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Upper School Division Director

Dr. Tila Hidalgo

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November 19, 2021


With each passing year, the month of November serves as a reminder to give thanks for all of the gifts and privileges we receive. But, this has been a very special autumn for me for other reasons as well. For one, I’ve never lived in a place where fall happened in such a “real” way. Despite being a former biology teacher who taught the process of leaf abscission, I had not – until recently – seen it happen before my own eyes. I can now say it’s been truly amazing to experience these changes firsthand, a process that has given me pause for reflection on the many valuable life lessons plants provide as we move from summer to fall and winter each year.

Change is good. 

When the days become shorter and temperatures cold, some trees will stop performing the process of photosynthesis that utilizes chlorophyll, the green plant pigment. Bottom line: the plant will no longer make chlorophyll in order to preserve energy. As a result, secondary red, yellow and orange pigments become visible for a period of time. And, they certainly put on a colorful show for us this year! As educators, we have to carefully consider how we design our classroom learning experiences. Like the trees each fall, part of this process includes ensuring we do not overexert ourselves due to focusing on the things that ineffectively meet our students’ needs. I am constantly amazed at the CSS faculty and their ability both to evaluate what’s best for our Upper School students and to design lessons meant to serve them well. Our carefully-crafted curriculum is rooted in research and optimized learning, which shows that students who directly interact with content indeed learn in deeper and more meaningful ways. Here at CSS, our students are reenacting pieces of literature rather than just reading. They’re performing experiments that show scientific concepts as opposed to memorizing facts. In math class, they’re collaborating in groups to solve complex problems and writing in-depth explanations that validate their findings. These are just a few of the examples I observed this week alone! I could not be more impressed with how willing our faculty are to dig into pedagogy, as they change their practices and adapt instructional methods to provide students with the best learning experiences possible

Persistence is important. 

As leaves fall, they must be repeatedly raked and removed, a job requiring grit and persistence, especially as the temperatures drop. During CSS’s signature Service Days in late October, I watched as Upper School students gave back to the School by helping our maintenance crew with this exact task. Almost as soon as they were done, a huge gust of wind would drop additional leaves, causing yet more raking to be done to ensure our campus stayed beautiful. Sometimes learning feels this way. Such hard work goes into mastering a concept when no sooner do the demands of the course require that our actions be repeated to learn an entirely new concept or theory. For some, it can feel like an endless cycle. Regardless, our students never give up. They put forth the effort on a daily basis and – later looking back at what they’ve learned – discover that they have what they need to be successful in ways both big and small. I overheard a student-leader at our November 13th ExEd Expo share that her public speaking class gave her the skills she needed to lead her group that day. This is just one example of the many ways in which our students persist through academic challenges to self-actualize, flourish and obtain the skills they need to achieve great things along life’s journey.

Rest is critical. 

As the trees lose their leaves, they enter a period of dormancy that allows them to preserve their energy stores for the spring when they can bloom again and resume photosynthesis at its best. Rest is important for us as well and should be practiced regularly so that we can be at our best when needed. I sincerely hope that all of our students, faculty, and staff use the week-long Thanksgiving break to get the rest and relaxation needed to effectively prepare for final exams, the schedule for which can be found here. I hope that the time and traditions of Thanksgiving provide each of you with the respite from work necessary to restore your energy and finish the semester strong. Report cards, including final grades for Semester I, will be emailed on January 7, 2022.

As we look to push through to the end of 2021 and begin the new year ahead, remember that endurance and persistence are key and that there are people around each and every day to keep you going. As always, I am thankful to our students, faculty, staff, and families for all that they give to make this outstanding community what it is. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to be in a place where reflections can be found in nature.

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you and yours have a beautiful celebration. 

With warm regards,

Dr. Hidalgo

Upper School Spotlight

9th- and 10th-Graders

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As we've learned above, the trees with their beautifully-colored leaves are proof of the important life lesson that change can be good. Our 9th and 10th-Grade students acted as ambassadors of change during a Shadow Up Day experience for the Class of 2026 on Friday, November 5.

For many, the thought of transitioning to high school can be exciting yet scary. I'd like to recognize those freshmen and sophomore student-mentors who provided our 20 8th-grade guests with a peek into the life of an Upper School student at CSS. Your dedication to answering their questions and assuaging their fears over lunch, and to showing them the ropes of high school during class has not gone unnoticed.

Because of you, this is an experience our Middle School students will always remember.

Learn more

Mr. Wolfe

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Mr. Wolfe has been a full-time faculty member at The Colorado Springs School since 2006. He first joined our community part-time in 1994 to assist with our treasured Seminar programs.

In my short time here at the School, I’ve been consistently impressed by the visual arts program he has helped to build. Thanks to Mr. Wolfe, the Carriage House is a safe space for so many to explore their creativity, release stress, and make beautiful things. Our campus is full of student-made art, each piece a true work to be proud of; none of which would have been possible without Mr. Wolfe’s nurturing nature. He is a mentor for many students who turn to him regularly for advice and guidance. In fact, almost every conversation I’ve had with current and former parents includes mention of Mr. Wolfe and his influence on their child’s success. Thank you, Mr. Wolfe, for all that you do to make the CSS experience a memorable and impactful one for all.

The Colorado Springs School

21 Broadmoor Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Work: (719) 434-3570

thidalgo@css.org | www.css.org