It's About the Kids: A Teacher's Reflection On the "Last" Day of School

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One of our former High Trails Outdoor Education Center and Sanborn Camps staff member, Sarah Ulizio, sent us this thoughtful reflection of her “last” day of school last week before her district–like most in the country–suspended classes in hopes of “flattening the curve” and the slowing the spread of the COVID19.

I had such an interesting experience as a classroom teacher on Friday that I know I’ll never forget and I hope my students will never forget. I think it will be neat for you and others at camp to hear.

My day started off with an early arrival to school knowing that there would be a lot of noise to sift through, so to speak. I knew it would be challenging to wrap my head around the different experience of the coming day with students. I knew that teachers and students alike would come to school feeling stressed, anxious, and scared. Indeed– it was a stressful morning to say the least. What materials should I gather to send home with students? What are other teachers going to do for distance learning next week? Do all of my students have internet and a computer at home? How will I ensure equal access to resources and education next week? Will all of my students have enough food to eat next week? Will my students be left alone at home while their parents are at work? AHHHHH! So much noise at 6:45 in the morning.

I took a moment to myself in my classroom and sat down at a student’s desk. I thought about their perspective as a child listening to all the noise from the news, the radio, the president, their parents and guardians, and their teachers. I thought about what that must feel like for them. I thought about what it was like as an 8th grader on September 11th, 2001. I replayed those vivid memories in my head of what class I was in. I remembered the looks on my teachers faces. I remembered what they said and how they reacted to the news. I remembered feeling nervous and anxious because the adults around me clearly felt that way. I thought that was how I should respond because it was modeled for me. I next thought about my experiences working as an educator at COEC. I thought about the incredible power and importance of a sense of community. I thought about how present and joyful everyone seems to be when they’re on that property or even when they’re reunited with the people they’ve shared those experiences with. That’s when the signal came through all the noise. That’s when I made a decision.

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I chose to make the most of my time with my students on Friday. I chose to be present. I chose to model for them an adult who chooses to have fun, be positive, and laugh amidst all the noise and stress. I chose to play and laugh with my students. I chose to turn the lights off, play music, and dance around the classroom with them (wish I had that bin of HTOEC costumes…). I chose to kick my shoes off and help them make a fort tunnel with all of the desks and chairs. I chose to play games that I had learned at camp. I chose to build a sense of community and be present with the people around me.

I am forever grateful for the experiences I had at COEC for guiding me to do what’s most important for children, everyday.

And we are grateful for educators like you, Sarah. We know your students will be excited to be back in the classroom with you again, soon!

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Ariella Rogge
About Ariella Rogge

Ariella started her career at Sanborn when she was twelve. After five years of camper and five years of Sanborn staff experience, she continued her work with kids in the high school classroom. Ariella and her family returned to Sanborn in 2001 to take on the Program Director role which she held til 2012. She and Elizabeth Marable became co-directors of High Trails in 2013 and then Ariella became the High Trails Director in 2020. In the fall of 2022 she became the Director of Sanborn Western Camps, overseeing the director teams of both Big Spring and High Trails. She lists mountain golf, Gymkhana, climbing mountains and making Pad Thai in the backcountry as some of her favorite activities at camp. Ariella received a B.A. in English from Colorado College and is a certified secondary English educator,an ACCT Level 2 Ropes Course Technician, an ARC lifeguard and NREMT and WEMT. She lives in Florissant in the summer and in Green Mountain Falls during the school year so she can stay involved with the busy lives of her husband, Matt, and two teenage sons, Lairden and Karsten.