St. Vrain Valley School District’s Altona Middle School has been recognized as a 2021 Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch by the Colorado Association of Middle Level Education, or CAMLE, according to an email announcement by Marketing and Communications Specialist Eunice Peinado.
Altona is one of two schools that received this recognition this year in Colorado alongside Fountain Middle School in Colorado Springs, according to the CAMLE website.
The local middle school is also one of over a hundred schools across the country that will be recognized as schools to watch in June 2021 by The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reforms, Peinado said in an email.
SVVSD students, teachers and administrators gathered together yesterday for official ceremonies recognizing the accomplishment.
During the middle school’s lunchtime, Altona Principal Jeremy LaCrosse, shared the news with students in the cafeteria, while two students held a banner denoting the achievement.
Diane Lauer, SVVSD’s assistant superintendent of priority programs and academic support, walked students through the rubric that the school was measured against to receive such recognition, including strong academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and strong organizational structures.
The achievement is equivalent to winning the “state championship of middle schools,” she said.
SVVSD’s Deputy Superintendent, Jackie Kapushion, and Assistant Area 3 Superintendent, Dina Perfetti-Deany, were also present at the event.
During an earlier phone conversation, LaCrosse said the school went through a year-long process leading up to the banner ceremony.
“Our students and staff work extremely hard. They push themselves and they thrive on wanting to do a really good job. They are here to learn, always wanting to create cool opportunities for kids, opportunities to explore and help themselves for high school,” he said. “It’s really important for us to have an inclusive community of learning and everyone’s voices are a part of what we are doing … We are all learners here.”
The school started its application last spring and worked on it throughout the summer, he said, adding, they found out about the achievement earlier this year.
Liz Wolford, seventh-grade language arts teacher, said the designation as a School to Watch comes after a collaborative effort between students and staff who worked hard to stand out.
“One of the pieces of education here is that we all have this vision of pushing forward, the use of technology, bringing outside sources and just being able to use technology to help students (bring forth) their best selves,” she said. “Educators collaborate together to create lessons to meet the needs of 21st-century learners.”
The school’s IDEALab — a collaborative work space — is an example of the state-of-the-art technology Altona offers every student and teacher. The lab allows project-based learning and brings the whole community to the forefront of innovative learning, Wolford said.
The student and teacher dynamic is another reason why Altona stands out and has received the designation, according to Wolford.
“Students play such a big role in what we teach. There is a lot of choice-based learning,” she said. “We focus as teachers around six pillars — excellence, grit, innovation, leadership, teamwork and pride — those drive our day-to-day lessons and the communication with students and families.”
Masha Oshmyan, an eighth-grader at Altona, said she is most impressed with the music and technology programs at the middle school.
“All the tech programs are very advanced and fun to learn,” she said. “All the elective classes are really well structured and you learn a lot and it’s very fun.”
Altona’s designation as a Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch will last for three years, after which they can apply for re-designation.