Each month, we'll interview an AHS community member to hear their thoughts about plans for our future home. This month, we checked in with AHS Founding Humanities Teacher Lori Fisher
, who came to AHS in 2009 along with her husband John, to help launch our school. Both had been teaching at Hight Tech High in San Diego, the school AHS founders turned to for inspiration when seeking a model for engaged, relevant, rigorous project-based education.
Lori received her BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2001. Despite many predictions that she would never land a job with that degree, she went on to work as a fundraiser and lobbyist for YouthBuild USA, a national non-profit focusing on low-income housing development and vocational education for high school dropouts. After quitting that job to become a dive master in Thailand, Lori eventually left her tropical paradise to return to the US, and completed her MA in Education at Stanford University.
What do you love most about being an Osprey?
The thing I love most about AHS is that is pushes everyone in the school to be the best version of themselves--as a teacher, I am constantly driven to improve my craft and create more interesting, engaging, and impactful projects by both my students and colleagues. I am also encouraged to become more compassionate, to explore new areas of interest, and to forge new relationships. For students, we encourage them to first figure out who they are (no small task!) and then develop that person into the best that they can be. This focus on growth and on personal identity makes all of us better, and creates a strong community of individuals who create together.
What brought you to AHS?
Originally, what drew me to Durango and Animas was not the building (we didn't have one yet!), or the students (didn't have those either), but the passion of the founders for building an inclusive and innovative school, and the strong sense of place that I felt when I visited Durango. Everyone I met here was so proud of their town, and so involved, and I knew that was a place I wanted to be. What has kept me here are many of the same things, but add the incredible community that I've found in my students, parents and colleagues.
How do you see AHS positively impacting our community?
I see AHS bringing a spirit of innovation and collaboration to our community. Just this year our Sophomore Inspire Week completed amazing projects in the community, from helping Juniper School to design their new playground, to renovating a dog rescue facility in Toawac, to completing research and making program recommendations to Manna Soup Kitchen. Our students are out in the community working with adults and other youth to make our region a better place.
What's most exciting to you about AHS receiving the BEST Grant?
The most exciting thing about the BEST Grant for me is that it means our school is really going to be able to flourish in a place that's designed for the kind of learning we do. We have always made do in our spaces, crafting amazing projects in remodeled garages, in portables, and in homes, but to have a space that's custom designed for design, collaboration, and creation will allow us to take our curriculum to new heights. I am also really excited about pursuing partnerships with Fort Lewis--there is a rich wealth of knowledge and experience there, and I hope that our students and staff will be able to tap into that to the benefit of all. Finally, it means we get to stay in Durango long term. Charter schools are always somewhat precarious financially until they have the security of the building, so now I can throw out all those back up plans!
Where do you envision AHS in 10 years?
In 10 years, I envision AHS as a school bustling with creative energy, with curated spaces that track the history of our amazing projects and with mature partnerships with Fort Lewis and other local institutions. I have been amazed to see the growth of the school in these first 11 years--I can't wait to see what is to come!