The fact that we operate a year-round residential high school in Estes Park, Colo., in addition to offering professional development services at schools and community sites around the United States, is a distinct advantage for Eagle Rock School instructors and, in turn, our student population.
And since our mission is to implement effective and engaging practices that foster each student’s unique potential — and to support schools nationally to do the same — sending our instructors off on educational forays across the country directly impacts the students they instruct at Eagle Rock.
But how exactly does this national work impact our instructors when they return to our mountainside campus? Often working through the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center, our instructors are tasked with “carrying the message” of educational reform to public schools throughout the nation.
We asked three Eagle Rock School instructors how this national work has improved their work. Here’s what they had to say:
Dan Hoffman, Literacy And Literature instructional specialist, says working with public schools keeps him grounded. He says that while we often think Eagle Rock is on the front line of education reform, “it’s really our partner schools that are fighting this fight.”
Visiting public schools in Albuquerque and New York and seeing the challenges they face every day and the hard work they are engaged in to serve their students keeps Dan motivated to do the work he does here at Eagle Rock and appreciative of all we have here.
Hoffman says he picks up best practices through small group protocols at the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum or in casual conversations with humanities teachers at a high school in the Bronx. “I get to learn a ton about what other professionals are doing in their classrooms and incorporate it into my work.”
And, he says, such trips keep him connected to Eagle Rock’s national mission. “Lots of times at Eagle Rock School, I get pulled into the whirlwind that is our school and community and it’s easy to forget that I’m here to serve a larger mission to impact public education. Having been able to travel has allowed me to re-connect to that mission and put the rest of my work at Eagle Rock in perspective.”
Brighid Scanlon, World Languages instructional specialist, says collaborating with other instructors and entering into others’ classrooms has inspired her in many ways. “Just seeing how other instructors interact with students has given me ideas for how to work with students one-on-one,” she says, adding, “Looking at other classroom setups helps me to figure out the best way to set the space for class time.
”Working through protocols has helped me to identify dilemmas and road blocks that are common to all schools, and has allowed me to think more deeply about the work we’re doing here at Eagle Rock School.”
Finally, Jon Anderson, Human Performance And Outdoor Education instructional specialist, says such national work has increased his skills as a facilitator, increased his self confidence when working with groups, increased his interpersonal skills and, in his case, created more opportunities to further the relationship between Eagle Rock School and Rocky Mountain National Park.
There’s no question that getting out of your own work environment and interacting with other professionals in your field expands your knowledge and world view. Here at Eagle Rock, we make a point of offering such opportunities to our instructors as often as possible.