5 Eagle Rock Employees Departing after a Century of Service

Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center is saying goodbye to five of its staff members in the coming months — a group that represents more than 103 years of service to our progressive learning community.

All five of these employees have invested double-digit years at Eagle Rock, with four of them working behind the scenes, and one educator. From supervisor to receptionist, their job titles all had one purpose top of mind: a successful education for high school students and who are interested in taking control of their lives and learning. Each has plans for life after Eagle Rock, ranging from settling down closer to family, to reading books and seeing the country in a new RV.

Below, we honor these five veteran Eagle Rock community members, beginning with the longest-serving employee to the most “recent.” In each case, we asked them to describe their job responsibilities, their education and past professional experiences, their memories of the school, and future plans. Continue reading…

Online Ceremony Marks Celebration for Eagle Rock School’s Newest Grads

As we continue to operate almost entirely online amid COVID-19, we again switched things up — this time for our 81st trimester graduates — with an online Celebration of Graduates.

Those graduating this trimester include Forrest Henninger, Ethan Gallagher, and Daniel Rios. Traditionally, graduation ceremonies take place in the Human Performance Center on our campus in Estes Park, Colo. However, due to the health pandemic, our campus has remained closed to students and visitors since March, and all of our staff and students have remained engaged through remote work and learning.

The 81st trimester Celebration of Graduates was delivered online last week through Zoom, highlighted by a video containing faculty speeches, remembrances, pictures, shout outs, and advice to new and current Eagle Rock School students from the departing graduates themselves.

Although a live pomp and circumstance celebration was not an option again this trimester, Forrest, Ethan, and Daniel have the opportunity to “walk” the next time an in-person graduation can take place on campus.

Below are biographies of each graduate, including information about what they learned, what they achieved, and what their future plans entail: Continue reading…

Meet the Team: Eagle Rock’s Director of Curriculum Janet Johnson

Today, we come full circle with Janet Johnson, who has been our Director of Curriculum since mid-June, and now becomes the first Eagle Rocker to be profiled for a second time on Meet the Team.

Back in August of 2014, in a post titled Meet The Team: Eagle Rock’s Science Instructor and House Parent – Janet Johnson, we spotlighted Janet, who at that time was well into her 13th year at Eagle Rock, serving as a science instructor and one of the house parents at Aspen House. She later supported the school’s new instructors for two years as they transitioned into our community.

Janet left Eagle Rock four years ago to become Director of Competency-based Learning and Director of Curriculum at RiseUp Community School in downtown Denver. While there, she helped develop and direct RiseUp’s learning competences — Think, Advocate, and Grow — as well as supported teachers in their efforts to create classes that push students’ learning and growth.

Now back at Eagle Rock as our Director of Curriculum, Janet leads an academic team made up of nine instructional specialists and their Public Allies Instructional Fellows, as well as recruits, hires, supports, and mentors new instructional specialists. She also conducts performance reviews with all of our instructional specialists, coordinates course scheduling and instructor workloads, as serves on our in-house leadership team.

Recently, we sat down with Janet — for a second time — to find out a little more about her professional background and some personal stuff. We love the personal stuff. Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Takes Some Professional Development Engagements Online

There is certainly little good that can be said about the COVID-19 health pandemic, but there have been some silver linings — you just have to look between the lines.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced every school in the nation to shut its doors and move the remainder of the school year online, and we here at Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center (PDC) are among those organizations that have felt the brunt of that epidemic eviction. However, in our particular case, we have also been forced to innovate the delivery of our professional development engagements. And that has turned out to be a good thing.

We are both a residential school for high school-aged students who have shown a sincere interest in reengaging in their own education. And we also offer professional development services for educators across the United States who are similarly committed to making high school a more engaging experience for our country’s youth.

And that leads us to today’s post, which as you’ll see, highlights the work of our talented professional development team in action — something that would have been impossible for you to observe before the health pandemic forced us to deliver our engagements online.

Since the early 1990s, our professional development staffers have visited schools, education organizations, and conferences and seminars across the country, sharing what we know educational improvement. And now, in response to the pivot from face-to-face professional development engagements, our PDC team has launched an online professional learning community series, in addition to continuing supporting clients coast to coast. Open to the education community, the series is titled, “Join Our Community of Educators Grappling with, and Solving, Dilemmas,” and convenes at 10 a.m. Mountain Time each Thursday via Zoom.

Topics at these online sessions include Continue reading…

15 Tech Tools for Teaching and Learning Online

COVID-19 changed the education landscape, and here at Eagle Rock School, we’ve employed approaches to engage students remotely through the use of rightsized and easy to administer online technologies. These range from online annotation and full graphic design programs to video services and music-making platforms that truly engage students from their in-home learning environments.

To prepare our educators and staff, World Languages Instructional Specialist Josán Perales curated a class online named ER 81 Tech Tools Overview and Links to Continued Learning, which enabled our team to explore on their own and learn about the tools as if they were the students.

Below is our rundown of 15 of these tools, starting with Google Classroom: Continue reading…

Stirring Documentary Highlights Black Lives Matter Day at Eagle Rock

Here we are at the start of May, preparing for our 81st trimester at Eagle Rock, and COVID-19 has our community operating in a virtual world that’s powered by Internet-based technologies. As we look back on last trimester — seemingly a lifetime since we were on campus together — we want to highlight one day in particular. That important day was Feb. 22 during Black History Month. Coordinated by Nia Dawson and her team of Student Services Program staffers, our own Black Lives Matter (BLM) Day was truly a success.

Among the highlights of this year’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) Day, held on campus at Eagle Rock School in mid-February, was a screening of the award-winning documentary film “Agents of Change,” featuring Danny Glover.

(From Feb. 2020, pre-social distancing)

This marks the third consecutive year that Eagle Rock has commemorated BLM Day, and this year’s theme was “Say It Loud!” The objective for the day was for students to be in action around an issue that matters to them, and to get things rolling, students and staff viewed the 66-minute documentary that was co-produced and directed by Abby Ginsberg and Frank R. Dawson.

In addition to Glover, the film features Ramona Tascoe, Harry Edwards, and Juanita Tamayo Lott. “Agents of Change” documents how students changed the curriculum of American universities in the late 1960s by being in action — through protest. The film received Best Documentary honors during Pan African Film Festival 2016.

“Agents of Change” examines racial conditions on college campuses and throughout the country that led to the protests in the 1960s. The film’s subjects find themselves caught at the crossroads of the civil rights, black power, and anti-Vietnam war movements during a pivotal time in America’s history. Co-producer / co-director Dawson is the Interim Dean of Career Education at the Santa Monica College Center for Media and Design and a former chair of that college’s Communication and Media Studies Department. He also happens to be Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Virtually Celebrates 7 Graduates

Going virtual has become commonplace in this era of COVID-19, but this — Eagle Rock School’s 80th trimester, saw our staff and administrators organize a Celebration of Graduates for seven of our students unlike any preceding event of its kind.

Normally, such ceremonies take place in our Human Performance Center on campus but, due to the health pandemic, our mountainside campus shut down in early March, with all students returning to their homes in order to prepare for remote learning and ongoing student support.

As a result, we did not have a graduation ceremony last trimester. Instead, we had a Celebration of Graduates.

That meant the 80th trimester Celebration of Graduates, was delivered online via Zoom, on April 10, and featured a prepared video of faculty speeches, shout outs, virtual journals, remembrances, and even advice from the departing grads to their friends and current Eagle Rockers.

Those graduating last trimester include Xavier Hagood-Edmeade, Alizja Serret, Dalan Farris, Burgess “Bea” Cotham, Ay’Niah Rochester, Jacob Israel, and Joyce Page. And while these students missed out on a “regular” high school graduation ceremony, all seven were invited back to “walk” the next time a graduation is held on campus.

What was important for these grads to hear was praise from family members, instructors, and fellow students — all of whom poured themselves into a full-on commitment to earn their high school diploma. For some of these students, graduation did not seem at all like a possibility just a few years ago.

Immediately below is a photo of the seven students who participated in the Celebration of Graduates, followed by a biography of each graduate, which includes information about their major learnings, campus involvement, achievements, and future plans.

Editor’s Note: At the end of today’s post is a video that was presented at the Celebration of Graduates.

Xavier Hagood-Edmeade

Xavier, who arrived at Eagle Rock in the fall of 2016, is from Ormond Beach, Fla., and was a member of Spruce House. He spent much of his time at Eagle Rock committed to leadership and service learning, as well as wilderness education.

Xavier completed his new student wilderness orientation course, a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) horse-packing course in Wyoming, as well as an Eagle Rock veteran-student wilderness course in the fall of 2019. His leadership and service roles included being an intramural captain, a Lead Student Ambassador, mentor, and member of the Mag 7 student leadership team, among many other things.

Xavier recounts the lessons learned at Eagle Rock, many relating to his personal development. He explains learning how to advocate for himself, becoming more patient, and discovering his independence all helped him grow during time with us. All the while, he has held onto a conversation he had with L’Tanya Perkins, our admission associate, during his admission interview. She asked him to “promise me something… No matter how hard this place is, you have to be true to yourself and remember your why.”

And to this day, Xavier says he has committed to discovering and refining what his “why” is in all he does and maintaining his resilience.

Looking ahead, Xavier hopes to spend more time in the wilderness by volunteering for a national conservation organization and completing trail work and maintenance. Following several years of conservation work, Xavier plans to enroll and serve in the military. After all his time at Eagle Rock, he advises new students to “avoid all the drama” and to focus on themselves.

Alizja Serret

Alizja, who arrived here in the fall of 2017, is from Lynn, Mass., and was a member of Spruce House. She says a defining point for her at Eagle Rock was getting involved and taking full advantage of the opportunities presented to her.

Among her major goals and learnings was developing confidence and leadership skills. In line with this, she jumped into numerous leadership roles and classes. She has served as the Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Students Deliver First-ever Virtual Presentations of Learning

With our school’s 80th trimester (ER 80) behind us, students recently found themselves preparing to present their individual Presentations of Learning (POLs).

Because students are not on campus with us due to the COVID-19 outbreak, these presentations were prepared from students’ homes and delivered virtually — much like the final month of classes and learning experiences of ER 80. This, of course, entails changes in how we’re structuring these presentations and honoring students’ work during this time.

As background for anyone unfamiliar with POLs, traditionally at the end of each trimester, students participate in a self-appraisal of their educational successes during the previous trimester. And they do so before a panel of teachers, administrators, community members and others interested in searching for evidence of learning from the students.

The Presentation of Learning serves as a rite of passage for all students, enabling them to make the case that they have absorbed and retained an abundance of learning in the preceding months. It’s not all about obtaining credits, but more a tool that allows students to take a pause in their learning, and then reflect, synthesize and analyze that learning.

There’s an air of excitement during POLs, with a notable increase in energy, anticipation, and celebration. In these changing times insofar as how we deliver the Eagle Rock experience, our staff aims to Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Staff, Students Adapting to Era of Online Educating

We just finished up the eightieth trimester (ER 80) since our founding in the early-1990s, which we closed with a wonderful week of reflection and celebration. While you’ll be able to learn more about that final week of ER 80 in future updates published here on the Eagle Rock Blog, today we want to share more about the learning experiences we’ve designed for students during our foray into virtual learning in the time of COVID-19.

As previously described in Eagle Rock School Moves Online for the Time of COVID-19, we continue to ensure that the learning we design for our students is flexible and engaging, especially as they adjust to learning from home. Thanks to our quick-on-their-feet staff that worked hard and fast to create and facilitate new educational opportunities, students have had a variety of learning experiences to choose from and have demonstrated incredible commitment and flexibility as they transition to distance learning.

Some previous learning experiences have continued, including Fitness: Anytime, Anywhere, which features fitness challenges ranging from simply finding something active to do, to the 10-touch toilet paper challenge, where students and staff members attempt to Hacky Sack a roll of toilet paper — or maybe less valuable objects — 10 consecutive times. In addition, students, instructors, and other interested Eagle Rock staff have been posting online about their workouts. Such posts have included videos showing Eagle Rockers doing pushups, screenshots from running apps, and reports from workout apps.

The community-building aspect has been a huge success with our students. In fact, one fan-favorite has been Student Services Program Specialist/Explore Week Coordinator Annie Kelston’s video of herself performing weighted pushups with her toddler on her back.

For today’s post, we’re pleased to highlight several of our latest learning experiences, including: Continue reading…

Virtual Connections for Progressive Educators in the Time of COVID-19

The last few weeks have been unprecedented for our generation of progressive educators and our students. While mass closures of public and private schools, along with physical distancing guidelines, have all sparked a range of emotions, new routines, and change, the global health pandemic known as COVID-19 has not cancelled out relationships and the interest to put our community first.

To address these oft-unsettling changes, we’ve partnered with the School Reform Initiative to offer and co-facilitate a series of online virtual connections for our community of progressive educators. This form of connection is easier than it sounds. All it entails is for us to prepare ourselves to ‘lean into’ one another. There’s no research, no speechwriting, no prep work. And best of all, there are no other expectations.

Our belief is that if everyone connects for just five minutes, sharing whatever it is that’s on their minds, we’ll be able to come together as a virtual community of progressive educators in direct support of one another. That’s because we are not alone in balancing our new daily efforts: supporting our students, creating virtual learning for probably the first time, homeschooling our own children, feeling isolated or anxious, and so many other new realities.

Introducing Virtual Connections

Keeping in mind that there is power in community and we’re stronger together than we are when we’re physically apart, we invite you to join Dr. Deirdre Sharkey-Williams, executive director of School Reform Initiative (SRI), and our own professional development associate, Anastacia Galloway Reed, for this week’s Virtual Connection. It takes place online using the free and easy-to-use Zoom videoconferencing platform (note: earlier today, Zoom received a much needed security update, for which we’re all very appreciative).

For the time being, our weekly Virtual Connections sessions are available as follows: Continue reading…