Orbiting The Rock: The Eagle Rock Alumni Association Takes Flight

The quaking aspen leaves basked on the Eagle Rock esplanade, maximizing their sunlight intake as they reveled in the longest day of the year. Shortly after the summer solstice sun set on that June 21 day, the Eagle Rock campus was drenched by a “supermoon.” That’s when a full moon reaches its closest point to the Earth each year.

These big and beautiful celestial events were befitting for a gathering of 10 Eagle Rock School alumni — tasked with initiating a process to connect and maintain the orbits of every Eagle Rocker arriving through the gate over the past two decades.

When people live and work in the Eagle Rock community, tight bonds are formed, and many of these close associations continue well after walking out that same gate to the next stages of their lives. Head of School Jeff Liddle believes a family that has been growing for 20 years needs some extra help in order to remain close—keeping our orbit around the Rock. Liddle and five of Eagle Rock’s Public Allies fellows formed an alumni engagement focus group intent on bringing former students, staff, and fellows for a weekend together to formulate plans to build our alumni network.

The weekend was highlighted by eating delicious meals in the Lodge (the vegan sausage and peppers were my favorite), watching an impressive production of the play In the Blood, and playing a rousing game of soccer with a Shaman versus Bonepipe mash-up. My lungs struggled to keep up with the high-altitude dwellers. The crux of the weekend was the time we spent discussing and planning ways to engage Eagle Rock School alumni.

Friday evening we listened to a group of Continue reading…

One Clear Focus: Determining Dilemmas & Moving Toward Solutions

Editor’s Note: We recently asked Gregory Hessee, director of Initiatives at the Colorado Legacy Foundation (CLF), to share a little bit about his organization’s experience with utilizing the services of our Professional Development Center. If you’re unfamiliar with CLF, it’s an independent nonprofit working in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education and public education stakeholders to accelerate bold improvements in student achievement. More information about CLF and the Colorado Legacy Schools Initiative, which is the area Gregory heads, can be found at the end of today’s post.

As Director of Initiatives at the Colorado Legacy Foundation, I have the unique honor of facilitating a team of three brilliant content specialists (one each in math, science, and English) as they work with Advanced Placement (AP) teachers throughout the state who are differentiating AP coursework to diverse groups of students. My background as an urban school AP teacher/researcher and instructional coach provides me with the tools necessary to advise these specialists in ways to effectively engage all teachers in embedded professional development that truly supports their work.

However, much like most coaches, my experiences involved supporting the faculty of a single school, where specialists are striving to serve as a resource, guide, and coach for teachers at 23 schools located throughout the entire state of Colorado (a state that has more than a few geographic barriers). In order to successfully complete the monumental task of embedding individualized professional development into the daily lives of more than 200 teachers across 23 campuses, I knew we would need to find an organization capable of providing unique guidance for an uncommon problem.

Initially I contacted my colleagues in the contractual coaching world —many of them highly respected published authors of professional development texts. Unfortunately, these opportunities were cost-prohibitive to a grant-funded nonprofit such as the Colorado Legacy Foundation. Additionally, the specific issues faced by our team were not ones that Continue reading…

Perspectives On The Professional Development Center At Eagle Rock

As the staff at Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center know all too well, teachers often feel frustrated by the obstacles they face in building sustainable and effective educational relationships with their students. More frequent testing, district policies, or tight financial circumstances can all work against a committed teacher’s desire to put his or her students first. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of perspective to see the way past these obstacles, but that can be hard to do when one professional development consultant comes to a school, or district.

The new perspective is often seen as yet another obstacle: something added on to all we have to do. However, when you bring 4-5 different teams together, each with their own obstacles and each with their own perspectives–and when you add to that a fabulous mountain retreat setting that literally elevates their thinking–very interesting things can happen.

This June, I had the opportunity to do just that at Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center. Director of Professional Development, Michael Soguero, invited me up from my home in the foothills to work, specifically, with Chad Williamson from Noble Impact, a promising Arkansas start-up. Chad’s looking to help high school students blend entrepreneurship and public service with the help of the Clinton School of Public Service and the Walton School of Business. That alone would have been a fascinating experience. Chad’s wrestling with two highly successful visions of opportunity for America’s youth, and trying to identify the threads that unite them at the individual, group and team level of service. The different levels of this challenge are at the heart of his model and, working with Chad and Eagle Rock staff Dan Condon (Associate Director of Professional Development) and Collin Packard (Public Allies Teaching Fellow in Professional Development), we were able to hammer out two weeks’ worth of curriculum that we’re confident will lead to action, first in Arkansas and then, hopefully, around the country.

A lot of what happened, however, was rooted in the other perspectives that were in and out of our work sessions, community gatherings, and evening activities. Eagle Rock’s recent decision to mix perspectives by hosting multiple site visits simultaneously worked wonders. Staff from Valemont Secondary School in the heart of BC’s controversial tar sands “patch” could empathize with the challenge of motivating students to see the value of working for the public good, locally. Scholars and field workers from the Continue reading…