Stimulating classes at Aspen High
As I read the March 13 Aspen Times Weekly article on extended learning opportunities (ELOs) at the high school, I felt badly that many might come away from reading that article with the impression that the classroom experience at the high school is something that students suffer through or something to dismiss as a necessary evil of the high school experience here. I’d like to offer a divergent view.
That view would come in the form of an invitation to visit classes at the high school and see for yourself what actually goes on here. Sit in a on a Karen Green civics class and listen to the passion in her voice for the subject she teaches; try to find one kid in the room who is not listening and engaged in what’s happening and – dare I say it! – even learning! Look in the door when Kirk Gregory is teaching geography to freshmen; if you can’t find his room, listen for the laughter inside or the lively exchange in a group discussion or project – that room is a happy place! Mosey down to Travis Moore’s geology or meteorology class and see kids DOING things together, possibly in the room or outside – depends on the day. There’s surely learning happening there.
The same would be true in Marc Whitley’s challenging physics class or Karen Zohar’s always-interesting biology labs – yep! Learning there too! Watch a Jamie Hozack math lesson; you will ask the question: Rock star or math teacher? Listen to a Socratic exchange in a Strassburger or Severy or Thompson English class – if you’re older, you’ll find yourself saying, I wish I could have had discussions like that when I was in high school. You could also hear Cerena Thomsen getting her creative writing kids prepped for the next sharing of original student writing.
At the far end of the upstairs hallway, you might hear the sonorous voice of veteran teacher Dave Conarroe as he conveys real-world information and learning about the complex and very current concerns of world economics. In the language wing you could hear Mme. Emma Krukar speak with her I.B. students as they prepare for oral commentaries in French – some practical learning there. Go on down to the art room and watch the masterful guidance of Marti Cyrus as she teases the talent from her charges; I can tell you that those kids are learning, and with more than one part of their brains. You might also speak with most any high school student about what he or she will have learned during Experiential Education week, which begins between April 16 and finishes that following weekend. Talk about extended learning opportunities!
I could go on for many paragraphs here. There are so many talented, capable and devoted teachers here who make the classroom experience rich and satisfying to Aspen’s students, but hopefully you get the point.
So don’t read those Times articles and think that the teachers at this high school don’t or wouldn’t support some form of ELO for students with the need, the drive or the opportunity. I feel safe in saying that we all acknowledge the value of out-of-school learning, but I also stand by a strong belief that in the classroom, with the guidance and dedication of thoughtful, willing teachers, durable and long-term learning takes place most and best. Any movement to an ELO program at the high school requires a conversation among all teachers and administrators and board members; such a decision should not be made unilaterally by Mr. Abelmann. I’d like to be invited to such a conversation; I think most of us who teach here would.
Aspen High School teacher
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