We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...
1997's Climb

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A+ Schools

   As you know, our Vail School District is really something to be proud of.  I've lived out here 18 years now - Kim and I saw this school district grow, from 0 schools in Rita Ranch, to a district of 17 schools, with an 18th to be added next year, a new high school that I am blessed to be a part of the planning committee...we've been so happy with the teachers, the administrators and the over all leadership over the years.
    When Cody came close to being ready for kindergarten, we wanted the best for him.  So, we investigated the area parochial schools...and watched the construction of Cottonwood Elementary, going up just across the street from our development, in the desert where I used to run Cajun...would it provide a good enough education for our Cody?  We were skeptical.
     We attended the kindergarten round-up, thinking Cody would probably end up going to St. Joseph's school, as I was, at that time, managing the Toys R Us right across the street and we thought it was a good school and would be convenient.  Then, we met the staff and teachers at Cottonwood and we thought 'we need to give this a try' and Cody was placed in Ami Daniel's (now Bunch) class. 
      Kim would always tell me, at the first sign of trouble, she would pull Cody out of public school and home school him!  I have no doubt that she would have done a tremendous job!  She even researched websites, looked at how to get supplies, looked at the curriculum ('Yeh, I could do that', she told me), planned out where in our home she would teach Cody, etc. etc.  But, Ms. Daniels, of course, blew us away with her caring, thoughtful approach - Cody was learning so much, so rapidaly - and any thought of pulling Cody that year was also blown away...then, in first grade, we wanted Cody to have Mrs. Christensen - a highly acclaimed teacher, who we had come to know - for first grade...and he was assigned to her class!  But, the school decided to add a creative writing course called 'Blast' and Mrs. Christensen accepted the responsibility for teaching this class (and did an incredible job!!) - we were apprehensive, when a brand new teacher was assigned to take over our Cody's first grade class...'I'll pull him, if this doesn't work out!', Kimmy promised...Ms. Spencer came aboard, and in her first year, proved to be an excellent teacher (now Mrs. Stoner) and her and Cody bonded and Cody really responded to her teaching style and he flourished!!  Kim was hooked on Cottonwood from that point forward!!!  All of his teachers, the rest of the way, were incredible!  Each and every one...and the same can be said for Autumn's and Antonio's (who were blessed to get Ami's sister, Mary - what great teaching jeans in that family!!).
      How many times, have their teachers been the ones to help them through a difficult moment this year?  How many times have their teachers been able to put a smile back on their little faces?  How many times, have I dragged myself through those gates, to pick them up after fighting through my day - only to have them pick me up too??  I can't count that high...unfortunately, I was not educated in the Vail School District!
       Around this time last year, Cottonwood was going through the A+ application process.  This designation carries a lot of merit in our state and gives recognition to the administration and teachers for the outstanding teaching that they do.  And not only teaching - the committee and the process, looks for things the school does to separate it from other schools - so things like great teaching are just a piece of the equation.  The school must also provide programs above and beyond the standard.  It must be in tune with diversity and recognize that each child learns at a different pace and be able to reach each student.  It is a grueling process, involving everyone on campus.  They all work very hard to achieve this prestigious designation.
       The review committee asks to interview a cross section of parents - and Kim and I were honored to be selected to participate.  I can remember meeting with the committee, last March, in the library - they asked the question 'What sets your school apart from others?'.  And Kimmy, once shy little Kimmy, who at one time would have been happy to just be in that room listening to the feedback of others and nodding and smiling in agreement to their answers, raised her hand high...
        She joyfully and tearfully (you know Kimmy...), detailed her initial fears of public schools not living up to her high standards for her little blessings, now known as the bambini.  She spoke about how Cottonwood has grown, how our current principal, Ms. Bryson, has taken her team and turned it into a family for all of us - a family of educators, who care for our children beyond just teaching them to learn their lessons, but provide a nurturing, loving environment, where the children feel safe, and look forward to coming to school.  Ms. Bryson has put together a team of enthusiastic and creative teachers, dedicated to raising the bar.  She told them about Antonio's reading difficulties and how he was placed in the Head Sprout program (the program Kim assisted with right up until the day she was admitted to St. Joseph's, frantically reminding me to contact Ellen and Kristine to let them know she'd be back just as soon as she could to help). And how Antonio was not made to feel like he was behind or deficient in some way, but made to feel that he was part of something special and the sense of accomplishment he got when he tore through the program at an incredible pace!  Kim then related how our little Autumn, somehow cursed with a Boston accent, was caringly taking aside to speech classes - I remember, as a kid, the children who went to speech were pulled out of class, abruptly and there was a stigma attached to speech therapy - but Kimmy told the committee how at Cottonwood, this program is discreet and again, focused on reinforcing the child's sense of self-worth and how Autumn did not feel funny about receiving assistance, but, like Antonio, was proud of her accomplishments.   And I remember the rapt attention that the committee gave to Kim, as she poured her heart out, so passionately, so unabashedly shedding her tears for her love of the school and the people and the programs....
         Needless to say, Cottonwood received that A+ designation...and, it was with these memories and about 2 1/2 hours of sleep, that I headed to Cody's school, Desert Sky, to participate in that same process today, as they go for their A+ designation.  I was able to speak of the leadership, shown by Mr. Mortensen and Mr. Woolridge and how it flows down to each and every teacher - and how Cody has become so engrossed with his classes, especially art, with Mrs. Kitzmiller and the enrich programs, like History of Rock and Roll with Mrs. Silver and one on movies taught by Mr. Wauer.  I channeled Kimmy as I spoke about the passion at Desert Sky and the dedication - the interview seemed to go very well, and I was able to, afterward, relate to the committee how above and beyond Cody's teachers and the admistration have gone to assist Cody through his challenging time...he did not miss a day of school, choosing to dive right back into this wonderful environment, where he knew he was respected and loved...his teachers working extra to put his smile back on his face...I know Kimmy was with me, there today...and I'm confident Desert Sky will receive the award that Kimmy so desired for Cottonwood last year...

          After that...I was feeling a little hungry (sleep could wait...and still is!)...but, I've found that I do not like to eat alone anymore...so, I had one option...Viro's!!  All of the smiling faces that I posted the other day were there to greet me - and Erica whipped me up one of her famous cappuccino's - yeh, no Rock Star today - right away.  Vito Jr. sat down with me, while I ate and we talked - Rosa came out to visit, too.  I'm hooked on the pesto sandwhich right now - I actually looked the whole menu over, thinking I'd just get something different - but, ordered it anyway.  Danny, who makes great gelato and beautiful cakes - told me I'm losing weight - I told him I slimmed down so I could eat at Viro's more often!!  He asked where the bambini were, and I told him sadly, in school - and how I came to see all of the friendly people here - 'We're here for you, anytime, Dave' he told me.

          I ran back out to get the little ones (Mary Montes, beginning to show a little baby!!! But no so much Jenny Rienstra, yet!), got them to do their homework and off to swim lessons...they have some work to do!  Once they were done, we were able to make it back to Desert Sky to get Cody from track - just a few days conditioning and he's ready to run Saturday in his first meet of the season!  And then back to our 'hood, where I made chicken tacos for Betsey, Brian and the kids, afterwhich, we all went out front to let the kids play and Amy, Tom and Alex joined us...the sunset was spectacular...

          I surprised the kids with Redbox DVD's tonight - 'Tangled' for the little ones and 'Machete' for Cody and I.  'Machete' is another Robert Rodriquez instant classic - he is able to capture that 70's, B-movie feel, with a parody twist that makes them so entertaining. And who knew that Cheech Marin is so handy weilding a shotgun in both hands?  Danny Trejo is the hero, the legendary Machete, who gets to save the day, ride off into the sunset and gets the girl, too...
          I don't know what 'Tangled' was all about, but Autumn and Tonio seemed to enjoy it...and then we stepped out back, into the warm, star filled night, to say goodnight to Kimmy...the Big Dipper was completely upside down, the bambini's observed as they told Mama to have sweet dreams...
          I feel as though I've finally punched my way out of the fog that I've been trolling through the last three and a half months - induced by the fear that I felt for those two months Kimmy was in the hospital - my biggest anxiety now, is just knowing where the bambini will be, when I have to work and who they will be with...I'm working on feeling less stress about this and how I handle the stress, which is a struggle for me - and also, having faith that it will all work out...

        "Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have."
                                                                                                              Phillippians 4:11

         ...actually, I am learning to be content with what I have...


  1. Dave - you nailed why we moved to Rita Ranch. Jen wanted the kids to attend the best school district in Tucson. The rest is history! And when we made the trek to Iowa, same thing - had to be the best school district.

  2. Whew! Glad to know I passed the Conca test... you had me worried there! I was just as nervous to be teaching your kids as you all were to have me, a 23 year old, fresh out of college teacher! I almost threw up when the bell rang that first morning! My favorite memory of having Cody in my class was the time he drew the genie in the bottle. But not just any bottle, a Budweiser bottle! With the word Budweiser written in bold across the bottle AND spelled correctly! I remember telling Kim about it and she laughed (she had the best laugh!) as she told me that Cody had copied that drawing from one that you (Dave) had drawn! :)

  3. Are you kidding Sarah? You nailed it! Cody so enjoyed your class and learned a lot! We enjoyed the year, too!
    And, as for the Budweiser guy...yeh, well, Kim was not very happ with me over that! But, my Dad used to draw me cartoons and leave them on my bedroom door before he went to work when I was little. I kind of bastardized these drawings, during my high school years, to include a depiction of an angry punk rocker bursting out of a beer bottle. I think I must have drawn it up for Kimmy, at her request, and left it out - apparently, Cody was impressed...and replicated it the next day!!
    Anyways, it was a good year and I have nothing but great memories of first grade!!!
    - Dave