Jessica Watkins Stuart MAT ’14: a future in environmental education

Jessica Watkins Stuart MAT '14

Jessica Watkins Stuart MAT ’14

Jessica Watkins Stuart is the featured Young Professional in the November 20, 2015 issue of the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

Jessica is the first MAT graduate to find employment with the same community partner where she served her specialized interest internship: the Catamount Institute.  Congratulations, Jessica!

Alumni Profile: Emily Alexander MAT ’10

Apple Awards 2015

Zach and Emily Alexander 

Emily Alexander is a 2010 graduate of Colorado College with a Bachelor’s Degree in music and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in K-12 music. During her time at CC, Alexander sang in the Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble, conducted by Deborah Jenkins Teske. During her pursuit of her undergraduate’s degree, Alexander realized not only did she love music and singing, but she also developed a strong appreciation for her courses at CC and loved learning about the math, science and art of music.

Alexander’s favorite undergraduate classes were her technical musical classes, because learning the science behind music “helped deepen [her] love” for the art. Alexander has dedicated much of her time teaching these more technical aspects of music to her own students, because her classes at CC were so influential in her career.

“CC was the perfect place to prepare me for my teaching career,” said Alexander when describing her experience in the MAT program. Working with her cohorts and people who were equally passionate was motivational and constructive. Between student teaching, writing a thesis and attending classes, Alexander laughed, “we were all down in the trenches, and then we all came out together.”

Despite her success and her level of comfort now, Alexander spoke to the transition from graduate school to the “real world”, saying it isn’t as easy as some make it out to be. Alexander said, “your first year as a teacher is going to kick your butt no matter what. There’s no way you’re going to know what is going to happen. Every day there’s something new, and you just kind of learn from trial by fire.”

Since graduating, Alexander has taught choir to sixth, seventh and eight graders at Cimarron Middle School in Douglas County. Alexander chose to teach middle-school students because she believes it is a great time to “help kids find their passion. And if they don’t find that in music, to help them find something they are passionate about.”

Since Alexander began teaching at Cimarron, the choir program has grown enormously to 320 students. With the expansion of the program, she has had the opportunity to implement interdisciplinary lessons—her favorite kind of lessons to teach. She focuses on the meaning and history behind music as well as the scientific and mathematical components of it. By teaching from multiple angles, Alexander believes “kids can take ownership over the discipline.”

Alexander truly thinks that her class is a different place than other classes, because no other discipline “does quite exactly what we do.” She thinks choir teaches life lessons, because “students learn how to overcome fears and work towards common goals.”

If there is one piece of advice Alexander would give to new teachers, regardless of the discipline they are in, it is: “If you are going to be a teacher, make positive phone calls home as much as you can.”

Most parents only receive phone calls when something bad has happened, or parents don’t hear any news from school at all. Calling home to tell parents how well their children are doing “really builds a positive learning community, especially between kids and their parents.”

Today, outside of teaching at Cimarron, Alexander sings with Kantorei, a professional-caliber choral ensemble based in Denver.  She is also a member of the Colorado Music Educators Association, where she takes part in professional development programs and attends their annual conference. This organization is incredibly helpful because it creates a network and accessible resources for music teachers, who are so unique in their work.

“I have loved working in education, and right now I would like to stay in the classroom and stay engaged and energized,” said Alexander. As a Colorado native she does not see herself leaving the state anytime soon.  In the future however, she thinks she might like to transition into adult education, or teaching teachers.

Alumni Profile: Brittni Darras MAT ’12


Rampart Cheerleading

Rampart Cheerleading

Brittni Darras is a born and bred Colorado Springs resident, who is using her career to give back to a community close to her heart. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in Literature at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Darras continued on to complete her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the Colorado College in 2012. Over the course of the past three years, Darras has been teaching ninth and tenth grade English courses at Rampart High School in Academy District 20.

Since the third grade, Darras has known she wanted to teach. While in college, Darras tutored students at her old high school, Doherty High School, in a group called Avid (Advancement Via Individual Determination), an in-school academic support program that prepares students for college eligibility and success. While tutoring, Darras really got to know students and talk to them about their ambitions and futures.

“It seemed more real world to me and that’s what really made me know that I wanted to do secondary education. I wanted a Master’s degree, and I just went for it.”

Since her undergraduate years, Darras has fully immersed herself in the world of education, and she attributes an enormous part of her success to the preparation and experiences she had in the Colorado College MAT program.

One characteristic of CC’s program is a small and tight knit learning community. With only ten students in the secondary program, “we could share the experiences, and because it was small and concentrated we got to know our professors. We hung out on the weekends with the other colleagues and we just got to know each other and bonded through the experiences that we were going through,” said Darras.

Another unique aspect of the program is the combination of working on a thesis, taking classes and teaching simultaneously. Darras believes managing these three components set her up for a positive teaching experience post-graduation.

“Teaching is a lot easier because now I’m used to being busy and doing multiple things at once, because teaching isn’t a job that just stays in the classroom, it requires outside planning and grading and other things, and I think CC really prepared me for that.”

Outside of teaching English classes, Darras has committed herself to other activities at Rampart High School. She stresses the importance of community both within the school and without, emphasizing keeping parents involved with their kids in the education process.

Gangnam Style

 “I didn’t realize while I was at CC how important that is, but it really is a community. If you really get to know the parents, you can get the parents to work with the kid, and that positive relationship is something that really makes the biggest difference.

Darras’ position as the Varsity cheerleading coach and as the student council advisor for Avid displays her involvement and reflects how much she values community.

One of Darras’ fondest memories teaching, so far, took place two years ago during a Bald for Bucks assembly. Over the past couple years the students have raised over $30,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and over 100 people from Rampart shave their heads every year. Darras was inspired by one of her cheerleaders who wanted to shave her head, and Darras wasn’t going to let her do it alone. Darras says the fundraiser and shaving her head was something she would never have done if she was not teaching at Rampart, and that the experience was a “life changing impactful moment, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Bald for Bucks

Bald for Bucks

Bald for Bucks

Bald for Bucks

Eventually, Darras hopes to get her PhD and possibly teach at a university. But for now she is “like moss stuck to a tree”, and is in love with her job at Rampart. Colorado is home, and even moving ahead, she foresees her life staying in the beautiful state.

Alumni Profile: Tim Hoisington MAT ’11

After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies at Connecticut College, Tim Hoisington graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in secondary science from Colorado College in 2011.

While in the MAT program, Hoisington taught science and led multiple field trips at Carmel Middle School, an experience he believes most prepared him for his career in education.

Following graduation, Hoisington continued his teaching career while volunteering in the Peace Corps.  Inspired by his eighth grade science teacher, Hoisington traveled to Nicaragua in 2012 to work with the Peace Corps in environmental education.

After improving his Spanish, Hoisington began his work in Diriomo, where he taught students in the third, fifth and sixth grade at two public schools: La Concepción and Rubén Darío de Diriomo.

Hoisington shared his materials and strategies with teachers and students, opening gateways into the realm of natural sciences, teaching students how to construct gardens and create organic fertilizer.

Tim Hoisington in Nicaragua

One of Hoisington’s most memorable experiences teaching in Nicaragua was during a unit on force, where students created their own bridges, and then tested how much force they could withstand.

“Many of the kids had never done a project where they had to create something using information they learned in class. The kids were super into it and I enjoyed seeing them have fun while applying important science concepts learned in class.”

Watch the students testing the strength of their bridges:

For Hoisington, teaching in Nicaragua has illuminated the importance of utilizing resources in education, and how an abundance of resources does not necessarily correlate with better teaching practices.

“I think a lot of times teachers can be distracted from content with all of the resources we have available. I think on the other side of the spectrum teachers that don’t have many resources don’t think they have the ability to implement dynamic classes. The reality is that if you have paper, pencils and tape you can do a whole lot with those resources.”

Aside from leading teacher trainings every month, teaching science classes, and helping community members and other volunteers to build fuel-efficient stoves and ovens, Hoisington also started a soccer league for boys in Nicaragua.

Hoisington with his youth soccer league in Nicaragua

The link between philanthropy and sports development is one that Hoisington has continually explored over the past few years.  Through multiple projects, he has spread values in leadership, health and community to youth through different athletic outlets and camps.

The camps are unique in the way they “bring together youth from diverse regions across Nicaragua to break down barriers and to promote a unified youth that can use their common understanding of the problems they face to instigate change together,” said Hoisington.

Click the link below to learn about a soccer camp Hoisington helped organize to raise HIV awareness:

Moving forward, Hoisington hopes to continue working with sports development and philanthropy. Also, since learning Spanish, he is considering teaching English as a Second Language courses.

Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in the San Luis Valley

Mary Slayden with her class in Center, Colorado

Mary Slayden with her class in Center, Colorado, with Principal Sarah Vance. The group is wearing t-shirts presented to the class as a gift.

Pumpkin day in Center, Colorado

Chelo Barton with students on Pumpkin Day in Center, Colorado

Andy Orozco Rivas and Center student with a prize pumpkin

Andy Orozco Rivas and Center student with a prize pumpkin

Teddy Rose with lunch buddies at Center School District

Teddy Rose with lunch buddies at Center School District

Lykkefry Bonde works with students in the library

Lykkefry Bonde works with students in the library

Jean Sung with Center students at lunch

Ruthie Rabinovitch and Jean Sung with Center students at lunch

Teddy Rose with student during lunch

Teddy Rose with student during lunch

Alumni Update: Buck McKenna ’11

Buck McKenna '07 graduated with a Minor in Education

Buck McKenna ’11 graduated with a Minor in Education

Buck McKenna graduated from Colorado College in 2011 with a major in Religion and a minor in Education. During his time at CC, McKenna played lacrosse and was known for being great with kids. After receiving his diploma, McKenna moved to San Francisco, where he worked in a two-year internship as a teaching assistant at the Town School for Boys.

“My first year in the classroom was extremely busy, but the greatest take away was the opportunity to work with students, teachers, parents and administration,” said McKenna.

Moving up from the second grade, McKenna’s second year of the internship was spent working as a teaching assistant in the fourth grade.

“These two years allowed me to work with experienced teachers and observe what collaboration between teachers and grades looks like,” he said.

Following his internship, McKenna was hired as a full time teacher in the fourth grade where he was asked to take on many roles at the school.

“It may sound corny,” said McKenna, “but I feel like my whole time at CC prepared me for this job… my time at CC allowed me the understanding of looking at the big picture in a student’s life.”

After five years as a teacher in California, a teaching opportunity opened up at the Colorado Academy in Denver. McKenna eagerly jumped at the chance to return to the Centennial State, this time teaching 5th grade.

“I could not be happier. I have had the chance to teach an incredible group of students and work with amazing teachers and parents… Getting to know students in my class has allowed me the opportunity to involve their passions, strengths and to stretch their goals.”

McKenna is looking forward to his second year in Denver at the Colorado Academy, and he is excited to be living back in Colorado close to Colorado College.

Crestone Charter School Seeks Secondary Science/Math Teacher

Crestone Charter School seeks an inspired and highly qualified science/math teacher for our high school/middle school program for the 2015-2016 school year.  The responsibilities of the position are flexible depending on the skill set of the successful applicant .  The small, innovative, and student centered program consists of two teachers in mixed age classrooms.  We have mentorships that engage artists and other members of the community for academic credit.  The program is highly experiential and includes wilderness trips, international travel, and a ski/snowboard program.
Crestone Charter School Class

Photo courtesy Crestone Charter School.


Crestone Charter School has received national recognition as a success in rural charter schools. Our 93 student K-12 program features experiential education, a strong arts program, travel experiences, and a winter ski and snowboard option. We are located in a small and progressive community.  Our new school building is heated and powered by our photovoltaic and solar thermal systems. Salary and benefits consistent with schools in the San Luis Valley. Candidates should be highly qualified and professional outdoor and travel experience is a plus.

Submit cover letter, resume, and a list of references electronically to or call 719-256-4907.

Teaching Positions at Fort Morgan School District

Fort Morgan School District in Fort Morgan, Colorado has openings for the 2015-2016 school year.  Fort Morgan is located on I-76 East of Denver (1hr. 15min. from downtown), 50 minutes straight east of Greeley, or 45 minutes West of Sterling.  We are a rural farming community with approximately 3000 students.
My name is Jason Frasco, Principal at Fort Morgan Middle School.  I am currently looking to fill one Language Arts / Literacy position and a Special Education position for next year.  Our school is comprised of 470 students.  Class sizes are 22-26, and we are organized with two 5 person teams per grade level.  We have achieved the highest rating for the state of Colorado, earning a “Performance” rating.  Fort Morgan Middle School was just re-designated as a National Forum – Colorado Schools To Watch — one of approximately 300 schools across the United States to receive this honor.  Additionally, we are breaking ground on a brand new Middle School to open August 2016.  We have great things going on in our building and our district.
If you have interest in our position, please contact me at the information below.  I would be happy to discuss Fort Morgan, our Middle School, and what we have to offer potential educators.  Also, below is a link to current openings in Fort Morgan, and the recent posting as well.
Jason Frasco, Principal
Fort Morgan Middle School
W – (970) 370-6424
C – (970) 768-9394
The following is a link to all of our openings throughout the district, and I have copied the current openings as well.

Alumni Video: Explore! by David Van Sicklen MAT ’12

Thank you David Van Sicklen (MAT ’12) for sharing this YouTube video! Your passion for teaching will change the lives of so many students!

Explore! My Educational Philosophy, by David Van Sicklen. David spent three years teaching in Thailand after graduation. He returns to the Denver area this summer.

Explore! My Educational Philosophy, by David Van Sicklen

Explore! My Educational Philosophy, by David Van Sicklen MAT ’12

Reimagining the MAT Teacher Preparation Curriculum

On the heels of introducing our new education major and education minor programs, the Colorado College Education Department is in the process of redesigning its Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) curriculum in time for the 2015-16 academic year. Over the past few decades teacher preparation curricula have been based on the behaviorist/scholarly/academic model of teacher preparation, which places mastery of content area first and foremost.

By contrast, Colorado College’s restructured MAT curriculum employs a learner-centered model which emphasizes a developmental perspective and the learning of pedagogy in order to be a great teacher of one’s discipline. The new CC MAT model focuses on teacher dispositions as well as identifying personal characteristics and mechanisms that lend themselves beyond mere survival and toward teacher “thrival” in the classroom.

The learner-centered model of teacher preparation is another example of CC’s Education Department being on the cutting edge. Other institutions such as the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are looking to our redesign as a model for restructuring teacher preparation, featuring an undergraduate major in education paired with a learner-centered graduate program.