Niwot High School administrators get accolades
December 15, 2017
Another statewide award has been given to administrators at Niwot High School, this time honoring assistant principal Andrea Smith.
Smith earned the award from the Colorado Association of School Executives as Assistant Principal of the Year in the state, following NHS principal Eric Rauschkolb’s award earlier this year.
“The recognitions we’ve received are really a reflection of the good work going on all over the place at NHS,” Rauschkolb said. “The teachers are amazing, the students for the most part come to school eager to learn and do their best.
“I would say that it goes down to the custodians and the lunch staff, the paraprofessionals, student advisors …. Everyone is doing a fantastic job and that’s why awards like these are possible in the first place.”
Smith, who is in her third year as assistant principal, spent most of her 10-year career teaching middle school science in the St. Vrain Valley School District before moving into the administrative role.
“School leadership is my dream job,” Smith said. “I really enjoy the work that I get to do. I have days where I miss the deeper connection you can get with students as a classroom teacher, but I think one thing we all work on here in Niwot is that we try to build those relationships with students even though we’re part of the admin team.”
Smith said that the award really is a reflection of the school itself.
“Any time you receive an award it’s really about the celebration of what’s going on here,” Smith said. “What I told staff is that any professional development that happens doesn’t matter without the teachers behind it. Nothing I do matters without them, so really it’s a celebration of all of the work we’re doing.
“So for me it means a lot because I feel like it highlights the innovation that we’re doing both at St. Vrain and Niwot, but it puts us on that stage of doing great things in public education.”
Some of that innovation includes district initiatives like the “one-to-one” with iPad tablets for each student. Students use them proactively to work in meaningful ways that coincide with the school’s international baccalaureate program and other curriculum.
“We’re really proud of how involved our students are,” Smith said. “We’re also proud of our international baccalaureate program and being responsible and flexible to our students’ needs and preparing them for college or whatever they plan to do after high school.”
NHS had a graduation rate of 92 percent last year, something both Smith and Rauschkolb credit to the students themselves and their staff.
“I think what’s more amazing is how well prepared our students are for whatever they want to do after high school,” Smith said. “We work really hard to recognize that we want to support them in becoming good, productive citizens. Whether that’s college-bound Ivy League or college-bound to a state school or two-year school or tech school … We’re really working to make sure we provide an experience that helps them get to where they want to go.”
From her time as a teacher, Smith said that giving educators the opportunity to teach with innovative ideas is the key to success.
“Number one is empowering teachers to share ideas they’re doing that are working,” Smith said. “Creating that ability for time for teachers to collaborate and talk about what they’re doing in their classroom and what works. It’s really to use the expertise we have in the classroom, that’s what is at the forefront of what we do.”
She added that her previous experience keeps her focus on what is best for the kids, which includes having great teachers.
“For me it goes back to what made me feel good as a teacher and have a voice to advocate for student needs from the classroom perspective,” Smith said. “That’s what I took away from my experience as a teacher. I think that is what I try to remember as an administrator, what it feels like to be a teacher and to be a part of something larger.”
Smith will be recognized by CASE in a conference soon, and the school is looking to have its own ceremony.
“I really believe that this is a celebration of all of the work that we’re doing,” Smith said. “”....Our counselors, teachers, office staff, … they’re doing all of the work that makes awards like this possible, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I’m thankful for an amazing team that makes it possible for us to be recognized like this.”
Rauschkolb said he wasn’t surprised that Smith got the nod, and both went back to the fact that it takes more than just one person to build a culture in a school.
“Andrea is an incredibly hard-working, student-centered, funny person that simply loves working with high school students,” Rauschkolb said. “She’s so good at what she does. I appreciate every single attribute that she brings to work every day because it really does make our high school a better place.
“If our students are making good choices, then that frees up our administration to go beyond just student discipline and extend into the areas of professional development, vision connecting and continuous improvement. Because our students are well-behaved, well-intentioned and hard-working, it frees us up to do a lot of the other good work that needs to be done.”