July 22, 2022
Greetings Ospreys,

We're just over a month away from the start of the 2022/23 school year and growing excited to welcome students and staff back to the Nest!

A Word from Rebecca
Rebecca Ruland, our new Head of School, has arrived on campus and is diving into her role in a way that makes us all excited about her leadership at this pivotal time for us as a school community.

Greetings AHS Families!

I am in Durango and have spent the past few weeks getting to know the community of AHS and Durango. I have had the pleasure of meeting with many parents, students, staff as well as the AHS Board of Directors. I managed to sneak in a few bike rides and even a short and shallow float down the Animas River. As I have mentioned, Durango is the home of my father and his parents. As such, I have been coming here all my life and often dreamed of living here. I couldn't be happier to join this community.

I have also dreamed of working at a school just like AHS. The mission of the school is near and dear to me and it follows the same thread that has been guiding me in my professional life for decades--a school that purposely creates a safe and welcoming environment for all and is designed to ensure trust and emotional safety. This, then, opens the doors for rigorous learning. Pedagogy that prioritizes applied learning, critical thinking, reflection and depth. Field experiences that push the envelope for body and mind, regularly asking students to step out of their comfort zone, so that they can develop character and perspective. A school community which embraces ALL families and actively includes them whenever and wherever appropriate. A place that listens, responds and grows together. To top it off, we will soon have a physical space specifically designed to inspire learning. My role is to help grow and perfect all of these assets which make up AHS alongside dedicated staff and families. 

I look forward to meeting each and everyone of you at one of the many events outlined in this newsletter. Let's do this!

Upcoming Events
Mark your calendar for these upcoming opportunities to connect with the Osprey Community--we hope you can join us!

  • Elevated Nest Tour, Wednesday 8/3, 5:30pm at the new building site--this is the FINAL chance to view the new campus before our move in date! RSVP here or just show up at 22 Osprey Way, of Talon Lane on the Fort Lewis College campus
  • New Student and Family Open House, Tuesday 8/9, 5pm at AHS--new students and families are welcome to join us for a chance to visit our current campus and connect with a handful of students, alumni and staff
  • Family Orientation, Tuesday 9/7, 5:30pm at AHS--meet your student's teachers and learn about plans for the year ahead; all families welcome
  • Osprey Back-to-School Social, Friday 9/23, 5:30pm location TBA--an informal potluck meal in the park to celebrate the start of the school year and provide a chance for families to connect

The first day of school is Monday 8/22 for all new students and Tuesday 8/23 for all returning students. We will begin the year with orientation activities, focusing on foundational relationship-building and setting students up for success in the year ahead. Grade-level core classes begin on Wednesday 8/24, with electives starting on Thursday 8/25.

Student Schedules
Student schedules for the 22/23 school year are now visible in Infinite Campus for all students who have completed Course Requests. To view schedules, login to IC and click "Schedule." If a student schedule is empty or incomplete please be sure to follow the directions linked below or email registrar@animashighschool.com for support.

  • NEW Student Course Request Process here
  • RETURNING Student Course Request Process here

If there is no class listed for a specific period, please use instructions linked above to add a course request for that period. Wednesday 6th and 7th periods will be empty for all students until XBlock (PE) classes are assigned after school begins in August (see bell schedule).

We have been working to create more student elective choices for 7th period, as we realized in the process of creating student schedules that we didn't have sufficient options available, particularly for our incoming 9th graders. Remember that students can make changes to schedules in the first 2 weeks of each semester. Please stay tuned--we'll send out more information within the next week or two and we'll do our very best to create schedules for all students that match their interests!

Staffing Updates
As you review student schedules, you'll notice a bit of shifting in terms of which returning teachers are teaching certain core classes for the 22/23 school year, plus a few new names. Here are our grade-level teams for this year:

  • 9th Grade Team: Lauren Lucky (Math 9), Mike Bienkowski (Biology), Cameron Elder (Humanities 9), Drew Semel (Digital Arts)
  • 10th Grade Team: Ande Lloyd (Math 10), Julian Springer (Physics), Sara Price (Humanities 10)
  • 11th Grade Team: John Grotenhuis (Precalculus), Steve Smith with Madi Neukirch as student teacher (Chemistry), Tory Dille (Humanities 11)
  • 12th Grade Team: Kyle Edmondson (Statistics), Lori Fisher (Humanities 12)
Britt Blasdell will be on maternity leave for the fall semester, spending time with her her beautiful, healthy newborn, Zoë. Sharon Hampton will serve as her long-term sub in the Art Department.

We are happy to share that Maureen Truax will be staying on as Registrar for the 22/23 school year. Maureen has been an integral member of our school community since its earliest days of the school when her kids Kyle and Corrine attended AHS and she served as Main Office Manager. She has a wealth of institutional knowledge and professional experience that helps her provide skilled support to our students and families.

Seeing a need to reimagine staff roles to better serve our students and families, we have created some administrative changes for the 22/23 year. Assistant Head of School Libby Cowles will shift to Dean of Enrollment and Community Outreach, supporting strong connections with families, alumni and community partners through communication, events and development to keep our school thriving as we move onto our new campus. Biology Teacher Dave Farkas will serve as our Dean of Students, creating, managing and coordinating programs and practices that foster our Culture of Excellence and sense of belonging for all students and staff. Both Libby and Dave are excited for their new roles!

Information about our amazing returning staff can be found on this page of our website.
New Faculty
We are welcoming 5 new staff members to the Nest this fall, in addition to Rebecca. Please read more below to learn about this impressive new crew of educators.

Cameron Elder is our new Humanities 9 instructor; she will also teach 20th Century American Literature in the fall and Creative Writing in the spring. Cameron grew up right around the corner in Dolores, Colorado where she first discovered the importance of a tight-knit community and hard work. She moved away to complete her BA in English and Literary Arts with a focus in Education from the University of Denver. Here she found her love of teaching through opportunities to teach language abroad. To pursue this further, she moved to continue her education with an MA in Education from Fort Lewis College while spending time connecting back to the community and working in Dolores Middle School teaching Language Arts. Outside of the classroom, she spends her time reading, painting, and taking full advantage of the Colorado outdoors. Cameron is incredibly excited to be teaching Humanities at Animas High School. She believes in the power words have and hopes to learn along with her students as they dive into some of the most powerful words in history through project-based learning.
Drew Semel, who will be teaching Digital Arts to all 9th graders and new students in other grades, along with film and photography electives, grew up in a creative family in a small town outside of Chicago and was taking pictures and making home movies at a very early age. Exploring various forms of storytelling has been a lifelong passion. After receiving a BA from the Communications School (photography, film, design emphasis) at Ithaca College, Drew pursued a career as a photographer and filmmaker. The first stop was in New York City, then on to Florence, Italy and finally Los Angeles, where he worked in television and on movie projects in the entertainment industry. Drew has sought opportunities to teach his craft to adults and younger students throughout his career. He led multiple GlobaLearn expeditions, educating middle school students in the US about children and cultures worldwide. During that time, he traveled to 80 countries, virtually taking students on expeditions.
Drew came to Durango in 2000 to enjoy all the offerings of a small mountain town and open a digital arts studio, Illuminarts. Twenty years later, he has clients throughout the Four Corners region. He’s also been a passionate community member and has been involved with AHS for years as an early supporter of the LINK internship program. Drew is thrilled to be stepping into the Digital Arts teaching role at Animas High School and sharing his lifelong passion for storytelling and the impacts of the visual arts. When he’s away from his studio, Drew usually spends time with his family and their two energetic doodles on the trails around Durango.
Raised in Minnesota, our newest adduition to the Math Department, John Grotenhuis, loves the outdoors and was excited to be able to explore the mountains of Colorado while at the University of Colorado, Boulder, from which he graduated in 2017 with a BA in Mechanical Engineering. Engineering degree in hand, John realized teaching was his path after working in the outdoor ed field. He received his Masters in Education from the University of Denver in 2022, where he recognized that real-world, project-based problems are the best way to learn. When he is not in the classroom, you will see John running ultramarathons, playing with his dog or exploring other outdoor activities. In addition to teaching PreCalculus to our juniors this year, John will offer engineering and SAT prep electives.
Our newest Science teacher, Mike Bienkowski grew up exploring the forests, rounded mountains, lakes and rocky coastlines of New England, developing a lifelong appreciation and passion for learning about nature. He graduated from Colby College in 2010 with a degree in Environmental Studies and was inspired by several of his professors there to pursue a career in education. For five years, he taught high school biology and environmental science at the Salisbury School in Connecticut and led long-distance bike tours for adolescents through Overland Summers. Since moving to Durango in 2016, he has been busy as the lead educator and curriculum writer for Durango Nature Studies and the San Juan Mountains Association. During this time, Mike had the opportunity to work with a broad cross-section of youth in Durango and the Four Corners as a whole and fostered relationships with many school communities while growing a deep knowledge of natural systems in the greater San Juan Mountains region. He is thrilled to bring what he has learned back to the dynamic learning community at Animas, and to continue serving Durango youth. When not teaching, you’ll either find him out running deep in a forest, hunched over a wildflower with a hand lens or teaching salsa dance classes. Mike will teach Biology to our 9th graders in addition to an Anatomy elective.
Tory Dille, our new junior Humanities Teacher, comes to AHS with a passion for place-based and experiential learning informed by her diverse set of experiences working in the fields of education, conservation and community organizing. She holds a BA in Anthropology and Environmental Science from Washington University in St. Louis and an MS in Science Education from Montana State University.

Tory’s path towards education began when she moved to the Vail Valley after college for a fellowship program with an environmental education nonprofit. Since then, she has spent a number of years teaching both in and out of the classroom for organizations across the Rockies. After relocating to southwestern Montana in 2016, Tory had the opportunity to become a founding faculty member for the Bozeman Field School, serve as the Outreach Manager for the Montana Wilderness School, coordinate and lead multi-day backpacking and mountaineering trips, teach yoga, support ecological research and build community around a shared love of wild places. During this time she also served as the Development and Communications Manager for the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center where she took a special interest in community-based wildlife coexistence initiatives in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Tory’s favorite ways to get to know a place are through climbing, backpacking and conversations over coffee. Tory will be teaching two electives in addition to Humanities 11: Literature and Landscapes of the West in the fall semester and Climate, Conflict, and Environmental Justice in the spring.

As one Osprey parent put it recently, after attending the July Elevated Nest Tour:

A lot of greatness happens in those trailers with opportunities galore! It’s like you have a building full of talent scouts, whose job is finding the strengths, encouraging the strengths, supporting the strengths, and in turn, creating these impeccable humans ready to tackle the world! Bravo! Thank you for noticing the good in all humans!"

We love this view of our team of educators as "talent scouts," and look forward to having them all return to the Nest in two weeks, when we'll work with staff from High Tech High, the project-based school in San Diego that inspired our founders. We'll focus on developing excellence in our project-based learning approach while we ready for the big year ahead, when we move into our beautiful new home at Fort Lewis College.

We're so glad to have you as part of the Osprey Community in these exciting times!
Upcoming Events

AHS Board Meeting: Thurs.7/21, 5:30pm via meet.google.com/buh-dfws-poc

FINAL Summer Elevated Nest Tour: Wed. 8/3, 5:30pm at new campus site (RSVP here)

Fundraising Committee Meeting: Thurs. 8/4, 1pm via meet.google.com/mrh-gtsn-ywz

New Student and Family Open House: Tues. 8/9, 5pm at AHS Twin Buttes

First day of 2022/23 School Year (9th grade and transfer students): Mon. 8/22

First day of 2022/23 School Year (returning students): Tues. 8/23

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

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