2nd Grade Crew Teacher
Meet Ms Dana!
Dana grew up in Toledo Ohio. She attended Bowling Green State University just 30 minutes outside Toledo and received an Undergraduate Degree in Fashion Merchandising. Dana was passionate about retail and loved making things pretty. Her first job was at a clothing company called Hit or Miss as a manager. From there she then went on to manage a Talbots Store. When she got married the evening and weekend retail hours made it tough to spend time with her husband, so she decided to go into sales and got a job with Verizon Wireless. Dana and her husband took a trip to Colorado to visit her brother who was stationed in Cheyenne. During the trip they fell in love with the state. Upon returning to Ohio she and her husband said to each other, “Alright whoever gets a job there first, we are moving!” Dana did a phone interview with the Verizon office near DTC and they hired her on the spot! They packed up and headed to Colorado. They found an apartment to rent in Lakewood that had the one thing on their list...mountain views! They lived there for about 2 years then bought a house in Highlands Ranch. It was there that they adopted their son Daniel. Dana became a stay at home Mom and their family grew when they adopted their daughter Olivia. Around that time, Dana’s mom moved from Ohio to Castle Rock to be closer to her grandkids. Dana and her husband really liked the small-town feel of Castle Rock so they moved their family there as well. When Daniel was getting ready for Kindergarten, Dana was not sure where to send him. She asked Daniel’s Speech Pathologist to go on a tour of Renaissance with her. As they were leaving the school the Speech Pathologist who did not have kids at the time said, “Well I don't know what you are gonna do, but when I have kids they are coming here!” That affirmed what Dana was already thinking and she enrolled Daniel for Kindergarten. Over the next few years, Dana enjoyed being a stay home mom to her kids and became very involved at the school volunteering where she could. When Olivia was in 2nd grade, Dana decided to join the workforce again, but she did not want to go back into sales. She was really inspired by how much she had seen educators pour into her son Daniel. She thought to herself, “How can I pay this forward?” That led her to take a job as an EA at the school in one of the 1st-grade crews. Over the next three years working as an EA, Dana went back to school to receive a Masters in Education and her teaching license. Dana looks back on that time and says, “I still have no idea how I juggled all of that! Working full, time, raising kids, so many late nights, but all worth it. I felt greatly supported by the school community.” After finishing her schooling, Ms. Deborah offered Dana a job as a 2nd-grade teacher.
Dana is now in her 5th year of teaching 2nd grade. Her position at the school has a unique perspective because she not only is a teacher but she has also been a parent at the school. This has allowed her to see both sides of the building, and this has helped foster great relationships with parents because she has been in their shoes and can easily see their side of things. When asked what she loves about teaching Dana said, “So many things!! It is so much fun. But what I really love is that 2nd graders are old enough to really be developing into the little people they are going to be but still young enough to write me love notes and believe in the tooth fairy. 2nd grade is a fabulous year! First-grade teachers do such a great job of teaching them to read and by the time they come to 2nd grade, they are really ready to delve into books and get to know characters.”
One of Dana’s favorite memories was the first time reading Charlotte’s Web to her Crew. Dana said, “We were getting to the part when Charlotte was about to die and I looked up at one of the girls in my class who was crying and crying, she looked at me and said, ‘It’s ok Ms. Dana, these are happy tears!’ These kids are so sweet!”
This year was the first time 2nd graders had ever done a two night voyage. Dana and Gina knew that the kids could do more, so they decided to ramp things up! Deborah mentioned, why not try taking them two nights on voyage? Dana and Gina said, ‘Let’s do it!’ So off they went to Camp Elim in the Fall and then became the youngest Crew to ever go to Keystone in the Winter. Both of the voyages were a huge success. Dana and Gina firmly believe in the value of sharing the kids in their Crews. Dana and Gina want to differentiate for their students. Starting last year, they began mixing the kids up in their Math and Reading groups. This allowed students to travel back and forth between the classrooms, something the students really have enjoyed. Dana and Gina were then able to build relationships with all of the 2nd graders, not just those in their Crew. This was great for when it came time to do remote teaching. The two have been able to teach all of the students together. Dana says this about Gina, “She is a delight to work with, we complement each other well, she is left-brained and I am right-brained and together we just fit. She is wonderful to work with.” Three weeks into remote teaching and Dana says, “Things seem to be working really well overall. Of course, there are hiccups every now and then and that is ok! I think Zoom calls are hilarious: 24 second-graders bouncing around wanting to show every stuffed animal in their house to me. Last time I had a Crew meeting I played a game with them, this week was a scavenger hunt, the kids got on and I said everyone go find a spoon! And off they went. That was fun, I am trying to find more ideas like that to keep them engaged. Yesterday we ended a zoom call with a dance party, so much fun! We all are doing the best we can, we have to give everyone grace because this is new for all of us.”
Dana’s Crew has a class 'pet' named Gus, a stuffed dragon who Dana says is a part of the crew. Gus is a part of their phonics program and during the school year, every Friday students take turns bringing him home for a few days. When school was let out because of the stay-at-home order, Dana made sure to bring Gus with her. She wanted to give the kids a sense of normalcy. So Dana has been delivering him to families every Friday, then picking him up the following week to give him a wash and sanitize before sending him off to the next family. Dana said, “The amount of joy that the silly little dragon is bringing these kids is incredible. Today when I picked up Gus from a home, he was holding a gift for me, and that was really sweet. It’s little things like this that are really appreciated. When I get a note or text from a parent saying, ‘wow that video you did was really cool,’ that goes a long way. The parents at school do a great job of letting us know we are appreciated.” Dana said her favorite part about Renaissance is that the school really embodies We Are Crew.
“When I went through a divorce several years ago, that was proven to me over and over again not just to my kids but also to me. It was incredible how the school supported my kids through that tough time. They were in the perfect place for it to happen. We are Crew is real, we felt it. During that time we realized our family was much bigger than we thought. I still feel that way today; there is not a teacher in the school that I couldn’t go to for help. It is not a place where people are competing, everyone on the staff really embraces each other and pushes one another to do the best we can. Sure, sometimes we don’t always see things eye to eye, and that is fine, but we respect each other's opinions. There is a great sense of Crew among us.”
Outside of school, Dana enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, and crafting (when she can find the time!). With both her kids in high school and one of them graduating this Spring, she knows her time with them is limited. For that reason, she wants to spend as much time with them as she can. Her son Daniel, will be leaving for Metro State University in the fall to become a pilot. Dana has spent 13 years at our school, from parent to teacher she has made a positive and meaningful impact on our students. We are so grateful for her dedication!
Ms. Gina had this to say about working with Dana: “Dana is the yin to my yang! Her strengths are my growth areas and vice versa. I like to think of Dana as our ‘Chief Idea Officer’ on the team and me as the ‘Chief Logistics Officer.’ Oftentimes, Dana will come to me with an idea and say, ‘can you organize this?’ or ‘can you make this look pretty?’ Of course, I say yes, because her ideas are impressive! My only complaint about working with Dana is that she still wears a fanny pack full of bandaids at recess time, no matter how much grief I have given her about it!”
From a parent of Dana’s: “Our family adores Ms. Dana. She goes above and beyond the normal duties of a teacher. She takes the time to get to know her students and identify their strengths and weaknesses to help them become confident learners.”
From a parent at REMS: “I liked Dana the moment I met her, she has a contagious laugh and smile that puts people at ease around her. I have seen what a wonderful mom she is to her children and was thrilled when she decided to become a teacher at the school. She is creative, passionate about teaching, and has a huge heart. I am so thankful she gets to share these things with our community.”
Thanks for all you do, Ms. Dana!