Lakewood teachers describe the Katy Perry experience

Katy Perry, in Lakewood cheerleader attire, sings for Lakewood High students in a private performance, Oct. 25.

Katy Perry, in cheerleader attire, sings for Lakewood High students in a private performance, Oct. 25. (Concert photos from Lakewood H.S.)

One of the world’s top pop entertainers performed in Colorado, Oct. 25, but only the students and faculty of Lakewood High School could get in door. Which was fitting, because Katy Perry gave her concert in their high school gym.

Understanding how Lakewood High won a national concert to get a private Katy Perry concert starts with an explanation of a ‘lip-dub’ video.

“I’ll be honest, I was like, ‘What is a lip-dub?’ said Laura Zlogar, a physical education teacher at Lakewood High. “Is that like lip-sync back in the 80’s that I can remember?”

Laura and fellow teacher Tami LoSasso of the theater department now know first-hand what goes into making a lip-dub video.

“A lip-dub is a continuous shot,” Tami explained. “The camera takes a walk through whatever has been staged and the whole thing is done in one continuous shot. It does incorporate that idea of the 80’s lip-sync, but there’s no editing. It’s just all one walk-through.”

A lip-dub video came immediately to mind for Lakewood students when Katy Perry put out a national challenge on Good Morning America to find the high school that could give the best roar – Roar being the name of Katy’s latest hit single. First, Lakewood had the right mascot to showcase for the song’s chorus.

“Tiger – it was all Tiger, and it was a great song just to show spirit,” said Gwen Ahlers, drawing and painting teacher. “So we found a connection right away.”

Second, Lakewood students had made a lip-dub video a few years back to Katy’s hit Firework.

“The Good Morning America contest video didn’t need to necessarily be a lip-dub, but we figured hey, we have experience at this. It works perfectly with our school mascot. Let’s give it another shot,” said Tami.

The Bridge Club's card deck and bare-chested tiger student is one of many Roar highlights.

The Bridge Club’s card deck and bare-chested tiger student is one of many Lakewood Roar video highlights.

For three days, the school used 20 minutes of non-instructional homeroom time to plan and produce the Lakewood Roar video (watch at http://bit.ly/1gqxDWi). A planning team mapped out a course, placing nearly every athletic team, club and student group in the school along the route. Tami, Gwen and Laura, all members of JeffCo Education Association, helped students in orchestrating their few seconds in the spotlight when the camera rolled by.

“There were quick meetings – let’s plan your space, plan what you want to do, practice your portion of the song,” said Gwen, who worked with the art club.

Tami’s most difficult challenge was getting a commitment from her theater students to be in place when the camera arrived. “There are kids involved in so many different activities – ‘I want to do theater, then I want to run to choir, and after choir…’ – and so my responsibility was making sure we had enough kids for our shot.”

Laura’s ‘unified physical education’ group, an adaptive P.E. class for special needs students, appeared early in the video. Her student coaches were then off to the races to catch the camera again. “They were running across the hall, trying to get to another spot to get to the baseball team, or some of the girls with the tennis team. Almost all of the students had two or more groups, clubs, or teams that they wanted to be with in the video.”

With students on the run making multiple appearances throughout the campus, Lakewood’s Roar video gives the impression the school has double or triple the 2,000-plus students and staff who participated. “The ending shot is really the best indication of the amount of kids we have, because that’s where they all ran, from their groups into that big collaboration on the football field at the end,” said Tami.

“It was like Christmas Day, ants in their pants, couldn’t sit still,” Laura said of her adaptive P.E. class on recording day. “We didn’t want them to settle down – it was really cool, such a neat thing to be a part of. We tried to run around and do as much as we could to burn off some of that energy, but it was a really fun day. And it was okay to be excited and be a little squirrely.”

“And there was a lot of positive energy that you don’t always see in schools,” Tami added, noting the expectations and higher stakes of today’s school structure can weigh students down. “So just to have the opportunity for positive energy to fuel the building, I think the teachers welcomed that openly and tried to carry that positive vibe throughout the rest of the semester. We’re kind of coasting with that right now.”

Gwen Ahlers, Lakewood drawing & painting teacher

Gwen Ahlers, Lakewood drawing & painting teacher

“The kids here are awesome, teachers are awesome. It would not have worked without administration, the community, teachers, the entire staff, and students. They all pulled together,” said Gwen. “You can tell by the lip-dub, it’s amazing. It couldn’t have happened with just a few kids or a few people, it was the whole, entire school.”

Katy watched hundreds of videos from schools across America and Lakewood made her list of five finalists. The students packed the Lakewood gym in the early morning hours of Oct. 18 to watch Katy announce the winner live on Good Morning America. She chose Lakewood.

“Of course the gym just erupted and the kids went nuts,” said Laura.

“Oh my goodness,” said Gwen. “Kids were texting, moms were texting kids, congratulations from aunts, uncles, grandparents. In the community, businesses were just so excited for Lakewood. As a community, this is a pretty neat deal.”

Lakewood and its high school were suddenly famous. The Roar lip-dub has more than 425,000 views on YouTube. Lakewood High appeared on live national TV and in media reports across the country. And when Katy Perry tweets about you, she reaches 47 million followers.

What to do with their ’15 minutes of fame’ was a heavy question for the student body and Principal Ron Castagna. The answer: a charity campaign dubbed “One World, One Roar” in which Lakewood students challenged high schools across America to raise $1,000 for charity.

Lakewood teachers Tami LoSasso and Laura Zlogar show off the school's "One World, One Roar" t-shirts.

Lakewood teachers Tami LoSasso and Laura Zlogar show off the school’s “One World, One Roar” t-shirts.

“I think what the principal has done is used the Katy Perry experience as a springboard for a larger message, in that we as adults need to teach students to be a part of a community,” said Tami.

Lakewood trademarked the phrase “One World, One Roar” and built a website to track progress of reported charity fundraising. As of mid-November, the campaign has topped $36,000. Lakewood and other Colorado schools have given their donations to Colorado flood relief.

“I guess it’s catching on. We’re getting some feedback,” said Gwen, with calls coming in to Lakewood from school districts in other states. “The kids were very inspiring. Maybe it’s just a switch where kids are thinking beyond their school and what they can do in their own community. The kids feel really empowered to reach out and do more.”

“What I would like to see is for that sort of ideal to really permeate beyond this year, to really get students fully engaged in their communities,” said Tami, who noted her theater students donated $1,000 they had raised at an earlier event. “In a selfish world, we still need to perform selfless acts to be a community. And getting kids to understand that is what ‘One World, One Roar’ hopes to achieve.”

Katy Perry received a Lakewood jacket and tiger-themed cake for her birthday concert.

Katy Perry received a Lakewood jacket and tiger-themed cake for her birthday concert.

United in black and orange “One World, One Roar” t-shirts, the students filed back into the gym starting at 3:30 a.m., Oct. 25, for the concert. Katy, wearing a Lakewood cheerleading uniform for the occasion, just happened to be celebrating a birthday.

“I’m 29. I feel great,” Perry said to the students and staff. “I still feel like I’m 13 sometimes. Obviously you can tell by my music and my spirit. I’m so excited about this record and I just love all the participation and the unification …of all of you guys coming together and roaring!”

“Katy Perry did a great job. She was very professional, she treated the kids with respect, and they treated her with respect,” said Gwen. “It was exciting to have a concert and have her there for the kids.”

“She spoke their language, for lack of a better word,” added Tami. “And she was really respectful to the administration. She came across as a class act.”

In the days after the concert, Laura noticed a different attitude and a sense of camaraderie in everybody.

“In Lakewood, we’ve always kind of had that, but it seems even more so, kids just outgoing, looking for ways to help. Kids have that sense of, ‘What can I do to help you.’ It’s great, it’s really nice,” said Laura.

“As teachers, it’s been an interesting journey. Finding ways to channel the energy has been a new and exciting challenge,” Tami added. “To have kids who are enthusiastic, willing to take on whatever in the classroom just because they have this sense of something bigger, was a nice addition to the past couple of weeks.”

students web

Katy Perry leads a Roar! with special needs students at Lakewood High.

Laura said the sense of community is particularly high with her special needs students, who don’t always feel so appreciated.

“They’re feeling embraced a lot within the community in the school, which hasn’t happened for a while,” said Laura. “But they certainly feel a part of the experience, that they have a piece in this too.

“There’s an attitude now that this was much bigger than getting a Katy Perry concert. It’s ‘how can we do more?’ and looking at the bigger picture,” Laura continued. “The special needs kids are starting to see that too. There’s an awareness of, ‘maybe there’s some disadvantages here, but there are ways I can help somebody else.’ And it’s been a huge education piece for us to talk about something and just take it to a different level, a bigger scale with a lot of these kids. It’s been a great learning experience for them.”

Thank a teacher today

We appreciate America’s public school educators who educate, believe in, care for, and protect their students. Who are they? Classroom teachers, specialists, interventionists, paraeducators and teacher assistants, counselors, nurses, speech and language therapists, preschool teachers, music teachers, art teachers, PE teachers, media specialists and librarians, school psychologists and social workers, and faculty at colleges and universities…

We join America in thanking ALL educators – and all school staff who support students, their families, and our schools – for all they do for students.

Public school employees give selflessly. They work long hours, including evenings and weekends outside of school, to mentor, tutor, and coach students, plus plan and prepare for their work with students. They reach into their own pockets, spending nearly $1,000 on average every year to pay for things their districts do not provide.

Public school employees believe in every student’s abilities and potential. They inspire self-confidence and lifelong learning in their students. They strive to provide a safe learning environment, and they collaborate with peers, parents, and the school community to support students and their families.

During the National PTA’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, we salute America’s teachers and all the school employees who dedicate their lives to helping our students thrive.

We encourage you today, on National Teacher Day, to change your Facebook status to thank a teacher who made a difference in your life.

Boulder Valley teacher to tour Brazilian schools with national educator group

Kristin Donley

Kristin Donley
Boulder Valley EA

The NEA Foundation has named Kristin Donley, science teacher at Monarch High School in Boulder Valley School District, as a 2013 Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow. With this honor, Donley joins a unique class of 36 award-winning public school educators who will build their global competency skills, or the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. Donley was Colorado’s nominee for the NEA Teaching Excellence Award last year.

“In order for students to be prepared for the global age, their educators must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to teach in the global age,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. Our Global Learning Fellows program has an intentional focus on supporting educators as they strengthen their global competencies: investigating the world beyond one’s immediate environment; recognizing multiple perspectives; communicating ideas effectively with diverse audiences; and taking action to improve conditions.”

The fellowship expands on the NEA Foundation’s mission to advance student achievement by investing in public education that will prepare all students to learn and thrive in a rapidly changing world. It is designed to help educators acquire the necessary skills to integrate global competence into their daily classroom instruction, and prepare students to thrive in the interconnected  global age, and thus contribute to the closing of the global achievement gap.

The Fellowship builds a structured and collaborative learning experience that supports educators as they acquire global competence skills.  Over the course of one year, Fellows are supported by the NEA Foundation staff, partners, and other field experts, as they work through:

  • Readings and webinars to introduce global competence and country specific concepts;
  • Online coursework on global competence, country specific concepts, and interactive language learning;
  • A two-day professional development workshop with sessions led by leaders in global competency and country-specific knowledge; and
  • A study-tour designed to focus on the themes of global competence, education (both practice and issues of international, national, and state policy) and economics.

The tour of Brazil, June 19-27, includes visits to schools in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to provide educators with structured opportunities to observe classroom instruction and to interact with Brazilian teachers and administrators. It also includes opportunities to investigate Brazil’s rich historical and cultural landmarks. The tour is sponsored by the Pearson Foundation and the NEA Foundation and is designed by Education First.

In preparation, the fellows will complete an online course to provide them with a framework to contextualize their experiences in Brazil by examining the impact of its historical and cultural legacies on contemporary Brazilian society and educational system. The NEA Foundation has also partnered with Rosetta Stone to provide the fellows with basic Portuguese language training. “As we know, language is the road map to other cultures, and therefore an important tool for building global understanding,” Sanford said.

Together with the Pearson Foundation, the NEA Foundation will share the fellows’ experiences and observations through blog posts and photos as they travel.

At the conclusion of the Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellowship, educators will begin working on a final project to create a lesson plan, unit plan, or full curriculum integrated with global competency skills. By creating this plan, and then sharing with educators around the world via an open source platform, the educators are contributing to an increasing field of knowledge on this topic. Further, they are positioned to lead their profession by advocating for global learning and global competence within their schools, communities, and districts.

The NEA Foundation is a public foundation supported by NEA members’ dues, corporate sponsors and others interested in public education.

Celebrate Read Across America Day, March 1

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild
To pick up a book and read with a child.

You’re never too busy, too cool, or too hot
To pick up a book and share what you’ve got.

In schools and communities, gather around,
Pick up some books and pass them around.

There are kids everywhere who really need
Someone to hug, someone to read.

Come join us March 1 in your own special way,
and make it Colorado’s Read to Kids Day!

Friday, March 1 is Read Across America Day, an Association celebration observed by parents, students, elected officials (the Colorado Legislature), and educators across the U.S., maybe even around the world. Read Across America Day is not a fancy celebration, or one that costs a lot of money. It’s pretty simple: Pick up a book and read with a child.

Need some ideas? Parade Magazine has idea and tips for everyone. NEA has dozens of Resources to Get Reading, from a wide array of booklists to summer reading ideas. Get the facts about children’s literacy. SchoolTube has a Read Across America channel where you can share your Read Across America videos.

Check out Read Across America on the NEA web site too.

Join us – we’re reading to students and reading with students of every age, not just on Read Across America Day. Every day!

TELL Colorado Survey begins February 6

As educators know, there is a clear connection between teaching conditions and student learning. This is why CEA is working with statewide partners for the third time to offer the TELL Colorado Survey to teachers from February 6 to March 6. We want to find out more about Colorado’s K-12 schools from the people who know them the best.

The TELL Colorado Survey is an anonymous, online survey which gives teachers and other licensed school-based educators the opportunity to tell their perceptions of the teaching and learning conditions in their schools. The survey data will provide educators, schools, districts, the Legislature, Colorado Department of Education (CDE), and CEA and its partners with information we can all use to improve our schools and support pro-education policies.

The TELL Colorado Survey (TELL stands for Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning) was offered in 2009 and 2011, supported by funding from the Legislature. State-based versions of the survey are offered in a dozen other states in partnership with The New Teacher Center. CEA is working with CDE, CASE, CASB, the League of Charter Schools, and the Colorado Federation of Teachers on this year’s survey.

The TELL Colorado survey takes about 20-30 minutes and addresses issues of time, empowerment, leadership, resources, student conduct, community engagement, professional development, and mentoring. In their schools during the last week of January, educators will get individual letters with personal codes for taking the survey. After the close of the survey on March 6, The New Teacher Center will analyze data from all the schools that have sufficient participation for a written, school level report. Through this analysis, each school will have its own data to use in school improvement planning. The initial data will be available beginning in April.

“Trans” film can be a much-needed resource for educators

On November 27, One Colorado Education Fund and the Denver Film Society will present Trans, a feature documentary that provides a personal look at the lives of transgendered people: the highs and lows, joys and challenges. Public school teachers and support staff who work with students of all ages may find the film an important resource for their schools.

The showing of Trans begins at 7:00 pm, November 27, at the Denver Film Center at 2510 East Colfax Avenue in downtown Denver. Tickets are $12 ($10 for Film Society members). A panel discussion will follow at approximately 8:30 pm.

CEA is a sponsor of this special event, along with the Colorado Public Health Association, Gender Identity Center of Colorado, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Padres y Jóvenes Unidos, and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. (Tickets)

Why do we recommend this film to our members? Because our Association believes that a great public school is a fundamental right of every student – a school free from intimidation and harassment and safe for everyone including students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered.

We know that all students are more likely to learn and succeed in safe, supportive environments. Unfortunately, safety can be an issue for children and teens who are seen as different because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. From the earliest grades, students routinely use homophobic language, and verbal taunts often escalate to physical confrontations.

The effects of bullying, harassment, and discrimination are obvious to educators, administrators, and parents. Students who are subjected to frequent harassment do less well academically, and are much more likely to be truant or drop out of school, be depressed or suicidal, consume drugs or alcohol, or carry a weapon to school.

As an organization, we are committed to addressing the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students. That’s why we provide information and resources, such as the documentary Trans, for educators to create great schools for every student.

Denver teacher offers her take on Won’t Back Down movie

Won’t Back Down is a work of fiction that looks to parent trigger laws as a strategy for school reform. I want to emphasize the word fiction for anyone who missed it the first time. Much has already been written about the film, for or against it. I will share what I know to be non-fiction, based on my 25 years of practice as an accomplished teacher. These things I know…

I am one of “those” kids. When speaking of kids living in poverty, many people refer to “those” kids. This is not a reason to feel sorry for them (or me) or to make excuses about why we cannot learn. But it is the first step in creating separation between people and factions.

In Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children, she suggests that as long as we consider “those” children as other people’s children and not “our” children, we will never provide all students the education that they need and deserve. Pronouns can mean a lot. I have been one of “those” kids and can speak from experience about what “we” need and what we don’t. But even those whose demographic data is different can help support our children. All of them.

Perpetuating separation and divisiveness maintains the status quo. Pitting parents against unions, teachers against parents, Teach for America teachers against career teachers, veteran teachers against novice teachers and ed reformers against unions ensures that we stay mired in division that simply maintains the situation as it is. Casting blame and shame only perpetuates the false dichotomy of us versus them. Meanwhile, our kids sit by day after day while adults play power games at their expense.

Meaningful change requires collective action. Margaret Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, suggests that, “Real change happens…only when we take time to discover what’s worthy of our shared attention.”

As it turns out, it’s not so difficult to identify factors that are worthy of our shared attention. For example, teacher evaluation must improve to encourage individual teachers’ growth and, when necessary, allow for dismissal.  School leaders need to be equipped with the tools and resources necessary to support teaching and learning. We need to rethink school design so we can tailor instruction to students’ needs.

But creating systemic and sustainable change will require us ALL to work together to redesign the system for our kids. And teachers must play critical roles in identifying solutions—for we will be the ones who bring the changes to life in the classroom each day.

We WILL change the system when we actually muster up enough will to do so. As long as all of the different factions involved in education hold tight to oppositional roles, we will not muster the will to actually change anything. When we REALLY decide that ALL students deserve a quality public education—when that becomes our genuine priority and is the outlet for our energy and motivation— then we will make that change happen. It is as simple as that.

Our kids and our country deserve better.

I, for one, am ready to collaborate. Are you? I don’t care what factions you’re part of, what label you wear, or what your history (or your organization’s history) may have been. I am willing to work alongside all who are truly dedicated to supporting the collective action and systemic change that is so sorely needed by our most vulnerable kids.

Our kids do not have time to waste on adults slinging mud like children. Our kids and our country deserve a better public education system and I intend to help provide it for them.

Who among us is willing to lift yourself up out of the divisiveness, connect around a common vision and create a system that works for all children? While some “won’t back down,” I Will Stand Up for our kids, for our community and for my profession. Will you join me?

Lori Nazareno, NBCT
Teacher in Residence, Center for Teaching Quality
Denver Classroom Teachers Association-CEA-NEA Member