Second Grade teacher Jessi McCoy greets her first student on the first day of school with an air hug.

Living the Mission: Learners

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of articles about ways that Colorado Academy is living its mission during challenging times.

‘Miss Take’

A veteran of 17 years in the classroom, Second Grade Teacher Jessi McCoy candidly describes herself as a “markers and paper kind of teacher.”

“Sometimes teachers get into their routines and don’t try new things,” she says. “But I have learned since COVID started that even as I am saying ‘I can’t do that,’ all of a sudden, I’ve learned to do it.”

Still, returning to Lower School this fall—with the CA Flex system that had half her class in the room and half online at home—brought new challenges, and McCoy admits, new anxiety.

“How could I teach students online at the same time I had them in person, wearing a mask, and social distancing?”

On her first day with a divided class, McCoy decided to jump into teaching with the Owl camera. She had created a picture of a teacher named “Miss Take,” a teacher who occasionally makes mistakes, like spelling a name wrong, or forgetting the schedule for the day. Almost immediately, she realized her well-intentioned lesson on how it’s okay to make a mistake had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. All she heard from her students learning remotely was a chorus of, “We can’t see it!”

“I got through it,” she remembers. “But I had made about 20 mistakes in a lesson about making mistakes.”

By the next day, she had figured out how to share visuals with the students at home. She celebrated with a well-earned cheer, because after 17 years, she, just like her students, is still learning.

“We’ve learned that we are stronger than we thought we were,” she says. “We can practice learning new, hard things.”

Collin Mielke, Grade 6

In his first year of Middle School, Collin Mielke is thrilled to be back at CA learning. “I love being on campus, and I would much rather go every other day than not go to school,” he says. “Even though there are challenges, social distancing is much better than staying home.”

He describes learning at home on the Owl camera as “better than I thought it would be.” And he praises his teachers, whom he calls “supportive and kind.”

“They have done a great job of adjusting to everything being new to them,” he says. “And they have kept everyone calm.”

Collin’s teachers say he is an enthusiastic learner, and he is eager to talk about what he is studying. In math, he is learning order of operations with exponents, in science, he is learning the metric system and studying water quality issues, and in Core English, he is learning a lot of vocabulary. His favorite new word is “sage.”

“I love people who are sage,” he says. “They are wise, and they give good advice.”

He has his own sage advice for the CA community. “If we keep doing the routine we are doing, we stay positive-minded, and we are supportive of each other, we will get everybody back to school someday.”

Hannah Krueger, Senior

Hannah Krueger is a leader in STAMP (Students Taking Action and Making Progress) which organizes peer-to-peer workshops on equity, action, healing, and inclusiveness.

Here, in her own words, is what she has learned from her experiences with STAMP.

“I first went to STAMP as a Middle Schooler, and the experience sparked my interest in diversity, equity, and inclusivity work. I like the idea of getting everyone involved and having important discussions on DEI. I want to be a teacher eventually, and this felt like a way to inspire future generations to make this world a better place.

“Going to STAMP in Middle School gave me the tools and trained me to lead others and help other people who want to make a difference. It’s how I became a leader today.

“This fall, we started remote training sessions to decide what topics we will discuss during a series of six workshops for high schoolers across Colorado. I can see that people want to get involved and learn more, and that’s a good thing.

“People’s opinions are often determined by the way they were raised, but you can help people change their perspectives and form their own opinions. That’s why this work is so important to me. Not all issues are simple. Through STAMP, I have learned strategies to discuss different points of view. We need to learn from each other to create a world where everyone feels included and accepted.”