August 26, 2022

Welcome to Junior Year!

The 11th Grade Team is delighted to be working with your teenager over the next 10 months as they engage in purposeful and rigorous learning. It is our goal to support and challenge them as they begin to identify and work towards their postsecondary goals. This junior year brings many school-based milestones including:

  • a 3 week internship in the spring semester,
  • a greater focus on college exploration,
  • more elective opportunities including concurrent enrollment opportunities and
  • the move to our new campus in the spring semester.

In the following paragraphs you can read short notes from the junior teaching team and learn about the projects, skills and content that students will be working on in each of their core classes.

Tory Dille, Humanities 11

Tory's Digital Portfolio

Humanities 11 Syllabus

[email protected]

Hi Junior class community! I am joining the team at AHS this year and am really looking forward to working with you all. A little about me: I have spent a number of years teaching both in and out of the classroom for organizations and schools across the Rockies and continue to be impressed by the students I’ve worked with. After relocating from the Vail Valley to southwestern Montana in 2016, I had the opportunity to become a founding faculty member for the Bozeman Field School, an independent high school in Bozeman. During my time in Montana, I also worked as the Outreach Manager for the Montana Wilderness School and led backpacking and mountaineering courses for high school students. Most recently, I worked as the Development and Communications Manager for the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center and took a special interest in community-based wildlife coexistence initiatives in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. I have a BA in Anthropology and Environmental Science from Washington University in St. Louis and an MS in Science Education from Montana State University. I could not be more excited to be joining the Durango community - thank you for the warm welcome! 

The Humanities curriculum for the fall semester centers around political ideologies, social change, and a critical analysis of the American experience and the democratic process through a close look at social movements throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. During the spring, students will explore the political ecology of natural resources in the Four Corners area and prepare for college-level research and writing through a research project. Students will read and write daily, have opportunities to apply their knowledge in diverse contexts, and will participate in socratic seminars to demonstrate their understanding of course material. Students have the option to participate in Honors this year and will have additional expectations and assignments should they opt in to this section of the course. 

John Grotenhuis, Precalculus

Precalculus Syllabus

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Hello all!! I am excited to be at AHS. I am coming off my student teaching in Estes Park, Colorado and found project-based learning there, as well as in my graduate schooling. I grew up in Minnesota but came out to the University of Colorado, Boulder to pursue Mechanical Engineering. After college, I taught outdoor education in Rocky Mountain National Park and discovered I belonged in education instead of engineering. 

I am excited to teach mathematics through a project-based approach. We will be using an approach that requires the students to write their own explanations on how to reach a conclusion. We will be looking at 3 units throughout the year that build on the knowledge from past classes. There will be a mixture between Algebra, Trigonometry, Geometry, Pre-Calculus and Statistics Throughout the year, we will be looking at Problem of the Week that will be interesting and intellectually stimulating to challenge ourselves. Each semester, we will create a project and/or large presentation on one of the topics.

Steve Smith, Chemistry

Steve's Digital Portfolio

Chemistry Syllabus

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I am returning to Animas High School for my 12th year and look forward to graduating my 3rd advisory! I continue to be inspired by and grateful for my colleagues and the students who define this community. Outside of school I enjoy all things outdoors and spending time with my family and friends.

I am stoked to team-teach Chemistry with Madi and to learn alongside the class of 2024. In the fall we will be exploring chemistry through the theme of food and cooking. There will be many opportunities to engage our gustatory sense as we explore how the chemical composition and structure of matter dictates the properties of substances and how substances are altered through processes involving energy and matter, aka "cooking." Students will be transforming food in the classroom and at home as they design, execute, analyze and communicate about investigations of their own choosing. In the spring students will conduct two projects. In the first they will explore connections between chemistry and art. In the second they will address questions of sustainability and materials science as they explore the design and construction of our new campus. As the culmination of this project students will be creating permanent exhibits that explain sustainable features of the new campus and how the underlying chemistry of the materials contributes to that sustainability. There will be interdisciplinary connections made to their work in Humanities as described above. 

The juniors are partnering with the Good Food Collective (GFC) to participate in gleaning efforts through a field trip on Friday September 2. Students will not attend their math class on that day. Pod 2 students (3rd period Chemistry) will leave campus at 10:15 and return at 12:00. Pod 1 students, my 5th period, will leave at 12:45 and return at 2:30. A particular destination has not yet been established, though it will be relatively local. 

Students will donate some of the apples they harvest to the GFC's efforts to alleviate food insecurity. The Chemistry class will then work with the CSU Extension Office to preserve apples the following Thursday, September 8. We may donate some of the canned apples back to GFC and students will also be able to take some of their preserved apples home. Throughout this process we will explore science content that is relevant and related to preserving food through the canning process.

We need parent volunteers to help transport students. The earlier we hear, the better as we need to be sure to check for a clean driving record and gather insurance information for all volunteer drivers.

If families have an electric hot water canning bath that they would be willing to let AHS borrow for the canning day that would be greatly appreciated. We will also likely ask students to bring in paring knives, cutting boards and peelers to help with the processing of the apples. Please reach out to me at [email protected] if you can help with driving or can loan an electric canning bath.

Madi Neukirch, Chemistry

Madi's Digital Portfolio

Chemistry Syllabus

[email protected]

I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska where I attended college at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. There, I discovered my passion for the outdoors and outdoor leadership before graduating with a B.S. in biological sciences. In August 2020, I moved to Pagosa Springs, Colorado to serve in AmeriCorps as a social-emotional learning advisor. During my service, I helped develop a social-emotional learning curriculum, as well as built capacity for schoolwide restorative practices. Above all, during my service I learned about the importance of building positive relationships with students. Currently, I am working on completing my Master’s in Education program at FLC and I'm excited to be serving as a student teacher with Steve in Chemistry. When I am not in the classroom or studying, I can often be found rock climbing at any one of the local crags around Durango.

Jenny McKenzie, Spanish

Jenny's Digital Portfolio

[email protected]

Hello Junior class! I am excited to be back at Animas for my 5th (non-consecutive) year and my 11th year of teaching high school Spanish. As a Spanish teacher, my goal is to inspire and empower my students to become multilingual so that they have both the interest and the tools to build bridges of communication across cultures. Essentially, I want my students to walk away from class feeling like they CAN and WANT to continue the language learning journey!! As a Spanish 3 teacher and an 11th grade advisor, there is a good chance I will be working with many of you throughout the year. But for those of you who might not be in my class, know that I will be around and looking forward to supporting you and your classmates with other unique junior experiences, like your presentations of learning, LINK preparation, etc. It is going to be a great year!

Please reach out to us with questions and we look forward to meeting you in person at Family Orientation on Wednesday September 7 at 5:30pm!

Upcoming Events

NEST Meeting and Student Activity Fair: Wed. 9/1

Labor Day Holiday (no classes): Mon. 9/5

XBlock Classes Begin: Wed. 9/7

Family Orientation: Wed. 9/7, 5:30pm

Senior Family Postsecondary Night: 9/14, 5:30pm

Osprey Back-to-School Social: Fri. 9/23, 5:30pm

AHS Events Calendar
AHS 2022/23 School Calendar
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Animas High School prepares all students for college and postsecondary success by creating critical thinkers and engaged citizens through an innovative, student-centered, project-based curriculum. We accomplish this through:
Rigorous academics, where all students are prepared for college success
Culture of excellence, where students are held to high expectations
Strong student-faculty relationships, where students are well known.
Engaging learning, where students see the relevance in their education

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