MAT to Superintendent: Heidi Nickels Pace
I am currently in my third year as Superintendent of Summit County Schools. It's a district with 3200 students surrounded by breathtaking ski resorts.
Thanks to the MAT program, I have enjoyed a long and stimulating career in education, with 27 years spent in Colorado Springs in Academy District 20. I credit the MAT program (as well as my undergraduate years at CC) with launching my career.
All the best,
Heidi Nickels Pace
Ph.D. (DU) 2008
BA (CC) 1982
Teaching Outside the Box (and the classroom) With a CC MAT
Getting licked by wolves, testing water quality at a mine reclamation site, and camping out under the stars are all within a week’s work for Tracy Jackson, CC MAT class of 08, who spends most of her days teaching and working in an outdoor classroom. Jackson is using her MAT to further her work as the Education Director at Catamount Institute, a local non-profit with a mission to inspire ecological stewardship. Catamount achieves this mission through education programs for area schools and businesses. Jackson directs summer camps, after school science and nature clubs, and field trips for students in school districts across the Pikes Peak region.
Jackson reflects: “This is the dream job for me and CC played a major role in making it happen and preparing me for it. The connections I started making with the local community when I was in grad. school have been invaluable. I work with those schools and organizations all the time now and would not have had those connections if I had not been an MAT.” Catamount Institute works with partners like Trout Unlimited, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Cripple Creek and Victor Mine, U.S. Forest Service, and countless others to bring real-world science experiences to the hands and hearts of their students. “It is often said that people only take care of what they love,” Jackson says, “Catamount brings students into incredible outdoor learning experiences where they learn science, math, history, and other subjects, but where they also learn to love and care for the outdoors. I developed most of the curriculum we use from scratch using skills gained at CC.”
“The MAT program also did a great job of preparing me to engage the diverse student body that I work with at Catamount Institute.” Jackson’s student teaching placement was at Palmer High in downtown Colorado Springs, where she worked with International Baccalaureate, and honors students, to those at-risk kids with a motto of “D is for done.” Jackson recalls, “I got letters from my rougher high school seniors at the end of the semester reading ‘Thank you Mrs. Jackson, I had forgotten that I love science.’ I put those same skills to work every day at Catamount Institute, turning students back on to science.” About thirty percent of the students Catamount Institute works with are eligible for free or reduced lunch at school. Jackson says, “ When we work in the creek we see well-off students with a special pair of shoes just for creek-walking, we also see needy students with only one pair of shoes to last them through the year. We hose the mud off at the end of the activity and you realize you’re hosing through a hole in the bottom of the students shoe. These kids are all important and I want them to feel that self-worth and self-confidence. One of our Young Environmental Stewards Club kids graduated from the club and said ‘I learned that even though I’m just in grade school, people will listen to me and I can change things for the better.’ Colorado College helped give me the tools I needed to make that kind of magic happen.”
What started in the MAT program has come full-circle too. Jackson notes “I’m proud to mentor current CC
students to give back to a school that gave so much to me. Each school year, I bring a few CC students into the Education Department at Catamount Institute as work-studies so they can immerse themselves in the work and the lives that are changed here.” Catamount Institute also participates in CC’s Public Interest Fellowship Program, bringing a CC student on as a part of their summer staff each season.
“Thank you CC, for meeting your mission, for drawing me into the adventurous spirit of the Rocky Mountain West, developing my habits of intellect and imagination, and preparing me for learning and leadership for the rest of my life.”
To learn more about Tracy Jackson’s work at Catamount Institute visit www.catamountinstitute.org.
Erik Eckhoff, MAT 2008
My name is Erik Eckhoff and I am a 2008 alumnus of the MAT program at Colorado College. I was in the secondary social studies cohort and my supervisor was Katy Lapp. After graduating from CC (and completing my student teaching and internship at Rampart High School and studying portfolio assessment and student success in a civics class), I worked at Doherty High School for a school year, creating a tutoring center for students in all subject and grade levels. Eventually I was hired as a social studies teacher at Poudre High School in Fort Collins, Colorado. Currently I am in my third year at Poudre teaching Mapping Technologies, 9th grade World History, and 10th grade MYP (part of the IB program) World History and Geography classes. I am part of a group of teachers developing a career related certificate program through IB that will focus on the creation of arts, clean energy, and geospatial technology academies. I also am the head coach of both the boys and girls soccer team and also help run the scoreboard and clock at girls basketball games. Fort Collins is a great city to live in and grow as an educator. Poudre High School is an excellent school with a great diversity of backgrounds. I couldn't ask for a better environment to effect student success in a positive way both inside and outside of the classroom. The teacher education program at CC helped to prepare me for a rigorous, yet highly fulfilling profession.
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