Bay Area Educators Learn About Legacy During Eagle Rock Visit

Editor’s Note: Today’s post details a visit to Eagle Rock School by Nora Houseman, former principal of San Francisco Community School (SFC), and Jessica Fishman, a literary specialist at the school. SFC is a Small School by Design (SSD), meaning the school community selects its leader and the school district cannot under policy remove that person unless the leader is ineffective.

By Jessica Fishman, Literacy Specialist — San Francisco Community School

When Nora Houseman shared our intention to start a lab school and professional development center in San Francisco, a former Eagle Rock employee suggested we bring our vision to Michael Soguero and Dan Condon at Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center.

For years, Nora had heard wonderful stories about Eagle Rock, so we arrived with high expectations, eager to see the school and learn from Michael and Dan.

Aside from the stunning beauty of Estes Park and the campus, the first thing we noticed was a poster that read, “What’s Your Legacy?” That query highlights the Eagle Rock tradition of culminating student legacy projects. The second thing we spotted was a comfy communal meeting area full of colorful throw pillows and handpainted signs signaling various student-led clubs and activities.

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Everything at Eagle Rock — from the physical spaces to the carefully worded curriculum and the two- to four-student advisories — is intentionally designed to support the school’s mission of engagement and community.

Everyone is encouraged to pitch in and play a role, and that includes visitors. We had the opportunity to participate in a rousing game of Continue reading…

Eagle Rock School Summer Break Means Saying Goodbye and Hello

To date, it’s been an incredibly busy month here at Eagle Rock, what with the graduation of five Eagle Rock School students on Aug. 5, our end of the trimester staff meeting on Aug. 9, bidding farewell to nine of our Public Allies fellows on Aug. 12, and then shortly thereafter saying goodbye to four of our staffers.

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So a break in the schedule is well deserved and welcome. However, while students and some of the staff will be taking some time off, our Professional Development Center (PDC) staff remains on the job, working in California, the Ohio Valley, and Boulder. Look for the PDC’s latest update here on the blog soon.

Meanwhile, here’s the game plan beginning early next month: Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Shines at Coalition of Essential Schools’ Fall Forum

Eagle Rock staff and students returned from Portland, Maine, last week, savoring the time they spent working with educators from around the country during this year’s Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) Fall Forum.

This was the 31st such fall conference and Kim Carter, executive director of the QED Foundation kicked things off with her reflections on how the Coalition of Essential Schools came about, reiterating the core ideas put forth in 1984 by CES founder Ted Seizer.

Afterward, Michael Soguero, Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center (PDC) director, said he loved Carter’s keynote that outlined the history and connections of CES over the decades. He said he was most impressed with how Seizer’s ideas presented way back in the 1980s are today entrenched in school practices. As examples, he cited advisories, demonstrations of mastery (such as Eagle Rock’s own Presentations Of Learning), interdisciplinary courses and more.

As in past forums, Eagle Rock played an active role this time around, with staff and students presenting three sessions at the conference that attracted more than Continue reading…

Meet The Team: Eagle Rock Professional Development Associate Anastacia Galloway

As a professional development associate, Anastacia Galloway does a lot more than just coordinate POLs (presentations of learning), recruit panelists and create schedules. In fact, most of her time is spent working with schools and organizations across the country to reengage youth in their own education.

Anastacia says it’s re-imagining what public education can look like in this country.

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In just the past year, Anastacia has worked in Vermont on everything from service thesis projects to proficiency-based graduation requirements. She has facilitated protocols with visiting groups on projects or dilemmas they are experiencing in their schools and facilitated workshops for our licensure candidates.

In addition, this fireball has supported Eagle Rock’s curriculum department by helping to implement student-centered coaching. And last year, she was a core member of our Professional Development Critical Friends group as well as director of the student-led Adult Mentor & Peer Mentor program.

Get to know Anastacia Galloway:

Eagle Rock: It sounds like you have a full plate, but are there other duties you perform at Eagle Rock?

Anastacia: Besides my work as the Professional Development Center (PDC) associate, I’m the house parent for Pinon house. In every sense of the word, house parents are parents — I am my students’ biggest fan and strongest supporter, and I will push them to the edges of their comfort zones. And that means when it comes to keeping their areas clean or becoming leaders in the house or throughout the Eagle Rock community. Four nights a week and one morning, I open my home to them where we cook, make coffee, hang out, and otherwise spend time together.

Eagle Rock: What did you do prior to coming to work for Eagle Rock?

Anastacia: Let’s see, prior to coming to Eagle Rock I had just imploded my life plan. In the fall of 2010, I was in law school with ambitions to become an advocate at The Hague International Court of Justice defending sex trafficking victims, persecuting traffickers and being part of war crime tribunals.

Although I excelled, I regularly pulled all nighters, and I found my personal relationships suffered, and the debt I was accruing was unreal. Reflecting on my motivation, I realized that I didn’t need to become an international attorney to be able to use my talents to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Prior to going to law school, I spent 50 hours a week in a windowless office building as a logistics coordinator and purchasing specialist for a building supply company the size of Coca-Cola called Ferguson Enterprises.

After graduating in 2008 from West Virginia University with degrees in business and world language, I moved to Villahermosa in Mexico where I interned for a marketing and advertising company, Signo Communicaciones.

Eagle Rock: What attracted you to Eagle Rock?

Anastacia: Since I had just imploded my life plan, I moved to Estes Park with my partner, Kevin, with no idea what my next step would be. In January 2010 I applied for the registrar position at Eagle Rock, thinking, “Other than direct experience with high schoolers, I have the skills and experience to be the registrar.”

When I did my full-day interview, I fell in love with the Continue reading…

Reflections on the Past Academic Year — A River Runs Through It

Imagine peering over the edge of a cliff and staring down on millions of gallons of raging water the color of chocolate milk and knowing you’re going to be in the midst of that turmoil in just a few moments. Thirty years of white water paddling experience suddenly feels inconsequential.

Lava Falls is the largest rapid on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. Sure, there are a couple safe routes, but finding them is certainly not easy. It demands a team effort and even then there are no guarantees. Even though you might pick what appears to be a solid route from shore, there’s much to be done once you enter the chaos.

A few years back — in 2009 — I found myself in just such a spot. Many questions ran through my head. Will the route I choose work? Will I have the skills to adjust to changing circumstances? Will I have the presence of mind to stay calm when a misplaced oar stroke could flip my raft — or worse?  Is risking my life a good idea?

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I remember looking at my 18-year old son Max sitting at the front of my raft. What would I say to his mom if things went wrong? I can’t explain the attraction to living life on the edge, but I know I’m drawn to that activity like a moth to flame. It’s a life where the course is unclear, where a lifetime of experience is called into question, where I must rely on others for safe passage. It’s a life where the spoils of defeat are not inconsequential, and where the victories are addicting. I always want more.

On Sept. 3, 2012 — the day I stepped into the role of Eagle Rock’s head of school — I remember experiencing the same feelings I did back at Lava Falls three years before. Truth is, just as I can’t run a river by myself, I require plenty of expert help to run a complex and meaningful organization like Eagle Rock.

Reflecting back on this past year, the biggest lesson I think I’ve learned is the vital importance of teamwork. I’ve worked here for 13 years and I understand the “path of the river” well. But it’s one thing to stand on the shore and talk about the right path, and quite another to be “at the oars” in the current.

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I have a great executive team in the form of Philbert Smith, Michael Soguero, Susan Luna, and Jen Frickey, as well as an amazingly dedicated and talented staff that keep this ship afloat and  on course. Our aspiration this past academic year was to “become more responsive to student needs, both locally and nationally.” We charted our course for the year by creating four overarching objectives to focus our work, which I shared in an earlier blog post, and in a moment I’ll share the results of that work.

But first, I want to acknowledge that we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount of work on campus and around the country that has been covered in previous posts and isn’t captured in our focused objectives. In addition to doing the “work” of Eagle Rock, we’ve also experienced the passing of two very dear on-campus members of the Eagle Rock community — Mary Strate and Rick Gaukel — and one graduate, Casey Whirl. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to Mary, Rick, and Casey’s families. You will always be remembered.

I won’t drag you through volumes of reflections from my year, but I do want to report out on how we’ve done with our four big objectives. Here’s a quick look at the highlights:

Objective No. 1: The Professional Development Center (PDC) /School relationship at Eagle Rock is inextricably interdependent.

  • Students are traveling with PDC staff externally and being used more intently on campus. In addition our staff has become more involved on campus and around the country, either traveling to work with networks of schools around the country or working much more intensively with schools visiting our campus. We’re connecting visiting educators in much more intentional ways to the experience of visiting Eagle Rock and we’re sharing more of our experience nationally.
  • Our two key PDC staffers, Michael Soguero and Dan Condon, have worked tirelessly this year to increase our professional development reach and have nearly maxed out their ability to work with other networks of schools. This capacity limitation was recognized by our board of directors and resulted in additional resources to add a new PDC position and some early brainstorming to increase our virtual support to schools via increasing Internet resources.
  • Our primary strategy — or “hedgehog” as Michael fondly calls it — is helping other progressive schools get better within their own context instead of exporting practices. This year we’ve found a hybrid where we integrate the goals of the organization with the knowledge and expertise we’ve gleaned from our own school experience. For example, if a school wants to implement proficiency-based graduation requirements, improve their internship program, or design curriculum to support teaching for understanding, we not only do an asset-based assessment in their context and help them carve out an agenda based on their desires, we also bring expertise in those particular areas of reform to the table. As a result, we’re able to listen attentively to specific needs of the networks in which we work, facilitate change process for them AND bring our own expertise from working on similar initiatives in our own school. We believe professional development should be forged in real schools with real students and this year we’ve made some good progress connecting the efforts of our school with the PDC and visa versa.