A conversation with the new Lower School Principal 

Angie Crabtree will be the new Principal of Colorado Academy’s Lower School Division, beginning with the 2019-2020 school year. She comes to CA from the Webb School in Knoxville, Tenn., where has worked for more than 20 years as a teacher, Assistant Lower School Head, and Division Head. We talked to Angie recently about her passion for teaching and nurturing Lower School children. 

 What drew you to education as a career? 

 I initially majored in Business in college, because I thought I might follow in my parent’s footsteps. But my Dormitory Resident Advisor during my first semester was an Education major, and I discovered that I enjoyed helping her prepare teaching activities. I took one Education class, and I knew immediately that I had found my passion.  

 What was it about that first class that spoke to you? 

 In that first class, my eyes were opened to a whole new way of teaching and learning. I realized there were multiple ways to help children access pathways that work best for them. I kept thinking that, if I had been taught that way, school would have been so different for me! To find the right way to reach every child, that was such an exciting challenge for me. It was invigorating.  

 Why have you preferred to work with Lower School students throughout your career? 

 Lower School children fill my tank every day. They create unbelievable stories from the moment I open their car doors in the morning to the moment I say good-bye to them at the end of the day. They give me joy, and I love providing them with teachable moments. From ages 4 to 11, there are so many opportunities to develop and nurture a child as an individual, leader, and person. They recharge my batteries every day! 

 You have special expertise in differentiated instruction. What exactly does that mean? 

 Differentiated instruction means a teacher understands the needs of each learner and thinks about the right way to teach content or a skill so the learner can understand and apply it in multiple waysFor a teacher, this means developing strategies that reach and teach a wide range of learners. 

 For example, if you are teaching the concept of telling time, you must understand the knowledge level of every student, their learning style preferences, and what ability they already have at performing this skill. You create a lesson with different levels of complexity that reaches all the students in the class through content, process, or product.  

 How do teachers achieve that level of knowing their students? 

 Teachers gather information from the beginning of the year. They talk to parents, they observe their students, they gather information from surveys, they interact with their students, and they encourage students to reflect on their own learning. It’s an ongoing dialogue from August to June, and as teachers know more about each student, they can help children know more about themselves as learners.  

 When people hear “student assessment,” they think about standardized tests. What do you think about? 

 When talking about student assessment, I always use the phrase, “it’s not a snapshot; it’s a photo album.” From August to June, you look at the standards you must attain, but you also look at the big picture, evaluating the overall performance of a child. When you gather data, you don’t just take it in. You use it to determine an action plan for each child’s development as a learner 

 How will you bring your experience and expertise in curriculum development to CA? 

 I like to encourage faculty to do curriculum mapping each year, with an eye on how the curriculum works congruently with the grade levels above and below. We should always be looking at new research so we are never stagnant. Curriculum is a living document at all times.  

 What appealed to you about relocating to Colorado? 

 Five years ago, my husband and I decided that we wanted to be open to change in our lives, and so I had been talking to different schools for all these years, waiting for the right opportunity. My husband and I are enthusiastic campers, and we had often camped in Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, so we were very interested in this area. Then this opportunity came along, and I talked to Dr. Davis on the phone and I was hooked. He was already thinking 10 to 20 years into the future about what education should feel and look like. We were ping-ponging ideas, and I knew I had to learn more.  

 When you visited CA, what did you notice? 

 There is such a sense of community on the campus; everyone was so friendly and kind, and that kindness permeated every building and action I experienced. Students were shooting rockets off in the middle of campus, and Fourth Graders were learning about National Parks, and I could see how enthusiastic students were about learning. It was clear that teachers are invested in their students and go above and beyond to make sure they are successful. I could feel the energy on campus, and it felt comfortable; I felt my skills would be helpful, and I would be nurtured as a leader. 

 How have you been involved in the community you are leaving? 

 My husband is an Eagle Scout and I started to tag along with his work with Boy Scouts, and I ended up running the entire Cub Scout pack for our school. Because my husband is a veteran, we organize a big ceremony every year for Veterans Day. I work closely with a group called The Butterfly Fund, which supports research, treatment, and services dedicated to the defeat of childhood cancers. And I’m involved with Random Acts of Flowers, which donates recycled flowers to people in healthcare facilities.  

 Favorite music? Country! 

 Favorite holiday? Valentine’s Day. Children love it. 

 Favorite type of book? Historical fiction 

 Favorite type of vacation? Cross-country road trip with lots of stops at National Parks and camping! 

 Something people are surprised to find out about you? I was the Double Dutch jumprope champion of the Seventh Grade. And I’m a post card collector. 

 Favorite word? Joy is my favorite word, because it represents a genuine feeling of love and respect. It means seeing the positive in any situation and the best in every person.