Skip to content

He is a former University of Utah football player not afraid to tackle any topic or issue when it comes to teens and improving social health.

On this episode of the Supercast, we sit down with Herriman High School teacher and licensed marriage and family therapist David Kozlowski. Find out about a class Mr. Kozlowski created at Herriman High called “Level Up,” which is getting statewide recognition and helping students improve their relationships with family, friends, teachers and others in their lives.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. He is a former University of Utah football player, not afraid to tackle any topic or issue when it comes to teens and improving social health. On this episode of the Supercast, we sit down with Herriman High School teacher and licensed marriage and family therapist David Kozlowski. Find out about a class Mr. Kozlowski created at Herriman High called 'Level Up', which is getting statewide recognition and is helping students improve their relationships with family, friends, teachers, and others in their lives.

We are here at Mountain Ridge High School with David Kozlowski, who just spoke with all of the administrators in the District for our Administrative Leadership Conference.  I couldn't let him get away without stopping to talk with him about some of the ideas he has for connecting with teens and with each other, and just to share some of his insights with our listeners. Thank you for joining us, first of all. Thank you for the message you have to share with administrators today.

David Kozlowski:
It was a great pleasure for me, especially now that I'm a teacher at Herriman High School to talk to peers and people that are in the trenches. It's really cool, because usually I just talk to parents, but now I feel I got to talk to parents and professionals in education. So it was huge enjoyment for me.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell everybody a little bit of your story and how you got to where you are, and then I want to talk about your connection to teaching after that.

David Kozlowski:
I never once in a day in my life woke up and said, 'I think I want to talk about feelings for a living when I get older." I was trying to go the macho route.  I have two older brothers that played in the NFL. Well, I was adopted, it's a long story. My grandmother adopted me. She raised me with her kids and her new husband. So I was raised by my half uncles and aunts as my siblings basically. So I thought I wanted to be a sports athlete like them. I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to the University of Utah to play football, but I really didn't love football. It wasn't really like the thing I loved to do, and I had a lot of problems in college.  I just got done talking about it here to the administrators, but to make really long story short, I had a very serious suicide attempt. I'd had a bad relationship breakup with my girlfriend, fiancé at the time, and been told that I could never play football again because I had concussion problems. I was in a coma for two days from an accident. So it was like a really bad, traumatic brain injury, with a speech impediment and everything. I started going to a therapist and a counselor and one thing led to another. I was like, "so you just listen to people, talk about their struggles, you ask them questions to help them express himself and they feel better?" He's like, "Yeah", I'm like, "that's a cool job. I want that job." So I graduated from the University of Utah, went to graduate school, to become a licensed marriage and family therapist and I've been in mental health for 22 years.

That kinda got me up until recently, and then with becoming a teacher that was not even a plan thing either for years. I just saw this pattern working with teens and kids. You know, when you see a pattern in something you try and make sense of it first. Then after you see it over and over for years, then you start to go, oh, wait a second, maybe we need to talk about the problem completely differently. It's called an orthogonal approach. Right? Einstein was famous for that, he looked at what other scientists did. He's like, "yeah, I'm not interested in that. Do something totally different just to kind of think outside the box." So for years I've been telling school districts and people that I have this idea for a curriculum that was based upon what I saw with private practice. I put on free social support groups for teens and here in the Herriman community for 11 years. So these kids freely are coming every week and I'm just taking notes. It felt like that guy who lived with lions in Africa for like 10 years, they came back to see him, they accepted him.  These teenagers forget I'm even there because I look like I'm 12 still, right? I wear vans and I look like an adolescent.

Then I just figured out all these unique things that really led to their problems and all the things that were connected to their solutions. It was pretty simple. The ones that had bad relationships, family, friends, relationship with themselves, always had issues with mental and emotional health. The ones that didn't have bad family or friend relationships, they happen to have a different type of health that fortified them when things got tough because they had support, but they knew how to ask for it, and they also knew how to get it. For whatever reason their parents, teachers influential people in their life, modeled this for them. They pick up on it.

The families that were really struggling when they started come in with depression, anxiety, suicide, all these issues, I started to see that these issues were all connected to relationships. So my curriculum that I came up with a long time ago was a social health curriculum. It just so happens, when I started thinking about this, about 10, 12 years ago, a bunch of research had been happening simultaneously that I didn't even know about. This research was showing that our social brain actually learns better than our analytical brain. When we are socially, like when we're curious, that's a social trait, right? Because curiosity leads to adventure. Adventure leads to discovery. Discovery leads to people need you around. You matter if you're a person that invents things. Right? 

So in this curriculum, I just started thinking, man, we need to focus on the social health of our adolescents as equally, arguably equally, as important as math, English, and science. With the suicide epidemic, with the depression, and self-harm going up, I'm like, we need to have social health, meet it and like capture it. So we don't try to save all these kids that are dying. We get to them long before they can get that point. I just happened to mention my idea on a podcast. I was actually kind of disheartened because I talked to a couple of the schools that looked like they were going to do it and it never worked out. I mentioned it on my podcast, it just so happens, one of your vice principals, Julie Scherzinger, love her to death, man, that woman was a pit bull. She heard it on my podcast and she started blowing me up. So I call and she's like, 'we need to talk about this. Can we do something here?" Then everything fast forward through the pandemic or before the pandemic?  I said, yeah, I have it all outlined put together. I just put the finishing touches on it. Pandemic year, oddly enough, that was the year we tried to help kids connect socially wearing masks. And man, we found out that their social health is a serious issue.  I mean, think about you only get better at what you practice. If you're staring at a phone all day long and texting and messaging, are you getting better at reading social cues? Are you getting better at facial expressions, understanding if someone didn't like, didn't say something to you because they didn't like you or because they're in a bad mood. Was that person hating you? Or did they have a bad burrito at lunch? And they have an upset stomach. They can't really tell the difference.

Anthony Godfrey:
There are lots of ways to escape having t
o figure those things out and having to actually engage with others around us.

David Kozlowski:
Exactly. So that's just the nuts and bolts of it. Thanks to Julie and Quarnberg at Herriman, by the way, I don't own this whole social thing. I don't own this. I don't try to own this. I just created a course. I think that social health, and that's what we're working with right now with the Orrin Hatch Foundation, I think social health should be a curriculum and a course. Very similar to how we introduced physical education into academics. If we're not getting better, at face-to-face negotiation, communicating difficult conversations, what example are we as a country in society showing our kids? Last time I checked when parents drop off their kids kindergarten, first, second grade, whatever it is, they're not sitting there going first day, I hope they do get a math today. They're saying, I hope they make a friend. I hope they don't get bullied. I hope they're not the bully. Right? Like you're so worried about their relationships. I hope their teacher likes them. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Great point. That's the focus exactly. When you say that, it's exactly my thought every time my kids start school.

David Kozlowski:
Right? And so in my mind, I'm like, this is too basic. This is too simple. Fortunately, doctors like Matthew Lieberman from UCLA, Harvard trained psychologists, a lot of other great doctors out there, did the research to back up that our brains have evolved, become more social. If you are not good at social, it doesn't matter what you're selling. It doesn't matter what you're trying to convince people to do. No one's going to buy it. No one's going to connect with it. They have to feel like there's a relationship. Hence the root of the word relationship is relate. There's gotta be some sort of connection there. So when I saw his work, when I took my experience and I was started working with kids in schools, I just figured we got to put this in curriculum somehow. So I've been doing a slow, this isn't like a sales pitch, this isn't like, oh, we know exactly what schools need. I'm a teacher now because I didn't want to create a curriculum without teaching it because how would I know what teachers need? 

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the things that you have found have worked in that class?

David Kozlowski:
So what I found, first of all, by listening to other teachers, listening to students before I even created this. I've just listened to parent's complaints, teacher's complaints, student's complaints. Then I turned around to solutions, because everyone can complain and point fingers at who's not doing what they're supposed to be doing, but where's the solution at? So one of the things I found out, um, well, I'll use it. It was specific to this last year, but I think it bears repeating, is the masks showed us a really big blind spot is in human beings of how we communicate. Kids were so used to communicating digitally that when all their communication was only digital kids started to get really uncomfortable with it. They were nostalgic for the days where they could just hang out with their friend. They could sit in the class.  I'm not saying, I've got to be careful when I say this, when kids get bullied in class, it's not good, but I had some kids come talk to me. They would tell me they would be okay with feeling uncomfortable in certain classes, around certain kids, for the payoff of getting to see their friends, getting to connect and getting to ask a teacher questions.  Where over Zoom they felt so much more disconnected and were scared to do any of those things. 

Anthony Godfrey:
So they were ready to take the good with the bad just to have some level of connection.

David Kozlowski:
But because they came back to school with masks, they were all like, something's wrong. Giving kids a real life experience. You take away a super power from them. Their ability to read people's body languages. They were lost. They were scared. That's why we're seeing as the results come in, it did not get better mental and emotional health with young people over the pandemic.

Anthony Godfrey:
Stay with us. When we come back more with Herriman high teacher, David Kozlowski.

Advertisement:
Are you looking for a job right now? Looking to work in a fun and supportive environment with great pay and a rewarding career? Jordan School District is hiring. We're currently filling full and part-time positions. You can work and make a difference in young lives and education as a classroom assistant or a substitute teacher. Apply to work in one of our school cafeterias where our lunch staff serves up big smiles with great food every day. We're also looking to hire custodians and bus drivers in Jordan School District. We like to say people come for the job and enjoy the adventure. Apply today at workatjordan.org.

Anthony Godfrey:
You said in your presentation that after over two decades in mental health and social health, coming in as a teacher, you learned a lot quickly that you hadn't learned over those decades as a social and mental health specialist. Tell me some of the things that you learned coming into the classroom.

David Kozlowski:
I learned that kids are far more scared of school than I realized, and they're not scared of the book. They're scared of the social. The most important thing in school, I'll explain this after this, I'm a school teacher, and like I say, the most important thing in mental health is helping people with their social health. The most important thing in school for students has always been social. But what I learned, to answer your question, what I learned with these kids, their fear is extraordinarily real. Their stress is extraordinarily real, and it can change in a heartbeat from one class to another. They can be confident in one social class because that teacher established that place. 

I call my classes, it's Switzerland. We don't bring politics, we don't bring religion, We don't bring any of those things here because those cause differences. At the end of the day, hurt and pain, fear, these are all natural connectors with people. We're all scared of something. Okay, well, we can connect on that. We'll feel less than at times. Okay. We can connect on that.Once we start to connect in my classes, I have these kids do these highs, lows, and who knows? So to start off the day, they'll say their name, they'll say the high for me this past week or over the weekend was "hung out with my friends". The number one high reported is I spent time with my friends. Then number one low that was reported is drama with their friends or their family members. After that, if they're unsure, like one of the things they're unsure of, like, I'm dating a girl that I used to date and we got back together. So that's a "I don't know".

Our brain can really do a good job of saying, I know this, I don't know that, and this isn't an unknown. Those three categories, with their name, saying over and over. I'd see kids walk up to another kid and say, "Man, you have a problem with your dad too. Like when you were talking about your dad, I thought you read my diary. That's just like me." They make connections without us having to force the connection. They just have to have a safe place where they can feel that they can talk about things that aren't going to marginalize them. They can talk about things that are going to bond and connect them.

Anthony Godfrey:
Finding o
ut that there were other kids who may have the exact same struggles, creates a connection all its own. And if they don't talk about it, they know someone else is in the same situation and it validates theirs

David Kozlowski:
You hit it right on the head.
The nicest kid can be mean and quasi bullying if there's enough kids in a group talking bad about another kid. All it takes is one kid to say, "Hey, that kids actually pretty cool. I liked them." They'd all go, "oh, whoa. We're not saying we didn't like them." They pull back really quickly. But sometimes kids say, "I'm not brave enough to stand up." I said, "you don't need to stand up, you just need to speak out."

Anthony Godfrey:
I've never been in your class, but I walked in one day to Herriman High School. I saw kids running around, pairing up, stopping suddenly. It looked like chaos, but it looked like pretty exciting chaos, very engaging chaos.  I'm just having a conversation with an Administrator, and I said, "What's going on?" In a positive way,  because I'm thinking these kids are engaged in what's happening. And he said, "Oh, that's something David Kozlowski put together. It's a way to get kids connected with each other." I mean, these kids, these are high school kids that can sometimes be very difficult to engage. They were at a full sprint to get to each other in whatever activity it was. And they were obviously connecting in a very meaningful way. So it was fun to see that. And you obviously are transferring the energy that you have for improving social health to those kids that you're working with.

David Kozlowski:
Well, I thank you for that, and I definitely can't take credit for all of that. What you saw was probably a specific thing.  Those group of kids were going around doing that. But basically what it is is that the school, the fact that I'm even there trying the curriculum, let's face it hurt and pain is the connector of all human beings. What Herriman went through in 2017, I think we can all say that was not something any school wants to even be remotely associated with. There's two different approaches. We either sweep it under the rug, pretend it didn't happen, or we just go, hey, we've got to make this better. And we just come full out there, and that's what they did. So by bringing me in, I just happen to have these cool Jedi mind tricks with teenagers. I call them Jedi mind tricks. It's like, "Get off your phone you will." "Respect your teacher you might", because what happens is you guys put curiosity in your slogan right now. I can't tell you how powerful curiosity is, not to just human beings, but specifically to teenagers. They're the most curious human beings on the planet. But they're also human beings that want their own autonomy. They want to break away and they have really bad habits of being taken care of and given everything they want when they want it. So this is a really tough bridge to cross with them. I want everything done for me, but I want all the freedom to do what I want to do. 

Anthony Godfrey:
You hit that on the h
ead. that is a big frustration.

David Kozlowski:
Certainly. Yeah. And so they're really semi-professional adults. They have all  the desires of adults. They have intelligence, they know how to like download an app. Like they can do adult stuff better than some adults can, but they're not quite good enough at the relationship connection and realistic expectations where they can be professionals at it. No one's going to pay them in a job to show up as an adult. So when we're working with them at the school, those are the things I taught them. I only got that information because of 22 years of working with the most intense situations with teenagers and kids. Life-threatening, horrible parents in jail and stuff like that. You have to learn how to think on the fly. You can't go to a book and say, "so how does this make you feel" to a kid that just told you they're suicidal. And they're like, "I just told you how I feel like, were you not listening?" Right. So what I figured out throughout all these years were things that everyone does that lands perfectly get someone to put down their guard, sparks their curiosity, because if you can spark a curiosity in a teenager, good luck getting them to pay attention longer than three seconds because that phone has a whole lot of things that sparks their curiosity. You're competing against a phone. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, I'm so glad to have you at Herriman High School.

David Kozlowski:
And I'm glad to be here, really glad.

Anthony Godfrey:
I'm glad we had a chance to hear from you and that teachers will have a chance to tap into these ideas. Stay close, we need you, and we appreciate all that you're doing for our kids. 

David Kozlowski:
Well, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be on the podcast. I appreciate the opportunity to speak, to teach. You know, if all my wishes come true, I would like social health to be a curriculum in every school from kindergarten to 12th grade. Just as a way to develop skills, but more importantly in middle school and high school. And it just be a curriculum where everyone, all the social and emotional learning out there, there's a lot of great curriculums out there. The problem is there's no lane. They're all like standalone.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's a little bit here and there.

David Kozlowski:
It's here and there. So if we create one curriculum, which is called social health, my classes Level Up. I just want to compete in it like in competition. Let's see how we can be the best version of helping our kids learning social skills. We need competition. So just to be clear to any listener, I'm not like "I invented it, I own it," I want everybody that has this ability to meet those standards. We're creating the standards and for it to be a thing. Now, if it never turns out to be that way, I'm going to give it my best shot. But, you know, I appreciate the opportunity.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, I love that this is an added layer to taking care of kids at Herriman High School. I love that you're there and that we got to hear from you today. And I really look forward to what's ahead. So thank you so much for spending time with us. Thank you.

You can hear more about David Kozlowski's work on improving social health for teens, by tuning into his 'Light the Fight' parenting podcasts. Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see out there.

Share the Supercast!

A Southland Elementary student is literally climbing his way to the top in a sport that is making its debut in the Summer Olympic games right now. We’re talking about Sport Climbing.

On this episode of the Supercast, we catch up with Landers Gaydosh inside the Momentum Indoor Climbing gym. Landers demonstrates some of his Sport Climbing skills and tells us about the recent USA Climbing Youth National competition where, at just 11-years-old, he finished 2nd in Bouldering and 3rd in Top Ropes. Landon is already beating out some of the best in the United States.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. A Southland Elementary student is literally climbing his way to the top in a sport that is making its debut in the summer Olympic games right now. We're talking about sport climbing. On this episode of the Supercast, we catch up with Landers Gaydosh inside the Momentum Indoor Climbing Gym. Landers demonstrates some of his sport climbing skills and tells us about the recent USA Climbing Youth National Competition, where at just 11 years old, he finished 2nd in Bouldering and 3rd in Top Ropes.

Anthony Godfrey:
We are here with Jonathan and Landers Gaydosh to talk with Landers about his climbing. But first let's talk to your dad. Jonathan, you teach at Herriman High School.

Jonathan Gaydosh:
Yes, sir.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me a little bit about that.

Jonathan Gaydosh:
I teach Resource at Herriman High School, co-teach an Algebra II / Trig class, and I had to teach a Personal Finance class. It has been an absolute joy to be honest. The first time I've really enjoyed teaching was when we landed in Utah and I 100% feel like we have the greatest Special Education team in the world there, because we truly are a team.  I feel like our Administration is just 100% supportive of the faculty and staff and the children. It's been a blast. I've really enjoyed the last three years and am looking forward to number four.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's great. I'm really thrilled to hear that. Now, you guys came from North Carolina?

Jonathan Gaydosh:
Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

Anthony Godfrey:
Transylvania county, if I'm not mistaken,

Jonathan Gaydosh:
Transylvania county, a small town called Brevard, North Carolina, just south of Asheville.  We moved from a little tiny pond to a big pond.

Anthony Godfrey:
And your wife taught me how to say Appalachia properly.

Jonathan Gaydosh:
Yeah, yeah. Appalachia, that's right. The Appalachian mountains.

Anthony Godfrey:
Your wife April works in the District Administration, and so we're really glad to have your family as part of Jordan School District, and to bring that perspective from North Carolina.

Jonathan Gaydosh:
We enjoy being here. Utah has been a blessing for our family, just from the job perspective and then meeting new friends and people and getting to see the world.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now you strike me as an outdoorsman and Utah must be a nice place to be into camping and that sort of thing.

Jonathan Gaydosh:
Oh yeah. There's a saying, especially in the climbing world, that climbers don't die and go to heaven, they die and go to Utah. This is the perfect place for that, and we also love to fly fish and it's a phenomenal state for fly fishing as well.

Anthony Godfrey:
You were a climber when you were a kid a little bit, right?

Jonathan Gaydosh:
Yeah, I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and believe it or not, there's quite a pretty good climbing scene in that area. I grew up climbing at a place called Horse Pens 40, which is a very unique kind of rock with very unique features. Believe it or not, rock does have different textures and features from the granite here in the Wasatch to the granite in the Yosemite. It's very different.  I grew up fortunate to be able to be outside and climb, but I was not very good.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now Landers is carrying the tradition on. Landers, thanks for talking with me. Now, tell me what grade you're in and where you go to school.

Landers:
I'm going into 6th grade and I go to Southland Elementary.

Anthony Godfrey:
How do you like it here compared with North Carolina? Probably miss your friends a lot.

Landers:
Yeah, I definitely do miss my friends, but the mountains are quite a bit more fun.

Anthony Godfrey:
So the mountains kind of offset the loss of the North Carolina friends a little bit.  So, tell me what got you into climbing?

Landers:
When I was in preschool, my dad worked at a climbing gym. He used to pick me up and he would always take me to the climbing gym because my mom was still at work.

Anthony Godfrey:
So while you were at the climbing gym, you figure, why not climb? Now preschoolers tend to climb a lot anyway, but you decided to get serious about it.

Landers:
Yeah, when I was in preschool I wanted to travel the world. Climbing was like one of the few sports where when you're a kid, you can travel the whole United States.

Anthony Godfrey:
So you've been climbing from what age?

Landers:
About like 3 or 4 to 11.

Anthony Godfrey:
So you're 11 years old. You have done more climbing than I will ever even think about doing, I'll just tell you that right now. We are here at Momentum in Sandy and I walked in to see these walls.  I brought my son, who's 12, here a few times.  I'd forgotten how high these walls are. Do they look high to you when you're walking in or not anymore? Are you just so used it? This is something you conquer daily.

Landers:
Mainly when you go outside it can be a little scary cause how much bigger the walls are than in here.

Anthony Godfrey:
How much do you like to climb indoors versus outdoors?

Landers:
I definitely like outdoors a little bit better just because you're not pulling on the same walls and the same handholds.

Anthony Godfrey:
I don't know a lot about climbing, but I do understand that there are names for certain paths up the mountain. Is that right? And those names get a little crazy don't they? Can you tell me some of the crazy names out there for the way up a mountain?

Landers:
There are a couple that are like Midnight Lightning, which is a very famous climb.

Anthony Godfrey:
Have you done Midnight Lightning?

Landers:
No, it's in Yosemite.

Anthony Godfrey:
Something you aspire to maybe. Jonathan, what are some of the names that you remember, those routes?

Jonathan Gaydosh:
He just did one called Poker Face Alice in Wyoming in an area called Wild Iris.  I guess the wall is called the OK Corral, and so all of the climbs have Western names. Poker Face Alice is one, Give My Love to Rose is another one. It's funny because you know, I think about all the Western movies, what situation is the guy saying, 'Hey, give my love to so-and-so in case I don't return.'

Anthony Godfrey:
That would be a daunting climb. Now that you mentioned that, you know, 'give my love to rose', now I'm going to climb and who knows if I'll return?

Speaker 4:

Then of course he did white Buffalo. He climbed a really famous Southeastern climb called Bumbly, which is such a unique rock. He's the youngest to climb one right here in little Cottonwood canyon called Big Guy. It's a pretty historical landmark because it's a boulder, that's about 45 feet tall and you climb it without a rope. The LDS church had drilled into it to break off the granite to build the temple downtown. So not only is it historical climb in little Cottonwood, it also has a historical story to the rock itself. It's a beautiful piece of rock.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's a 45 foot boulder. What goes through your head when you stand in front of a 45 foot boulder and say, you know what? I think I'll climb that?

Landers:
I'm thinking, 'is this doable for me?' Because Big Guy was not super hard or out for me, and so that's why I was like, 'I kind of want to do that.' Cause it looks really cool and it just looks so cool, cause it's right on the river.

Anthony Godfrey:
Are you always looking for the next challenge? Do you want it to be challenging in that? That's what it sounds like.

Landers:
Yeah, because I'm like not even halfway. There's so much to climb and I'm not even close.

Anthony Godfrey:
Do you repeat climbs very often or are you always looking for the next new climb?

Landers:
Outside? I don't normally repeat climbs, but inside when I'm training, I might do a climb and be like, okay, that kinda got my muscles going, I might do that again.

Anthony Godfrey:
I love that mentality 'that got my muscles going. It's a challenge. I might try that one again.' But mostly you're looking for a new challenge.

Anthony Godfrey:
Stay with us when we come back, find out if this amazing Southland student has his eyes set on future Olympic competition.

Advertisement:
Do you simply love learning online? We can't wait to have you join the amazing teachers in our brand new Jordan Virtual Learning Academy. In Jordan Virtual Learning Academy schools, we offer innovative, fun and flexible online learning with daily real-time instruction from teachers. Enrollment is currently open for all K-12 students in Utah. Start on the path to personalized virtual learning success. Now at connect.jordandistrict.org. That's connect.jordandistrict.org.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me a little bit about competition. I'll let you tell the listeners what happened at your last competition.

Landers:
So my last competition in Nevada, I got second and third. I got second in bouldering and third in ropes and I was very surprised.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now, that was a national competition, and I saw the people you were up against. You're at the bottom of your age group, right? So you were climbing against some other kids that are taller. They have an advantage just by reaching up.

Landers:
Yeah, but not all the time. It makes a big difference, but sometimes, they might have to get in this tiny space and grab these tiny holds.

Landers:
So sometimes you use your size to your advantage?

Landers:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
Jonathan, tell us a little bit about how those are structured. What are some of the categories and how does the scoring work?

Jonathan Gaydosh:
The categories they have Youth Junior all the way down to Youth D.  Youth C, which is what Landers is in, is ages 11 to 12, and then B is 13 -14,  A is 15-16, and then Juniors is 17 and 18 year olds.

Anthony Godfrey:
So he was competing in the national competition, bottom of his age bracket, and took second and third in different categories.

Jonathan Gaydosh:
Yes. If he was one month younger, he couldn't be any younger for his age group. So he is at the very, very bottom of his age group. It's a two day competition for rope climbing, and then he took a two day rest because he doesn't speed climb, and then it's a two day competition for bouldering. He had to climb two routes for qualifier, and he made it through that round. Then they had semifinals the morning of, and in the semifinal rounds, they have to go to an isolation room with all the other kids that are in their age group.

Anthony Godfrey:
Isolation. So you don't see the path other people take up the climb.

Jonathan Gaydosh:
Exactly, they don't let them see the routes. Not only do they have to have the ability to climb it, they have to have the ability to read what the route is supposed to make them do or make their body movements and their foot work.

Anthony Godfrey:
I think we ought to go out and see you go to work. You can kind of talk me through how this all works. We're here in the cathedral, if you will, of climbing Momentum, these huge walls, that curve back at us with lots of colorful shapes and bumps, you probably see a route right there. Don't you?  So tell me how you get ready to climb.

Landers:
So I have my climbing shoes. I'll put those on.

Anthony Godfrey:
They look like they're made out of hard rubber.

Landers:
Some of them are made of hard rubber to last longer, but these are made out of soft rubber, so when you step on a hold they take the shape.

Anthony Godfrey:
They give a little bit.

Landeres:
They're really bendy, they don't really break easily.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay, you've got  two climbing shoes on now, what's next? Is there a harness here?

Landers:
Yeah, I'm putting my safety harness on.

Anthony Godfrey:
You trust a lot to those clips. I put keys on him before, but never my whole body.

Landers:
My kind are a little different.

Anthony Godfrey:
Kind of do the double check of the equipment here.

Landers:
Tighten the waist.

Anthony Godfrey:
I can see you've done this a time or two.

Landers:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
We're here in the corner. It looks like this wall has a terrible skin condition.

Landers:
I'll be doing this white one, a 5.10 b.

Anthony Godfrey:
So you're going to be taking the white. So you're tying in, what do you call it now? You're tying the rope around your harness.

Landers:
Yeah, the knot is called a figure 8 because it looks like an 8. You just follow that rope all the way around.

Anthony Godfrey:
Back through. I'm already lost, but it looks really good. Wow! That's a perfect knot, it looks nice too.

Landers:
When you fall it tightens. If you have a little more extra, you might tie a pretzel. I don't have enough, but you might try that just so it doesn't fling around.

Anthony Godfrey:
Just to tie it off. Okay, cool. All right. So now it's being hooked into a pulley and a clip, right? Are you going to clip that pulley to the front of you?

Jonathan Gaydosh:
Yep, so now he's on belay.

Anthony Godfrey:
He's on belay.

Jonathan Gaydosh:
So as he goes up, he'll clip the rope into the quick draws.  So that way, if he falls, he still falls, but he gets caught there.

Anthony Godfrey:
I don't walk as well as he climbs. He's just like, oh, step, step. And now the wall is curved back. So that changes fast

Jonathan Gaydosh:

Yeah, it's steeper, I mean, I've done this one right here and it's steeper than it looks.

Anthony Godfrey:
It looks pretty steep. Landers, you just scampered up there. That was just crazy. So  is that like your happy place to be climbing and then gliding down like that? That is awesome. So does that wear you out at all or is that just like a routine thing?

Landers:
That one is like a warmup, so when I get on like harder things, I don't pull a muscle or anything.

Anthony Godfrey:
It kind of took my breath away to see how fast you go up there and how confident you are just with your next step. That was awesome. Very cool to watch.

Thanks for joining us on the Supercast. Remember education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see out there.

Share the Supercast!

It is the opportunity of a lifetime for teachers at Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School. They can’t wait to start teaching in their virtual classrooms this school year, leading the way as pioneers of sorts in personalized learning for students in Jordan School District.

On this episode of the Supercast, we talk with some of the Rocky Peak Elementary teachers who say they are ready to rock the new school year with amazing students and creative virtual classrooms where learning will be fun and engaging.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It is the opportunity of a lifetime for teachers and students at Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School. They are thrilled to let the learning begin in their virtual classrooms this school year, leading the way in personalized learning for students in Jordan School District. On this episode of the Supercast, we talk with some of the Rocky Peak Elementary teachers who say they are ready to rock the school year with amazing students and creative virtual classrooms where learning will be fun and engaging.

We are here at Hidden Valley Middle School to talk with Ross Menlove and members of the faculty of Rocky Peak Elementary School, our virtual school, that launches in the fall. Ross, thanks for taking some time.

Ross Menlove:
It's a pleasure to be here with the Superintendent.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me about some of the preparations that are happening for the fall. We're excited about not one, not two, but three new virtual schools launching, giving students some additional options that they haven't had in exactly this format before. What is some of the preparation that's been happening this summer?

Ross Menlove:
Some of the preparation that has been happening is we brought in all of our teachers from all the levels, from the elementary, middle school and high school, and we did a few days of training on competency based education and personalized learning. So providing that choice and voice for students as they go through their learning process. Part of the training was training the teachers on competency based education and providing time for teachers to work on their curriculum. The teachers have been spending quite a bit of time this summer building out curriculum, specifically designed for personalized learning for their students.

Anthony Godfrey:
One of the more common questions we get as educators is, 'so what do you guys do all summer?'  I know that there's always a lot of work that goes on, and this year in particular, for these teachers in particular, there's a lot of work. Not just to create content and be prepared to help students learn virtually, but also to be, as you say, competency-based and truly shift the way that we look at learning overall. That combination is powerful. You can give us some more details about this, but really this type of approach can work very well for a student who struggles and feels like they need some extra individual help, but also for a student who sometimes may get frustrated because they feel they're beyond the instruction that's happening in the classroom.

Ross Menlove:
So at Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary our mission is personalized education. We focus on the student, what the student needs. So parents as they look at the virtual elementary, they have two curriculum choices for their students. They have synchronous choice in which they are able to learn live with their teachers, and the teachers are designing that curriculum specifically for those students. Or they have an asynchronous choice in which they are able to learn at their own pace, their own place. They don't meet with the teacher live every single day in the asynchronous, but they have the teacher there available to meet with them daily, if they need. It's very personalized and designed specifically for that child and for those students.

Anthony Godfrey:
I think that is uniquely possible through a virtual approach and the way that you structured it. It even gives a lot of choices within the virtual school because we've talked about virtual learning as a choice. Even within virtual learning, you have synchronous, asynchronous, and you have opportunities to come in person as well. Tell us a little bit about that option.

Ross Menlove:
So one of the options we have for students it's called 'Peak Time'. We have two physical locations for Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary, one at Majestic Elementary, at the north end of Jordan District, and one at here at Hidden Valley in the south end of the District. Students can come in two days a week to do hands-on science, STEM, art, P.E., and social studies. Those 'Peak Time' activities are taught by the teachers. So it's a very enriching curriculum, but it's a fun opportunity just to come and learn and grow and be social with other students.

Anthony Godfrey:
So there really are a number of different layers to being able to learn at Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School, and that's what I love about it. It's all the choices within that virtual option. Let's talk with a couple of the teachers who are on your faculty.  I just am going to note that we had a ton of applicants, so we really have some of the best teachers anywhere that are working on this and launching Rocky Peak. Introduce yourself, tell us where you were teaching and give us a little bit about yourselves.

Kasey Chambers:
I'm Kasey Chambers, I'm the fifth grade teacher at Rocky Peak Virtual. I have been with Jordan School District since I graduated from BYU, for nine years now.  I've been at Butterfield Canyon for all of those nine years, so it was a hard choice to change, but I couldn't resist the opportunity. I'm really excited to be teaching virtually.

Ashley Tanner:
I'm Ashley Tanner. I have been teaching for seven, eight years and I've taught kindergarten through fifth. This is actually my second year in Jordan School District.  I will be teaching third grade this year and I'm really excited.  I taught online last year and I'm really excited to take a more proactive approach to virtual education this year.

Anthony Godfrey:
I think you make a really good point that it's going to be different from the online and virtual learning that has happened previously. I like to look at it in kind of three phases. There was the phase where we just shut down immediately and we all had to kind of do the best we could with what we had. I think we did really well given the circumstances. Then the next year that was really pandemic learning, that was available virtually for every student who wanted it, and every teacher who wanted to teach that way, and some teachers who didn't plan on teaching that way, but were asked to. And again, I think that went very well. There were certainly always things that could be better when you do something that fast and that dramatic of a change. But again, given the circumstances, I thought that teachers and students and families pitched in together and did an extraordinary job of making that available. A lot of those choices were based on the need to be home for personal health reasons, and now going forward, the virtual option is really available for those who feel that teaching and learning in a virtual environment is going to be best for them personally. So Ashley, tell me, what was it about teaching virtually that made you want to continue to do that?

Ashley Tanner:
I think the unexpected part of virtual teaching last year that I enjoyed so much was the support from home.  I would bring to the table the curriculum. The what do we need to learn, and how is the best way to learn it. All of that science and the education that I bring as a teacher. Then I got to combine that with the experts on that child. With their family, with their guardians and we combine that together.  I would present here's what I want to teach, here's what you should learn, here's why you should learn it. Then the parents would say, great, I know my child, here's their strengths, here's their talents. We're going to combine those things together, and I had kids that soared. I mean, it was so exciting by the end of the year to see them above not only where they should be, but they excelled. They did more than I thought they would do. They did more than I thought they would do, even if I were in a brick and mortar school with them. So it was really exciting to be a part of that team where the parents, and the guardians, and me, and the school, all came together and something great, unexpectedly great, came out of it.

Anthony Godfrey:
Kasey, tell us about your experience and what made you want to continue teaching virtually

Kasey Chambers:
Kind of like Ashley, I was asked to go online, and Ross will tell you I went on kicking and screaming. But, we're here and I ended up really, really enjoying it, obviously. One of the things that I loved about it was that there's a lot of things that go on in a school that don't need to go on at home. So like the PE, the transition time, going to lunch and having recess. The 'I need you guys to read a book for 15 minutes while I grade this quiz' type of things. There's a lot in a school day and all of it's great, but what's really cool about virtual is that it's kind of formulaic in a way.  I can say these are the five things we're learning today. We're going to teach it and you can do it on your own time. These are my clear expectations. I taught more social studies, more science than I have any other year just because of how our days are filled if they're just at home. So I don't need to send them to recess. I don't need to have them take a break unnecessarily for a recess or whatever. We don't have to go to lunch. So it was really cool just to see how much I could fit in and the unique ways that kids could tell me that they learned. There's many different ways, they can make a video, they can do all of these things. It felt a lot easier to differentiate for my kids as well.  I had several students who just excelled and loved it so much, which was really unexpected. I think for a lot of teachers, we thought, 'oh, this is just going to be terrible. They're going to miss seeing me every day in person,' but they loved it and they did well, and they helped me keep getting better because they were doing so well. So it was awesome.

Anthony Godfrey:
You both mentioned a deeper level of connection. Connection with family, and the connection between the teacher and the student. When you clear away some of what is necessary when you're in person, but not necessary when you're virtual, it creates some space for additional learning. I find it remarkable that both of you were able to teach more and saw more from students in a virtual environment.  I think that has actually been true of a lot of people I've talked with and in articles I've read about adults who are working from home and productivity has gone up. So it sounds like that's been your experience with students as well, that productivity went up, interest levels went up, and really they were able to focus on the things that they needed or that were important to them.

Kasey Chambers:
I agree. I think a big thing too, is that we all recognize that online learning is not for every kid. There were some kids who needed to be in person and we all recognize that.  I was very surprised at how there's so many different things that we just didn't think about that would help a kid do better at home.

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the other positive experiences you've seen as students have learned virtually Ashley?

Ashley Tanner:
Well, obviously every year teachers are trying to better themselves. We're trying to educate ourselves more on how to really teach these children, and we know that students learn differently.  I think one of the things that I really enjoyed about teaching students in their home was that I had some students that were more kinesthetic learners, so they got to move around more and they got to be more physical with their learning. There were some students that were more auditory and they could really doodle. There were so many different ways that these students could learn. They would build things, they would want to talk in groups in breakout rooms, but they would also just want to be introspective. We had the space and the teaching virtually to allow them to process what they were learning and the way that they learn.

Anthony Godfrey:
I hopped online to read as part of a reading initiative. And I read to an entire third grade class in a school. So the whole grade was together on a huge zoom call. A couple of kids hopped on and said, "oh, no, if you do this, then..." They were giving me advice on how to hold the book and angle the camera and turn off my mute button, you know, those types of things.

When we come back, we'll take you on a tour of the new Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School.

Advertisement:
Do you simply love learning online? We can't wait to have you join the amazing teachers in our brand new Jordan Virtual Learning Academy. In Jordan Virtual Learning Academy schools, we offer innovative, fun and flexible online learning with daily real-time instruction from teachers. Enrollment is currently open for all K-12 students in Utah. Start on the path to personalized virtual learning success now at connect.jordandistrict.org. That's connect.jordandistrict.org.

Anthony Godfrey:
We're here at Hidden Valley Middle School with Ross Menlove, Principal of Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School. We're excited that there's space in our newest middle school here at Hidden Valley to provide time for students and teachers to interact for 'Peak Time' a couple of times a week, as you have described. This is where the offices will be, with a counseling center, and there are a few modifications being made. Can you kind of walk us through the facilities?

Ross Menlove:
As students walk in, they're going to walk into this really big open area. The open area is designed for 'Peak Time' for kids to be able to come in, interact with their teacher, do some hands-on learning, do some science experiments and STEM activities. We also have three classrooms specifically set aside for 'Peak Time' for kids to be able to come in. One of those classrooms is a science specific classroom.

Anthony Godfrey:
Let's walk over there.

Ross Menlove: One of those classrooms is a science room where we have linoleum floors. We have gas piped in, you have water. So kids are able to do some actual science projects. It'll be fun to see what the teachers do with the students during 'Peak Time'.

Anthony Godfrey:
I can see that this is a totally separate wing with a separate entryway at the back of the school. So really, there isn't going to be any interaction with the middle school students who are here day in and day out.

Ross Menlove:
Yes, that is correct. We're specifically designing this space for elementary, middle school and high school. So as the kids walk in, there's going to be spaces designed specifically for those elementary students. Lower desks for kids to be able to work together in groups, but also for the middle school and high school to come in and work independently on their work they need to.

Anthony Godfrey:
This is a lab that wouldn't normally be available at the elementary level. So they're getting access to some things that they wouldn't normally see.

Ross Menlove:
Yes, it's pretty exciting. We're going to do some really fun science experiments and some STEM to be able to deepen our love of learning. 'Peak Time' is a time for kids just to come and enjoy learning and enjoy being with their teachers. Teachers are able to teach without having to worry about a test or anything like that. Just do it for the love of teaching.

Anthony Godfrey:
Just as a reminder, it's not required that anyone come to 'Peak Time' or that they do anything in person.

Ross Menlove:
That is correct. In our school they can be at home for the entire thing or wherever they're at. We can customize their learning for what they need and wherever their location may be.

Anthony Godfrey:
I saw that there's also a separate counseling area and there'll be computers where students can come and work. That's been something that students have wanted to do over time. We've had virtual students for a long time in the district, not virtual schools, but students who wanted to learn virtually. Now if elementary students need individual, in-person help, they can to get that as well.

Ross Menlove:
Yes, that is correct. We invite the elementary students to come in individually to meet with their teachers one-on-one. The elementary students can be learning from home for their major curriculum, but if they need that individual time, they can either come in during 'Peak Time' or schedule a time one-on-one with the teacher.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's exciting. There's so many different layers, so many different aspects to the way that students can learn directly, individually and in a personalized way.

Ross Menlove:
Yes, we're personalizing the instruction for the student. The student is in the driver's seat and the student and the parents are the ones who get to make the educational choices. What's best learning for them and for their learning needs

Anthony Godfrey:
I love how you're adapting this wing of the school to make it a very welcoming and interactive environment.  I think it's a great component to a virtual school.

Ross Menlove:
That's when it's pretty exciting. Rocky Peak Virtual is going to be pretty awesome.

Anthony Godfrey:
Ross, thanks to you and your faculty and everyone else who's worked to make this possible. I know you've been involved in this type of learning for a very long time. So all of your experience has prepared you so well for this.  I'm thrilled to offer this to families and students in Jordan District.

Ross Menlove:
That's when it's pretty exciting. Rocky Peak Virtual is going to be pretty awesome. The website for the school is rockypeak.jordandistrict.org  It has information there and some videos. Go on and meet the teachers.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks again for the time. Great talking with you.

Students can enroll now in Rocky Peak Virtual Elementary School, by going to connect.jordandistrict.org. Thanks for joining us on the Supercast. Remember education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

Share the Supercast!

They spend hours behind the wheel transporting thousands of students safely to and from school, on fun field trips, to athletic events and more.

On this episode of the Supercast, we hop on board the big yellow school bus to find out what it’s like to be a school bus driver. Hear why our drivers love the job and the students they serve, driving countless miles with safety in mind each and every day.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:

Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host Superintendent, Anthony Godfrey. They spend hours behind the wheel transporting thousands of students safely to and from school, on fun field trips, to athletic events and more. On this episode of the Supercast, we hop on board the big yellow school bus to find out what it's like to be a school bus driver. Hear why our drivers love the job and the students they serve, driving countless miles with safety in mind each and every day. The school bus is here, let's climb on board.

We're here at Eastlake to take the kids home on an afternoon, joining Sean on his route. Sean is a driver extraordinaire, very popular, not just with the kids on the bus, but in the neighborhood as well. And we're excited to take a ride.

Sean: Hi kiddos. Can you guys all say "Hi"? This is the Superintendent kiddos.

Anthony Godfrey: Hi guys!

Sean: All right, kiddos. We're taking off, everybody sit down.

Kids: Can we be Fortnite taking off?

Sean: Nope, we're being the red alligator today kiddos. All right, kiddos, everybody sit down, remember to keep my aisles clear. Do we stand up while the bus is moving?

Kids: No!

Sean: That's what I thought. Thank you.

Anthony Godfrey: What's the, uh, red dragon or red alligator or Fortnight?

Sean: They are the red Dragons, but every day before we take off, I let somebody choose what we are. Sometimes we're a magic school bus, sometimes we're a hippopotamus, I let one kid choose, and today they chose alligator. So we're going to be a red alligator today.

Sean: We get lots and lots of random questions on the bus.

Anthony Godfrey: Well there's time and space. It's like a little road trip.

Sean: Do you guys remember what you were going to do up here at the crosswalk?

Kids: Yeah!

Sean: Okay. As soon as we go through the crosswalk and pass and then you guys can start.

Kids: (Singing) 'Wheels on the Bus'

Anthony Godfrey: Sean, I've got to admit, it's nice to have somebody else driving.

Sean: I've always enjoyed driving. Even when we go on vacations, everybody's like, you need a break and I tell them, "Nope, I'd rather drive."

Anthony Godfrey: Well, Sean, it's a relatively short time with them, but boy, there's a lot of interactions.

Sean: A lot of interaction.

Anthony Godfrey: What other schools do you serve on your routes?

Sean: I drive Mountain Ridge High School and Copper Mountain Middle School.

Anthony Godfrey: How are high school, middle school and elementary kids different on the bus?

Sean: My high school kids like to sit down and keep to themselves and be quiet. They'll talk to me every now and then. The junior high kids are very vocal. They have their own little groups that they'd like to stay with. And as you can tell, the elementary kids are the rambunctious bunch.

Anthony Godfrey: Well, they're rambunctious because they want to talk to you. You're doing a great job of it and I love your interactions with the kids. It's so, so fun to watch.

Sean: I appreciate you. Thank you for coming out today.

Anthony Godfrey (04:19): We are here in the transportation offices in the new building to talk with three of our finest bus drivers about what their experience is. Please introduce yourself and tell everyone how long you've been driving.

Jerri: I'm Jerri Ellsworth. I've been driving for about five years.

Val: I'm Val Asay, six years.

Sean: Sean O'Brien and this is my first year.

Anthony Godfrey: Okay, great. I'm really excited to talk with you guys. First of all, tell me what made you want to be a bus driver?

Jerri: When I was released from the job I had previously, I received some paperwork from that former place and I said, "Consider me retired." Then I looked in the little town newspaper and they were hiring bus drivers, so I said "I'm retired, I'll go drive a school bus."

Anthony Godfrey: How about you Val?

Val: That's about the same for me. I've been retired about 10 years and I thought that I needed something to do to keep myself busy, and this was a perfect fit for me.

Anthony Godfrey: Great. How about you, Sean?

Sean: I have a nine-year-old. I worked at Terra Linda last year and this year I worked doing buses and I have the same days off as him. It works out perfectly.

Anthony Godfrey: That's awesome. It's really nice to have the same schedule. What do you guys like most about being a bus driver?

Jerry: I like driving the different buses and I like the kids, the interaction with the kids. They're all different. Some are challenging and others are just really good. Really good and sweet kids.

Anthony Godfrey: I'm sure that there's a good blend there. How about you Val?

Val: I have driven regular ed buses, but I drive a special needs bus. I enjoy those students. I have had some of the same students for five years, and the parents get to know me and the students get to know me. Those special needs kids melt your heart and they are really good kids. Once you get to know their needs, their wants and the things that upset them or the things that make them relax, it's really special. It's special to know that all children are offered an education, even those who have very special needs. I love my special needs kids.

Anthony Godfrey: I'm sure that seeing you is one of the things the kids really look forward to in the morning and on the way home. Just getting to spend that time with you after they get to know you for as long as they do.

Val: Yes, there are a couple of instances where the parents are glad to know that the same faces are coming back to pick their children up, to take them to school. They get used to our faces and who we are. That is very reassuring to most kids, but especially to the special needs kids.

Anthony Godfrey: I can only imagine that it's comforting to say, "Yeah, there's Val taking care of me getting me to school." That's awesome. Sean, what do you like most about it?

Sean : It's got to be the kids. At Terra Linda last year, I worked in the Strive unit, the autistic unit, and was one of the 'pink ladies' outside doing recess duty and just fell in love with them.

Anthony Godfrey: What's most difficult about driving a bus that maybe people don't realize?

Sean: People not following the stop signs. That is just downright scary that people are on their phones, not paying attention. When you see the stop signs come out, just please slow down and don't go around them. It's almost a weekly thing. And you have to sometimes grab the kids, honk the horn as loud as you can, and make sure that they know the rules, jump back in front of the bus because you don't want to see another child get hurt.

Anthony Godfrey: How about you?

Jerri: Well, regular drivers have a tendency to cut us off.They'll swerve right over in front of you. I have a front end bus, a nose, and it's like, they just wipe the nose off the bus to get off and make a quick turn, or they see a bus coming from a stop sign and they pull right out. You always have to be aware of your surroundings, everything around you and, and look forward because you never know what's going to happen.

Anthony Godfrey: Val shaking his head in agreement.

Val: Yes, everybody's in a hurry and the bus is just another obstacle that they've got to try to work around. That's a scary thought that they think that way. That's my personal thought, I don't know how they feel, but it seems to be that everybody's in a hurry. We need to slow down.

Jerri: That's right. I had a driver that got tired of waiting I guess. We were close to a four-way stop where I picked up my elementary this morning and she just decided to go. I honked, and she just kept on going. It scares me when they do that. They don't realize that something can happen or that a kid can come running across the street. They aren't going to take the time to wait a couple of minutes.

Anthony Godfrey: It takes every driver out there to be more cautious and to be careful to keep everyone safe. What are some of the things that people may be misunderstand about what it's like to be a bus driver?

Jerri: I've had people say, 'how can you do that? Have all those kids behind you?'  You have to let your kids know from the start that you are serious about what you're doing. "You guys have to stay in your seats to be safe and you have to do it. Everybody is an example to one another." You have to follow through if somebody's misbehaving. You have to let them know, "Hey, I mean business, if I'm pulling over because somebody's jumping across the seats, you're either going to come sit up up behind me, or I'm going to have to write you up and it's going to involve the principal and your parents." I think that's something they don't realize. And then you have to remind them, "We have cameras on the bus. We can see everything you're doing and hear everything you say."

Anthony Godfrey: That's something parents who are listening to this, aren't thinking about probably. Go back to your childhood and think about it. If there' would've been cameras on that bus it would have been a little bit different. I can tell you that.

Sean: We're the first point of contact for these kids in the morning. We're the first thing that gets them going. If you're in a bad mood, then the kids are going to be in a bad mood. Even if you're having a bad day already, we try and make it happy so that the kids can go to school and be happy all day. Just tell them when they're getting on "good morning" when they get off, "I hope you have a good day. We'll see you guys after school". As they're getting on your bus, talk to them, say, "how's your day going?"  Just making the kids happy is a good thing.

Anthony Godfrey: I love that because really, that is what you are. You're the first point of contact. You set the tone for the day and I'm sure, like we talked about it earlier, it's a comfort to see a familiar face and to start things out that way. To know that there's someone asking how they are right from the start. Someone who knows them.

Jerri: I had a middle school girl a couple of years ago that wrote me a note on the last day of school and thanked me for making her day better by wishing her a good day or saying good morning to her, asking her how she was. Ever since then I make sure I always greet everybody because it was important to her that her day was started out on a positive note when she was feeling bad.

Anthony Godfrey: It doesn't surprise me at all that that was important to her. I know what a great role you guys play. Safety is of course the main thing, but feeling important, feeling like you belong, having someone make a contact, say "I'm glad to see you".  I'm sure that when you see that someone you're used to coming on the bus, doesn't come on. Then you're able to say, "Hey, how's everything going? Are you okay?" because they missed a day.

Sean: Especially this year.

Anthony Godfrey: You guys are awesome. I'm so glad that our kids see you first thing in the morning. You're taking such great care of them and I just can't thank you enough. Thank you very much.

Stay with us, when we come back more behind the wheel with our school bus drivers.

Commercial (14:03):

Are you looking for a job right now, looking to work in a fun and supportive environment with great pay and a rewarding career? Jordan School District is hiring. We're currently filling full and part-time positions. You can work and make a difference in young lives and education as a classroom assistant or a substitute teacher. Apply to work in one of our school cafeterias where our lunch staff serves up big smiles with great food every day. We're also looking to hire custodians and bus drivers. In Jordan School District we like to say people come for the job and enjoy the adventure. Apply today at workatjordan.org.

Anthony Godfrey (14:56): We're talking now with Paul Bergera, the Director of Transportation.

Anthony Godfrey: Paul, tell us some of the numbers. How many employees do you have in the Transportation department and how many buses do we run in Jordan district?

Paul: Great question Superintendent. We have about 272 employees in the Department of Transportation. Our fleet comprises over 110 CNG buses, compressed natural gas buses, our entire fleets is around 265 buses. So we're quite large. We have the largest CNG fleet west of the Mississippi, and it's a natural resource for the state of Utah. So it makes sense for us to reduce the carbon footprint in our valley and take advantage of a natural resource that's right here at our doorstep.

Anthony Godfrey: I know that we've received some nice awards and some grants associated with that. What would you tell someone who is thinking about applying to be a bus driver, describe kind of what the options are and how they would apply.

Paul: You bet. We have all varieties and all walks of life. We have young people who are here, we also have middle-age folks who have expressed an interest in driving buses and retired people. It really depends on the person because we have a lot of different options for drivers. They can come and be a substitute bus driver if they don't want to commit to driving all year round. We have some contracted positions, so we do offer benefits for anybody that works at least 27 and a half hours up to 40, is benefit eligible. So it really kind of depends on the individual and what he or she wants as an employment option in driving a school bus. What I hear all the time, from drivers that I talk with, is how much they enjoy what they're doing and how much they wish they would have started at a much earlier point in their life. Driving a school bus is just extremely rewarding, like was mentioned, with the drivers. They're the first face that kids see in the morning, the last face they see in the afternoon. What an impact drivers can have on the students of Jordan School District.

Anthony Godfrey: They certainly do have a tremendous positive impact on kids. It makes a big difference to see a smiling familiar face that gets you there to school on time in the morning. We're always looking for drivers, so anyone who's interested really should get online and apply, and like you said, there's a lot of flexibility in it. If you want to be a substitute driver, and there are routes that are stacked with three or four schools, and there are others where it's a single school route and you can spend less time driving during the day. So that's, I think, that's one of the appealing things, is there's a lot of flexibility.

Paul: Absolutely. Depending on your kind of day to day activities, some drivers choose to do mid day runs. So they'll have a preschool or a kindergarten, some drivers like to drive their morning run, go home, have some lunch, spend some time at home and then come back and drive their afternoon routes. So a great point, yes, a lot of flexibility and just such a great career.

Anthony Godfrey: Now it's not just drivers, we need mechanics, we need attendants. Tell me about some of the other jobs in transportation.

Paul: Excellent. Attendants are always a hot commodity. Our attendants are specifically assigned to buses with students with special needs. Mechanics, especially in our new facility, we've grown, so we are looking for a loop tech currently, for example.

Anthony Godfrey: Great, well, lots of opportunities, a great place to work and a brand new facility. We got a tour of that  recently, and we'll do a podcast about that soon. Just great, great people to work with and a great area in which to work.

Paul: Thank you, and I really appreciate your support.

Anthony Godfrey: Thanks for joining us for another episode of the Supercast. Remember education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see you out there.

 

Share the Supercast!

Do you have a student or family member looking for language learning resources in the community? On this episode of the Supercast, we take you inside the Jordan School District Family Engagement Center where students and families are finding language support services that are changing lives.  The center is also connecting families with social and emotional support they need. The services are available all summer long and they are free.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Do you have a student or family member looking for language learning resources in the community? On this episode of the Supercast, we take you inside the Jordan School District Family Engagement Center, where students and families are finding language support services that are changing lives. The center is also connecting families with the social and emotional support they need. The services are available all summer long and they are free. Let's head inside Copper Mountain Middle School to learn more.

We're here at Copper Mountain Middle School at the Family Engagement Center with some of the staff who made that possible. I'm going to ask them to introduce themselves and then we're going to learn about all the ways that we engage with families in Jordan School District.

Staff:
I'm Michelle Love-Day, the consultant over Educational Language Services. I'm Toni Brown, I'm the Parent and Outreach Specialist on the Culture Diversity Outreach Team. I'm Silviane Perkins. I work directly with parents, teaching them English as a second language (ESL), and some of the resources that are available for them.

Anthony Godfrey:
Michelle, start by telling us a little bit about the Family Engagement Center and its purpose, how it came to be.

Michelle:
So we started this because with our Parent Outreach focus and our Culture and Diversity Team, we really wanted to reach our parents to support them on how to be engaged with the schools. We are finding that many of our parents live in Title I schools, but they live outside of Title I schools as well. In talking with schools such as Copper Mountain in Herriman, we're noticing a lot of our parents are moving out this way, but there's no support for them to learn English. There are no resources for them to be able to navigate our system. And so we created this Engagement Center so they can learn English through our department and have support.

Anthony Godfrey:
So how many Family Engagement Centers are there in Jordan District right now?

Michelle:
Under our department, this is the first one. We're very happy that Copper Mountain opened their doors and said we could have one of their portables. We're hoping to also work with West Jordan Middle School so that they have one. We are kind of a sister team to the Family Resource Centers that the Title I schools have. But this is the first one that our department has.

Anthony Godfrey:
Describe for me a little bit, the difference between those two.

Toni:
Well, at the Family Learning Centers in the Title I schools, they operate similarly, but their reach is a little bit smaller because it's a smaller school that is primarily based on things that parents of elementary school age students would need. And here at the Family Engagement Center, we are reaching out to all parents and trying to provide things that suit the needs of older children, as well as the parents themselves.

Anthony Godfrey:
And what kind of classes would you offer to parents?

Toni:
Right now we have an English class for people interested in learning English. We have also been requested to have a Spanish class for English speaking parents that want to communicate with their ever diversifying community.

Anthony Godfrey:
Right, and really connect is what we're trying to do. We're trying to connect the school to our families and to our community and then connect them with each other so there's a great web of support. Silviane, you tell me a little bit about your role.

Silviane:
Usually when parents come here, it's almost impossible to separate their needs from how they feel. This group of parents, they need English for a purpose which is to be operational, to function. They have bills to pay, they have to get jobs. If you don't speak English, that has a huge impact on your family and also on your children because if your mother, your father cannot help you with your homework, who will? It's not that if you are an adult that you cannot learn.  You will learn English as your second language, but you have to have a certain mature approach because they have other things in their lives. So that's my role, to make them believe that they can learn how to speak English, and how to change and protect their children and their families.

Michelle:
With the help of the State as well, who were able to give us finances to have operations so that we can translate. That is what started the trajectory of the Family Engagement Center and seeing to that need, because we're getting the support and funding. We're also working on translating many documents that we send out from our department to the parents districtwide, so that we can help them navigate the home language surveys, the ACT opt out or opt in for testing scores and just all kinds of family demographic questionnaires that they receive.  The good thing is that the word has gotten out, and like Silviane said, there are 60 parents that are registered. It was wonderful because the word got out and we had a parent show up at our office two weeks ago because they needed help to understand what was being placed in Skyward for their son in order to graduate. What did he need? How do they pick up a packet? So items just as simple as that, where parents are afraid to call the school, they now know that the Family Engagement Center has somebody that speaks Spanish, or that we can find someone that speaks their language, like Swahili, or Kinyarwanda, and we'll help them navigate what they need to do.

Anthony Godfrey:
It is great to have those resources. So really, a primary purpose of the Family Engagement Center is to overcome language barriers. But what are some of the other barriers that need to be overcome as well?

Michelle:
I would say some of the barriers are just the access to resources. As Toni said earlier, combining all the resources that are out in our community for our parents and bringing it into a place where we can give them the opportunity to register their child to take ALPS testing, let them know there are science activities that are available after school, and as we come up on summer, what summer programs we have available so that they understand the opportunities. This year, free and reduced lunch has been done differently, but next year there'll be a change, and we want to make sure that parents are getting the reminder and understanding the email that was sent out. Understanding that they're going to have to re-register for free and reduced lunch, or they're going to have to opt out of certain things. There are barriers I think in just what they don't know because of communication from school to home.

Silviane:
And something that I always like to emphasize is this is not just for our Spanish speaking parents or parents who do not speak English as their primary language. This is for any parent who wants to improve. For example, we have a coalition in Salt Lake. It's an organization for women who support their families because they're alone. They have this organization that can help women prepare themselves to face interviews, to become more professional, to find a better salary. We also have a University of Utah Initiative for how to get a higher return on your taxes.

If you have teenagers, they sometimes, for different reasons become depressed, especially during COVID. We have many mental health, physical health, and professional help resources. There are many people, like Michelle said, who don't have the information that they need. The Family Engagement Center, that's the middle name, is to engage those families and give them power, the power of information. With that in mind, if families can share these resources with their neighbors and communities we can empowerment the whole community. It's a win-win situation.

Toni:
I'd also like to add that right now, the Family Engagement Center is in its infancy. We're still in a very malleable state. We are listening, we want to know what the community wants and what they need. So we're reaching out to people to hear, what can we do? We're here, we want to help you, and we will help you find an answer.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's really sounds like the main purpose is to connect people with resources. Sometimes those resources are within the school district. Sometimes it's external. I've been surprised over the years when I've learned some of the things that are available to help parents that may be in a difficult circumstance, even temporarily, that they didn't expect to find themselves in. So what you said earlier is important. Really, the Family Engagement Center is for all families, regardless of their circumstance. There's some things we have to offer.

Stay with us. When we come back, more about the free support services for families and students available all summer long.

Break:
Do you simply love learning online? We can't wait to have you join the amazing teachers in our brand new Jordan Virtual Learning Academy. In Jordan Virtual Learning Academy schools, we offer innovative, fun and flexible online learning with daily, real-time instruction from teachers. Enrollment is currently open for all K-12 students in Utah. Start on the path to personalized virtual learning success now at http://connect.jordandistrict.org.

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the resources that might surprise people? Are there some resources that might not occur to people that are available through the Engagement Center?

Silviane:
One of the resources that people always get very surprised about is that there are dental clinics and health clinics that provide services. Sometimes they don't even have the family income scale. There are also psychological and mental health assistance resources. When some families are dealing with addiction and they need intervention, there is also a service provider called Cornerstone House and they offer assistance as well.

Anthony Godfrey:
People have been surprised when I've talked with them, friends and colleagues, that the Jordan Education Foundation has expanded Principal Pantries to every one of our schools. The Principal Pantries are where donors provide toiletries, food, even clothing, and other materials for students who need that. They think that need is concentrated in a particular area of the district, but it's throughout the district. We have students experiencing homelessness throughout the district, students who experience food insecurity. There's a lot of support. I'm really glad that this center is out in the Herriman area so that we can reach every corner of the district.

Toni:
It's not that the need isn't there. It just looks different in different communities. A lot of times, these things kind of go under the radar because people don't want you to find out, but having a Family Engagement Center is a convenient and comfortable space for people to reach out without having it become a big ordeal. It's at their kid's school that they go to every single day.

Michelle:
The one thing when we decided to do the Family Engagement Center and specifically selected Herriman, with the growth of homes and condos and apartments along Mountain View Corridor, many parents wanted to be able to go to Majestic Elementary and learn English, but the transportation is very inconvenient. We've learned that just because they live out here doesn't mean that they don't want the resources. So by having it closer to a home, yes, we're housed at Copper Mountain Middle school right now, but it's available to anyone that can get here.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. We talked about the need. There are a lot of languages spoken by families in Jordan School District. You mentioned Swahili and another one. I'm not even sure where that language is spoken. Tell me some of the other languages that are spoken in Jordan District.

Toni:
There's a lot of Kurdish.  It's the first time I'd ever been asked to find a Kurdish translator before, or to find a Kurdish interpreter. We've also had Kinyarwandan.

Anthony Godfrey:
That was the one you mentioned, where is that spoken?

Michelle:
Kinyarwandan, and that is spoken in a part of West Africa.

Toni:
There are 53 languages within the Jordan School District from Samoan to Arabic. Spanish, of course, is our largest second language to English. But there's a variety of languages. 53 languages from Vietnamese to Cantonese to Hindi. And so we want to be able to provide resources to those families.

Silviane:
I have students from Croatia, Italy, Brazil, and Venezuela.

Anthony Godfrey:
That may be another misconception is that it's really mostly Spanish that we're helping with, but we can find resources to help with any language.

Michelle:
Yes, and the great thing of the State of Utah is just the services that are offered through Serve Refugees and the Utah Refugee Connection. We are partnering with Women of the World. And while those services are down in Salt Lake City, because of our connection we're able to bring the resources out here to families so they don't have to make their way downtown and take most of their day traveling to get the information.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's obvious that all of the support for families results in students being more successful in school. But can you articulate that for me a little bit, what does that mean when families feel that support and connection for students?

Toni:
Definitely. I believe that when you're teaching a child, you have to look at the whole child and whole child includes whole family. They come to us in the mornings and they're there with us all day, but when they go home they're with their family and having safety and security and comfort and peace in your home translates exponentially into the classroom. A child who is comfortable and feels safe and feels supported at home, then comes into school and gets that same environment, it's just a circle of love and support, just enveloping a kid, that helps them develop positively.

Anthony Godfrey:
If listeners think, "Hey, this is something that I could benefit from or a family I know could benefit from this", how do they get in contact with the Family Engagement Center?

Toni:
They can feel free to send me an email at toni.brown@jordandistrict.org. It's Toni Brown, it's an easy name to remember. Just shoot me an email, I will put them in contact with the right people or help them find the right resource.

Michelle:
So if they go to http://els.jordandistrict.org and just click on Outreach, they'll be able to click on the information. Toni's name will come up, and the information and the times of when we meet. Typically Tuesdays and Thursdays have been our class times for this year, and they can put themselves on a list to join in.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you all for taking the time to be on the Supercast, but more than anything, to be so thoughtful and intentional about how to help support our families and in turn, help support our students and make sure that they have every success possible.

Silviane:
Thank you Dr. Godfrey, and I just want to say something in Spanish and Portuguese.  So thank you, Dr. Godfrey for helping us to spread the word about the Family Engagement Center. Thank you.

Michelle:
Thank you so much for having us.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

Share the Supercast!