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Spotlight on Stapleton's high school: George Washington

Monday, November 8, 2010 Leave a Comment

You might know that George Washington High School produced Nuggets star Chauncey Billups, but did you know GW is consistently ranked in the Top 100 high schools in the country by Newsweek Magazine, due to its high performing International Baccalaureate program? The IB curriculum focuses on educating students for the globalizing world.

Since Stapleton's middle schools feed into George Washington High School on Monaco and Alameda, we asked contributor Marissa Ferrari to sit down with Principal Loan Maas to find out more about GW.


What inspired you to become an educator?
I started teaching at a junior college. My first experience with high school students was through the Outward Bound Program, which gives at-risk students access to higher-level science studies and exploration. I immediately loved working with high school students – they were high-energy, they wanted to learn. That’s what inspired me. And I’ve been in public education now for 13 years.

What are some of the highlights of your career so far?

I think the best part of my job is that every day is a highlight. Every day I come to work, I put my heart into what I do. Every day is different, because every student is different. I love our kids, our staff, our school and our community.

What do you enjoy most about working in the George Washington community?

The thing I enjoy most about working in the GW community is working closely with our students, our parents, our alumni, our business community and our community at large. I am very lucky to work amongst a group of individuals who truly care and love George Washington High School. Because we care so much, it’s imperative we that have high expectations for our students, our faculty and our community. And, that we are committed to helping all rise to meet those expectations.

How did your background prepare you to lead George Washington?

My entire life experience has brought me to this place. When you consider the odds, they were stacked against me. I grew up in the housing projects of Los Angeles, with a mom who worked 14 hours a day and a father who wasn’t part of our life. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school, from college and then to earn a master’s degree. If you look at the statistics, I shouldn’t be here. So no matter what specific challenges our kids face, I can relate. I can help them see that with resiliency, they can achieve anything.

I’ve also been part of schools that model high expectations and academic rigor. My parents couldn’t help me achieve more because they didn’t know what excellence looked like. My commitment is to providing the high expectations and academic rigor all students need to truly excel.

George Washington is probably best-known for its International Baccalaureate (IB) program. What are your plans to maintain and strengthen the IB focus?

The IB philosophy is a pillar of our school, and we will absolutely retain that focus. All students at GW will be challenged and grow, including the exceptionally high-achieving students who are part of our IB program.

What does GW offer for students who aren’t interested in IB but are still looking for a high level of academic rigor and college preparation?

Advanced Placement is a building block of our college-preparation for all students. This program is through the College Board, which is the organization that created the PSAT and SAT exams. We just hosted a press conference to kick-off DPS’ College and Career Readiness Month at the beginning of this month; over the last few years our participation in Advanced Placement has gone from 233 students to 402 students. We currently offer 13 AP courses.

Beginning in 2011, we will offer an “AP Jump Start” program that will help students become familiar with the expectations that go along with college-level courses. They will also develop the academic behaviors necessary to be successful at that level – note-taking, organization skills, study skills, etc. Students who complete the course will receive their first college elective credit through Adams State College.

In addition, GW offers concurrent enrollment courses through a partnership with the University of Colorado at Denver. College professors teach college-level courses at our school and students have the ability to earn college credit. We hope to be able to expand both our AP offerings and our concurrent enrollment offerings in the future.

We also offer the national Advancement Via Individual Determination or AVID program that prepares at-risk students for higher-level coursework. Students who maybe haven’t gotten the right support in the past learn key academic behaviors like organization, time management, exam preparation, etcetera.

And then what brings it all together is the exposure to diverse populations, diverse cultures, diverse ways of thinking. When our students graduate, they won’t go to college with people who look exactly like them. When our students start their careers, they won’t work with people exactly like them. Our students will be prepared to be part of a global workforce, a global marketplace.

Tell us a few things most people wouldn’t know about GW.

I think it’s a diamond in the rough! Laughs. We’ve been named by Newsweek as one of the Top 100 Schools in the nation. We’ve been featured in 5280. Our enrollment this year grew by 120 students. GW is going to be the place where everyone wants to be.

How can parents get involved in helping to promote student achievement at GW?

Become a Patriot Partner. That’s our group of volunteers. I also welcome parents from our elementary and middle schools – GW is their future, and they can help us shape and implement the vision for their high school. Join our Collaborative School Committee. Help out in our library. We will have our first academic letter ceremony on October 26; come help with that. I’m also reaching out to our business community to create a Patriot Business Partnership. Our doors are open. Come be part of our community – it’s your community.

3 comments »

  • Liz said:  

    I'd love to find out more about the International Baccalaureate program. What does it entail?

  • Jenn said:  

    Great post, thanks for doing this Liz and Marissa!

  • Lissa said:  

    Thanks for the information! My family will be moving to the Stapleton area this summer, so I am researching schools and other information about the neighborhood. What a wonderful community!