Stedman Elementary Enters New Renaissance
Stedman Elementary School, on 29th and Dexter, has been in the neighborhood since the 1920s.
The school currently serves Early Childhood Education (ECE) through fifth grade, with ECE for 3 and 4 year olds. It offers an advanced kindergarten program for children who qualify through Denver Public Schools’ Office of Gifted and Talented. In addition, the school also has a split K/1 English Language Acquisition (ELA) kindergarten for native Spanish speakers and a traditional kindergarten class. This configuration can be adjusted depending on the enrolled children.
I recently met with Stedman’s new Principal, Melissa Peterson, and new Assistant Principal, Hannah Kehn. They are both excited to be at Stedman, which they describe as a school with many opportunities.
First coat of paint
On the morning I visited, the school’s auditorium had been transformed into a huge art studio. Working with the La Napoule Art Foundation, Stedman was hosting an artist in residency program. Fifth grade students were busy creating silkscreen prints and painting furniture. A first coat of paint had been applied to a life-size knight who stood majestically overseeing the hustle and bustle of artists at work.
The school mascot is a knight and the students are referred to as the Stedman knights. Harking back to King Arthur’s time, the table and chairs they were painting were soon to become Stedman’s very own Round Table where students will gather for discussions. (For more on the art program, see sidebar.)
The auditorium also housed a new baby grand piano. As detailed in the second sidebar to this piece, the piano had belonged to longtime DPS music teacher Jerry Jean Hale. She passed away recently and her nephew chose Stedman to be the instrument’s new home.
In addition to offering full-time PE and music, Stedman students can also take violin lessons in the morning, before the start of school. Since Stedman has an 8:45 a.m. start time, this is doable.
Other partnerships in the works
Stedman is actively engaging in partnerships with community organizations. Students recently participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a local Health Center. In addition, Peterson and Kehn are hoping to partner with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and El Sistema, a music program that also focuses on social responsibility.
This year, Stedman has collaborated with Playworks that aims to make recess a fun and productive time for children. Students file out onto the school’s blacktop, where different stations await them.
Many of these are traditional schoolyard games like four-square, jump rope, and playing on the jungle gym. But others are more creative, like dance. Fifth graders can help with the program by becoming “junior coaches.” They wear special T-shirts and help the students participate in this organized play.
Feeling the urgency
Peterson said that enrollment is a challenge at Stedman. She said she is working hard to recruit new students and market to local families. Peterson added she is trying to obtain before and after-school care for the kids either through DPS’ Kaleidoscope program or another provider. This would help recruit families whose parents work during school hours.
Continuing with its philosophy that competition is good for schools, DPS will be opening a new K-5 school, Roots, on Holly Street, near or in the new Boys & Girls Club. The opening, scheduled for Fall 2015, might affect Stedman’s enrollment numbers.
In addition, during a poorly attended community meeting on December 3 at East High School, DPS said it would be doing another Call for Quality Schools for the Near Northeast. The process will certainly have more entities applying to open new schools in the region.
Kehn said all schools are feeling the urgency to either be a green or a blue school. DPS’ School Performance Framework (SPF) classifies schools as being red, orange, yellow, green or blue. The SPF is a composite of many factors including growth, proficiency, student engagement, enrollment and parent satisfaction.
Although Stedman’s overall ranking is presently yellow, it has been either green or blue in growth since 2008. Proficiency dipped to red in 2011 and 2012 but was green last year. Kehn says the ultimate goal is for Stedman to be a green or a blue school.
Looking to the future
Given the school’s large Hispanic population, Peterson said she was considering a dual language program for the school. This would replace the current Transitional Native Language Instruction (TNLI), which aims to transition students into mainstream English-speaking classrooms as soon as their level of English proficiency is high enough. A dual language program would allow Spanish-speaking students to receive instruction in Spanish.
Kehn said the school is also working on more project-based, experiential learning. With this model, students go out in the field, create a product that they then present. Peterson added that this would be a vehicle for going deeper into Common Core standards.
To learn more about Stedman, contact the school directly. You can also look at its Facebook page to see more photos of the painted knight and follow the school’s activities – www.facebook.com/StedmanSchool.
Lynn Kalinauskas is the education chair of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc.
Tickling the ‘New’ Ivories
By Hannah Kehn
Assistant Principal, Stedman Elementary
On behalf of the students, families, and educators at Stedman Elementary, I want to thank Kent Robinson for selecting our school to receive his cousin’s beautiful baby grand piano.
Jerry Jean Hale, a Park Hill resident and retired DPS teacher, passed away last March 28. Hale taught private music lessons on her piano and Robinson thought she would want it passed on to a school. We were blessed to welcome it into our space right before Thanksgiving.
As Assistant Principal of Stedman and piano player myself, I was thrilled to receive a message from one of our parents about a posting on Facebook, about a piano looking for a new home in a school. I immediately called John Wyszynski of Gerretson Reality to make a plea that it find a home with us. And so it came to be.
Stedman Elementary is a historic neighborhood school with deep roots in the Park Hill community. As a learning community, we strive to embrace our diversity and are committed to excellence in our instruction and our quest for wisdom. One of the ways we hope to bring to life this vision through experiential opportunities for our teacher and students, including access and exposure to the arts.
Our music teacher, Lauren McLelland, has been at Stedman for 10 years.
Her annual musicals with the students and instruction speak to her commitment and skill, yet her program is in desperate need of instruments. Last year, we had to say goodbye to our old piano because it was in an irreparable state.
Jerry Jean Hale is described by friends as “so full of life, caring, humorous, and warm.” No doubt, she would have gotten along very well with our Stedman students, who also share these traits and inspire the Stedman Team every day.
Editor’s note: Stedman is also in need of other musical instruments, including hand drums (bongos, tubanos, djembes, congas), xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels. Contact Ms. Kehn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Making Wishes Into Art
By Tonya Barber
The halls of Stedman Elementary have come to life with color and creativity under the guidance of artist Dmitri Obergfell during his La Napoule Art Foundation Visiting Artist program. During the week of Dec. 8 Obergfell worked with all Stedman 3rd, 4th and 5th graders to create three different art projects for the school.
The LNAF Visiting Artist program selects gallery-level, professional artists and creates a customized art project for students to work on at their school under the guidance of the professional artist.
Last semester, students shared with Obergfell which objects reflected their individual personalities, including peonies, lions, footballs and bees. The artist then created silk screens based on the students’ input and, for the week of Dec. 8, the auditorium at Stedman was full of students silk screening images of their objects in various, vibrant colors.
The students were also asked to write their wishes for their individual futures on ribbons, which now hang from the ceiling alongside the silkscreen prints to create a permanent installation in the school hallways.
In addition to the student identity and wish project, Stedman students painted their knight mascot to update him for the 21st century. While several of the students were painting the knight they mentioned that their parents and grandparents also had attended Stedman, so they were very excited to bring the “old” knight to life with their paintbrushes.
The third project Obergfell led the students on was painting a new “knights’ and the round table” table and chairs that will be on permanent display in the Stedman foyer. Students decided to use a sun as a symbol of positivity on the table and chairs to pay tribute to the value of positivity in the school’s value system.
The aim of La Napoule Art Foundation Denver is to give all children access to high level art projects. LNAF believes art is an essential part of every student’s education – not just because hundreds of studies prove students who participate in art achieve higher scores on exams – but also because of the positive effect art can have on a student’s confidence, creativity, self-esteem and school-engagement.
So far, La Napoule Art Foundation has placed artists in several Park Hill schools – including Park Hill Elementary, Ashley and Smith Renaissance. The foundation has returned the same artists to the same school each year to help build a more meaningful relationship. This year Stedman Elementary and Hallett Fundamental Academy were added to the Visiting Artist program.
After the artists work in their host schools, they participate in a professional development residency at a 12th century château overlooking the Mediterranean in the South of France. There, they join other artists from all over the world for creative, cultural and professional development.
Obergfell is a graduate of Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. His critically acclaimed solo show at the Gildar gallery in Denver just finished, but you can still catch him while he is resident artist at Denver’s RedLine Gallery this year. In addition to his many shows in Denver and across the U.S., Obergfell has had solo shows in Rome, the Czech Republic and soon London.
Obergfell immediately was popular with Stedman students when he displayed his Nike shoes sculpture at his visit launch assembly. Students were captivated by his presentation on the process of making the Nike sculpture, his artistic inspiration and how he has managed to become a world-famous artist. He stressed the importance of working hard and remaining committed to your dream.
Obergfell’s LNAF Visiting Artist program culminated with a student art show on Dec. 18 at Stedman. The artist attended the event and displayed his original work alongside the students’ work. The auditorium was filled with students and their families enjoying the art, music and food provided by Allegra’s.
Learn more about how to get involved at LNAF.org, and more about Obergfell at dmitriobergfell.com.