Residential Life at Eagle Rock School Explained

Student housing at Eagle Rock School has always been an exercise in evolutionary change and this trimester promises to be no different. Among the biggest draws to our campus are the living arrangements we offer our students, providing them with an atmosphere that is warm and non-threatening; in a word, supportive.

There are six student houses here on our mountainside campus — each housing seven boys and seven girls in separate wings — and each supported by a pair of house parents. In recent years, we eliminated a student bed, wardrobe, desk and chair from each wing in order to give our students a little more elbow room.

Eagle Rock School Living Village
Eagle Rock School Living Village

What remains is a team structure within each house that provides students with ample opportunities for interpersonal growth, as well as the lessons that arise from sustained group activities such as intramural sports, service projects, chores, house dinners, outings and retreats.

In addition to house parents within each residential dwelling, our board recently approved adding a residential life coordinator position to the team here at Eagle Rock. Our first such coordinator is J. Jacques Fournet, II, who is tasked with supporting and evolving the residential life experience. Jacques brings an elevated focus to residential life with the ultimate goal of helping us become more responsive to student needs.

Here’s a rundown on how the individual houses looked before the beginning of this trimester: Continue reading…

Expanding Knowledge Base as Part of Eagle Rock’s 5 Expectations

We expect a lot from students here at Eagle Rock School, and we make no bones about ensuring these expectations are understood and accepted. In fact, we even call them the “5 Expectations” so that every student leaves here as a productive, engaged citizen, ready and willing to make a difference in the world.

Among these five expectations are:

  1. Learning to communicate effectively
  2. Expanding one’s knowledge base
  3. Become an engaged citizen
  4. Acquiring leadership skills in order to achieve justice
  5. Creating healthy life choices

Today we’re going to focus on No. 2 of these expectations: Expanding Knowledge Base.

One of our expectations for all Eagle Rock students is that they will acquire the skills necessary to become independent learners and problem solvers. Traditional math and English courses often fall within this expectation.

In our math classes, this expectation is usually tied to a specific content area such as algebra, geometry, probability, statistics or calculus. Within these areas, many math courses at Eagle Rock revolve around specific real-world situations. For example, exploring gambling games and how probability factors into that casino floor equation. Others include how to research and interpret (data analysis), how to predict outcomes (statistics), and how to hide things (cryptography).

Within many of Becky Poore’s math classes, final projects are assigned for the purpose of assessing what’s been learned and offering students the opportunity to demonstrate and showcase the skills they’ve acquired. For the gambling example above, from a math class on probability, students are expected to expand their knowledge base by creating their own game of chance.

In other math classes, students are tasked with Continue reading…

Eagle Rock School Instructors ‘Bring Home’ Their Experiences

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-Eagle-Rock-SchoolDan 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 Continue reading…

Ready, Start, Launch — Albuquerque’s Entrepreneurial High School Starts to Take Shape

Editor’s Note: Albuquerque, New Mexico, is quickly becoming an entrepreneurial hub, and today we’re pleased to bring you a write-up by Eagle Rock’s very own Dan Hoffman, a literature arts instructional specialist, who details the work going on behind the scenes to launch one of that state’s first entrepreneurial-focused high schools.

By Dan Hoffman, Language Arts Instructional Specialist

How do you create meaningful curriculum based on real world problems? How do you foster an entrepreneurial spirit in young people and give them the skills they need to create meaningful change in their communities and in their own lives?

Michael Soguero, Eagle Rock Director of Professional Development; Anastacia Galloway, Eagle Rock Professional Development Associate; and I headed back down to Albuquerque, N.M., in early May to find answers to these pressing questions. We collaborated with Tim Kubik of Kubik Perspectives — a Colorado-based curriculum-design, assessment and evaluation consultancy — to continue our work with the New Mexico Center for School Leadership (NMCSL) on launching its newest venture — a new charter school that will focus on entrepreneurship.

The plan to create an entrepreneurship-focused, project-based learning school dedicated to creating new leaders in the field for the city is being advanced in part by tapping the local wisdom of community and industry partners to generate real-world entrepreneurship curriculum for the future school.

Entrepreneur-High-School-Albuquerque

NMCSL invited Eagle Rock to kick off its work with the start-up charter school in February of this year. We engaged a group of local entrepreneurs who had a great sense of social responsibility and wanted to create something of value for local youth. We worked together in a workshop setting to generate the knowledge, skills and attributes that students would need in order to be successful entrepreneurs in their community.

In addition, we brainstormed initial project ideas for the school. And while the initial workshop was a great success, we knew we could push the group further, generating not just school projects, but real-world work that students could accomplish as part of their high school experience.

Last month, we returned and reconvened the Continue reading…

Recapping the Events of Our Latest Explore Week

Our most recent Explore Week here at Eagle Rock served a pair of purposes. First, it enabled our instructors to catch their second wind and prepare for future coursework. Second, it gave our students the opportunity to be engaged in activities they normally wouldn’t have time for during the regular trimester.

Our latest such Explore Week was in late October, and our students were treated to a variety of classes and events that ranged from art expeditions to the stress-relieving benefits of beating on a drum. The week was highlighted with guest artists and speakers, as well as a few Eagle Rock staffers who just happen to have their own special interests that proved interesting enough to stir student interest.

Some of the activities conducted during Explore Week included:

  • Student leaders Ashalou and Aaron Simon were co-leaders for the 2014 Orientation Class for our newest students.
  • Students Emelia, Javonnie, Desiree, Cristian, Cat and Yeshra traveled with Cindy Elkins (Visual Art Instructional Specialist), Dayna Safferstein (Public Allies Visual Arts Fellow) and Niko Viglione Public Allies Human Performance Center Fellow) to Santa Fe, New Mexico, on an art expedition.
  • Criminal attorney William Galloway brought students Rahmel, Daisy, Melvin, Jenny, Aaron, Levi, DJ, Jared and Carson up to date on their rights as U.S. citizens. His presentations included preserving rights while interacting with the police, as well as the history behind some landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Through popular culture references — such as Jay-Z’s hit “99 Problems” — sprinkled with an abundance of courtroom “war stories,” Galloway turned the Bill of Rights and a couple of hundred years of Supreme Court decisions into an interesting and meaningful experience.
  • Estes Park Rotary Club members heard Eagle Rock students Hunter, Mikaela, Cassandra, Sonja, Kiyah, Marty and Khalil share their Continue reading…

Meet The Teachers Who Made An Impact On Eagle Rock’s Teachers

Eagle_Rock_Blog_ShieldsAlmost without exception, everyone who has ever stepped foot inside a school classroom — and that’s pretty much all of us — can name at least one teacher who became a positive force in their lives.

It could have been an instructor who inspired them to pursue a seemingly impossible career, or maybe helped them discover hidden talents they didn’t know they possessed. Someone who impressed them enough to tweak their thought process and introduce them to new way of acting or thinking, or who went above and beyond in encouraging and informing their interest in a particular topic or path.

A good example of this would certainly not be the relationship between Ralphie and Miss Shields in the 1983 holiday movie classic, A Christmas Story. In that cult film, Ralphie’s goal wasn’t to absorb knowledge or gain insight into a career.

Nope. Ralphie’s sole intent in giving his teacher a fruit basket was to receive an “A” on his paper espousing the wonderfulness of the coveted Red Ryder BB rifle. Instead, he receives a “C+” stamped across the top of the paper, along with the admonition that “you’ll shoot your eye out.”

And while that teacher-student experience most certainly affected the rest of his life, inspirational is not a good term to describe it.

However, most of us do recall a teacher who made a difference, so we’ve asked a few of our own instructors and staff here at Eagle Rock to think back to a time when an educator had an impact on their lives.

Here’s are some of the responses we received:

Meghan Tokunaga-Scanlon, Music Instructor

At Greeley Central High School in Greeley, Colorado, my senior year choir director, Jeremy Francisco was brand new to the school and helped inspire and cultivate my decision to become a music educator. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until Francisco gave me a lot of responsibilities within the choir and pushed me to try new styles of music. I’ll always be grateful for the experiences he gave me.

Dan Hoffman, Literature & Literacy Instructor

At the Lab School in Chicago, Illinois, Chris Randle, my academic tutor, read poetry with me in between bouts of Continue reading…

New Faculty And Staff Members Join Our Ranks

We’re not exactly a revolving door here at Eagle Rock, but staff members do come and go on occasion, as was the case this summer when we said farewell to last year’s Public Allies Fellows and a handful of staff members.

And now we’re turning around and tossing down the welcome mat for eight new full-time staffers — some of whom we already know who have taken on new positions, and some who are brand new to our mountain side high school.

Without further ado, let’s introduce our new staff members, in no particular order:

Brighid_Scanlon_Eagle_RockBrighid Scanlon, World Languages Instructional Specialist, Ponderosa House Parent

Brighid has a Master of Arts degree in foreign language pedagogy (Spanish focus) from the University of Delaware Newark, Del., and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the same institution in Spanish studies and mass communication.

Recent Eagle Rockers will recall that Brighid was the World Languages Fellow two years ago, and this past year was the interim performance and music instructor after Ike Leslie moved on. She will be co-house parenting this year with second-year Public Allies Science Fellow, Sara Benge.

Dan-Hoffman-Eagle-RockDan Hoffman, Language Arts Instructional Specialist

Dan received his teaching certification in secondary education and social studies From Prescott College after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban & Environmental Policy from Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Some of you will recognize Dan from his year as the Eagle Rock/Public Allies Societies and Cultures Fellow in 2009-10. Dan returns to Eagle Rock having worked at Voyager Academy High School in Durham N.C., as a curriculum specialist and social studies teacher.

Dan will join the Ponderosa House team.

Diego-Duran-Medina-Eagle-RockDiego Duran-Medina, Societies Cultures Instructional Specialist

Diego’s impressive creds include a Bachelor of Arts degree from Colgate University; a Masters of Arts degree from New York University; and, a Masters of Education degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. While at Columbia, he studied educational administration at The Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership.

Diego has extensive experience with independent schools, having worked at the Punahou School  (Honolulu, HI) and The Edmund Burke School (Washington, DC).

He will join the Juniper House Team.

Stephanie Dixon, Registrar and Life After Eagle Rock Counselor

Stephanie worked for five years as a career and post-secondary counselor and teacher in the high-need Denver Public Schools that featured a diverse population of young people between 14 and 24 years of age — most with multiple obstacles to educational success.

She was also a Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Co-hosts Project-based Learning Work Day in North Carolina

Editor’s Note: We recently asked Dan Hoffman, curriculum specialist at Voyager Academy High School in Durham, N.C., to catch us up on his organization’s experience with our own Professional Development Center. Below is what he has to say about that collaboration.

By Dan Hoffman, curriculum specialist at Voyager Academy High School

All too often, professional development for teachers involves sitting in a room and listening to a lecture from a disconnected researcher on how we can better our practice. Teachers often believe these “sit and get” experiences are a waste of time. They certainly don’t advance our understanding of the core dilemmas we face on a daily basis in the classroom.

Additionally, new concepts and teaching tools are presented as abstract ideas with which we as teachers must grapple on our own when faced with the ground-level realities of the classroom. As a teacher and curriculum specialist at Voyager Academy High School, I work with the teaching staff and administration to form higher-quality professional development experience for our educators.

At Voyager, we think of our teachers as researchers and that by bringing together our educators in the spirit of critical friendship we can learn and support each other to improve our instruction. Our collaborative form of professional development is rooted in our commitment to a high-quality project-based learning curriculum. This summer we wanted to share both our professional development model and our belief in project-based learning with other educators throughout the state.

In July, we held our first project-based learning workday, which we co-hosted with Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center. Dan Condon, Eagle Rock’s associate director of professional development, came to Durham to help us design and execute the workday. This was not our first partnership with Eagle Rock. In fact, the summer workday was a culmination of collaborative efforts from throughout the previous school year. Dan arrived at Voyager the previous fall with Michael Saguaro, Eagle Rock’s director of professional development, to help us assess our efforts at becoming a project-based learning high school and to develop collaborative professional development systems.

Our work with Eagle Rock has always been a partnership and our staff appreciates never being dictated to or told what we need to do to change our practice. In fact, our partnership with Eagle Rock felt much more like our teacher Critical Friends Group where we shared ideas, information, and collaborated as partners to improve our school.

And as a relatively new charter — we’ll have our first full graduating class next spring — it was useful to partner with an institution that has already grappled and succeeded with many of the issues we were facing as a young organization ourselves.

Our partnership with Eagle Rock created a unique opportunity to share our collaborative efforts with other schools and educators in North Carolina through a summer professional development workday focused on teacher collaboration around project-based learning. We invited other educators from around the state to visit Voyager, learn about the principles of project-based learning (PBL) and work collaboratively to form the next steps needed to create projects for our own classrooms. Teachers heard from students about their perspective on PBL, and left the workday with the concrete steps necessary to develop their curriculum — and as a special bonus, acquired an expanded network of professionals working on similar dilemmas and opportunities.

At Voyager, we’re already planning our next professional development workday. We are also planning ways to continue to partner with Eagle Rock. As Voyager strives to become a leader in developing a project-based learning curriculum, we understand the value of having a partner like the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center.