”

For a split second, I was very, very confused.  All I had said so far were two street names, Federal and Jewell.  So who was the “they” he was talking about?  Certainly not the streets.  Streets can’t TRY.  And then, in a wave of anger, I got it.

He was talking about my students.

This man had lived in Denver for all his life, so he knew well the streets and the neighborhoods.  And from just the mention of this part of town, he judged an entire community of families.  After knowing where the school was located, he wondered if students “like this” would try.

Now, I can’t say out loud all the things that I wish I could have said in response to that question.  Words like “racist” and “ignorant” flew around in my head.  I was so angry that I am positive I was sweating, as I repeated in my mind, “Do they even try?  Do they even try?  Do they even TRY?”

Luckily for the man, for the party, and probably for me, I didn’t have to answer his question.

My mother, who was with me saved me.  She has visited our schools many times and sat in my classroom as students asked thought-provoking questions, led amazingly mature conversations, expressed themselves through poetry and persuasion.

She swooped gently into the conversation, graceful as always saying, “Actually, they are the hardest working students I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

I was proud of my mother…proud that she’d defend me, proud of her extreme grace with this man, and proud that she saw my students for who they truly are.

With the guidance of unwaveringly passionate educators, STRIVE Prep scholars do more than “try” each day.  They shout out to the world — we are here to learn.  Try to stop us!”

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