The smiles were big at Dunn Elementary School’s Unity Night. Students and parents dressed in their cultural best as they crowded into the gym to learn more about each other’s heritages, eat (mostly cookies) and play games from different countries. The recent fall event also included a parade on school grounds with students waving flags and proclaiming, “Dunn Unity! Dunn Unity!”

As an International Baccalaureate World School, Dunn prides itself on its multi-cultural student population. The first Unity Night was held last spring after the PTO and a group of teachers decided to start an annual cultural event at the school. Students played games from Mexico, the Middle East and Brazil. It was all about building community and having family-friendly fun while learning about other cultures. A second springtime event will be held later in the school year.

Shepardson Elementary seeks business partners

“We believe that kids can change the world. If you have a problem, we want to help. It’s amazing the solutions these kids come up with,” comments Alissa Poduska, principal of Shepardson Elementary School.

Ms. Poduska’s comments were her introductory request to nearly 50 local business leaders to partner with the STEM elementary school on its Problem-Based Learning initiative this year. The program, in its second year at Shepardson, provides an opportunity for students to learn about a challenge in a local business or organization, talk with subject-matter experts as part of their research and then propose solutions.

Last year, Shepardson students tackled communication about pick up and drop off issues, reducing environmental footprints and how to engage with older generations.

Yvonne Myers, director of Columbine Health Systems, says that when kindergarteners came to the assisted living facility in the spring, both sides won.

“The benefits were many for us. Our residents are grandparents and mentors. When they talked to the kids, they got purpose. They love interacting with the community and we hope that this experience will also inspire these young people to take care of us when they get older,” Myers tells the potential partners. ““There is no negative to doing this. You’ll make a difference and we all will win.”

Dr. Tony Frank, president of Colorado State University and keynote speaker for the second-year launch event, says that as the child of a teacher, he recognizes the important role education plays in our community. He encourages the audience to harness the power of public and private partnerships.

“When I think of the K-12 education system, I think about what our teachers do, how important their job is to bring all students along. But they can’t do it alone. The role of a mentor is an essential one.” Dr. Frank says. “I encourage all of you to become involved as mentors with PSD. Think, share your passion with students and get involved…with your support we can transform lives.”

Meet the Rotary Teachers of the Year

Rhonda Ewan, Speech Language Teacher at Shepardson 

Rhonda Ewan has been working in PSD for more than 30 years as a Speech Language Specialist at various locations throughout the district. Most recently, Rhonda has been a part of the expanding autism program at Shepardson STEM Elementary and continues to find encouragement and joy in helping non-verbal students become verbal. She works with an amazing team of administrators, teachers and support staff at Shepardson, which makes coming to work each day a pleasure. Rhonda is married with three daughters and enjoys following our Colorado sports teams. She works in her spare time volunteering and “paying it forward” whenever she can.

"I knew I always wanted to be a teacher because I loved my third grade teacher — she encouraged me so much. I teach because I absolutely love working with kids of all abilities. All of my kids have some kind of special needs. Some days are a challenge, but the kids make it worth getting up every morning. They teach me so much, and I love watching them grow. Working and celebrating with them is not just fun, it's the best part."

Jennifer McCoy, First Grade Teacher at Riffenburgh 

Jennifer McCoy has been an educator for 13 years, 8 of these years in Poudre School District. She is a graduate of Fort Collins High School, received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wyoming as well as her Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Colorado State University Global Campus. She enjoys being with her family, her husband, Torrey, son, Elijah, a freshman at Montana State University and daughter, Briery, a freshman at Fort Collins High School.

Mrs. McCoy also works in the community in other roles. She was a business owner, running a breakfast lunch restaurant with her husband for 12 years. She is highly involved with organizations in and outside of schools, namely as PTO president from 2010-2012, Gridiron booster board member from 2014-2017, and as a business sponsor for Taste of the Nation from 2000-2011.

Jennifer has found her bliss in the classroom, working with her students to empower them with knowing their own learning. She encourages boundless inquiry, to instill confidence within her students to make mistakes, find solutions through trial, and celebrate goals achieved and reflect goals yet achieved.

“People search their whole life for something what that fills their heart. Teaching fills my heart because I get to work with wonderful people. I get to see all the growth, learning and love that comes from our youth. It’s such a joy to be a part of that.”

Becca Wren, Seventh Grade Science Teacher at Lincoln

After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in science education, Becca joined Lincoln Middle School as 7th grade, 8th grade, and newcomer science teacher, but now she has a home in 7th grade science. She got her Masters from Concordia University in educational leadership, and currently also serves as team leader, yearbook teacher and volleyball coach. More than anything else, Becca is passionate about building students’ character, and co-directs a program called COPACK, which stands for Colorado Promotes Achievement, Character, and Kindness. She firmly believes that all students have the ability to be successful; they just need to be given the right tools, coaching, and opportunity. In her spare time, Becca enjoys hiking, traveling the world, backpacking, sports, working in her garage, and spending time in the sunshine.

"The kids keep me on my toes, especially in middle school. They’re at a turning point in their life, deciding where to go and what to do. Each day is a new challenge, a new celebration, and a new victory. You have such an opportunity to create change with kids every single day. The most rewarding part is watching kids grow, to see the epiphanies they can have when they're willing to step outside of their comfort zone."​​


PSD Calendar of Events

Nov. 14, 6:30pm, Board of Education business meeting, JSSC, 2407 Laporte Ave.

Nov. 17, No School for elementary students

Nov. 22-24, No school K-12 (Thanksgiving Break)

Nov. 28, 6:30pm, Board of Education business meeting and work session, JSSC, 2407 Laporte Ave.