In year two as AHS Head of School, I would like to think that staff, students and families are getting to know and trust me. The mystery of a new leader has been unveiled, and we are deep into our collaborative goals to improve our school. This is an ongoing process as there is always room for growth. We have a committed staff who are here by choice. They advocate for students and celebrate their success. Teaching is hard work which often feels endless. The upcoming breaks are needed as a time to regenerate. We have done a lot this semester and have more important work to complete before winter break. A little gratitude for our amazing staff goes a long way this time of year.
We are rounding the corner on the first semester of school. Grades 9-11 are nearing the end of their content studies and beginning to plan for final projects which will materialize in many different shapes and forms. Most of these projects will be shared with the public the evening of December 7 during the Winter Exhibition. You will also find displays from Fall Osprey Blocks which occurred the first few weeks of school. It is a great time to hear from your student about their experiences at AHS thus far. In addition, for those of you new to AHS, Presentations of Learning (POLs) are scheduled from December 13-15. These are required for grades 9-12. Students spend a great deal of time in preparation for their presentations. LIke Student-Led Conferences (SLCs), POLs have an expectation of professional dress. Students present elements of their learning over the semester to faculty and their peers. A robust audience validates the work and supports individual students to develop public speaking skills. We consider this one of the many things that makes the experience at AHS unique.
Grades 9 and 10 have decided to put their time and energy into a grade level trip connected to the curriculum this spring in lieu of a spring Osprey Block, and so, for the 23/24 school year, we will only have Fall Osprey Block classes rather than two rounds. The intention of Osprey Block is to incorporate deeper experiences into the learning. Grade level trips will have the same outcome. Teams will be working closely with our Dean of Experiential Education, Ashley Carruth, to develop these trips, which may include overnight programming as well as a service component. During this same period of time, grade 11 will be participating in LINK Internships while grade 12 will be completing their Senior Projects in order to graduate. We will end the school year on a high note with new experiences for all. We plan to offer Osprey Blocks again during the 24/25 school year, incorporating staff reflections and student feedback. With every new endeavor, refinement leads to higher quality programming.
Adding a Dean of Experiential Education position last spring has allowed us to increase our capacity for program development that connects classroom learning with the community and with beautiful wild places. We have always prioritized creating experiences where students can meet with professionals in the community, serve others and grow through wilderness-based expeditions and hands-on learning experiences. We know both from research and experience that outdoor education experiences improve students’ sense of belonging and overall wellbeing. Animas’s expanded Experiential Education program will support our school’s mission and values by fostering stronger relationships between students, as well as between students and teachers, helping students connect meaningfully to place, and become more engaged, capable citizens. Having Ashley Carruth serve in this role has been a boon, as she has deep knowledge of our program and respect from our teachers, having taught Humanities at AHS from 2012-22. She is, of course, also a dynamic educator and skilled outdoorswoman. This spring, Ashley will be offering at least one week-long retreat for a small group of students for the purposes described above, in addition to building leadership capacity. Our hope is that “graduates” of these retreats will participate in the planning and facilitation of student orientation next fall. Stay tuned for more details.
Being co-located on the Fort Lewis College campus has increased the number of Ospreys taking classes at the college, now that they can walk to them during the school day. We have obtained funding to ensure that access to FLC classes is equitable, and Erin Cummins-Roper, our Dean of College & Career Counseling, is providing more hands-on support for students taking concurrent enrollment courses. Her strong partnership with FLC’s TRIO Student Success Center and the Office of Admissions is serving us well, and staff from both programs are on our campus frequently working with AHS students. In addition, we are building excellent partnerships with the FLC School of Education and Adventure Education Department that allow FLC students to observe our seasoned instructors and work with our students in order to build teaching skills. We are, in essence, serving as a “laboratory school” for the college, which creates a symbiotic exchange of ideas and improves everyone’s practice.
We are responding to a changing landscape in our career and college preparation, recognizing more and more that Ospreys take many paths to find postsecondary success. We are still a college-prep school, and all students apply to college and complete the FAFSA as graduation requirements, underscoring our commitment to equity and support. Erin has outlined a goal of having all students access up to 12 college credits or an industry certification by the time they graduate, beginning with the class of 2027. We are exploring ways to create Career and Technical Education pathways that result in certifications, using our MakerSpace to its full potential. In addition to our growing partnership with Fort Lewis College, we are increasing elective offerings through collaboration with Pueblo Community College. This year, we are offering the following courses at AHS for college credit:
- Anatomy and Physiology (PCC Bio 106, a CTE Health Science pathway course)
- Career Math (PCC Math 107, a CTE Health Science pathway course)
- Introduction to Healthcare Professions (PCC Health 1000, a CTE Health Science Pathway course)
- Business Math (PCC Math 112)
- Engineering Methodologies (PCC EGG 1020)
Our College & Career Counseling Department has grown, with the addition of a full-time Work-based Learning Coordinator position. Elliot Baglini is supporting Erin’s work in the department by increasing career exploration for 9th and 10th grade students and education for families about how to navigate exploring and paying for college. He is doing this work in addition to supporting juniors with the LINK Internship program, which continues to shape AHS students’ futures. Every AHS student receives outstanding, personalized career and college counseling at no cost to families.