Interviewed by Nina Auslander
Nina: How many languages do you speak, and in which order did you learn them?
Nadia: I started learning French when I was very little, so I guess that was my first language. I spoke French with my dad, and Italian with my mom. When I went to preschool, I learned English, and it’s now the language I’m most comfortable with. However, I’m fluent in all three languages.
Nina: Do you find it easier to travel than your classmates?
Nadia: Yeah. Because I know Italian, it was easier for me to pick up Spanish. When I went to Guatemala, I had only taken a semester of Spanish in seventh grade and a semester at Watershed before going on the trip, but I was able to understand what everyone was saying in Guatemala, even if I couldn’t always speak it.
Nina: Do you ever find it challenging in your head to keep the languages straight?
Nina: Do you find that each language brings with it its own culture?
Nadia: Well, there is a difference between Quebec French and France French. My grandparents are French, so my accent growing up in Quebec was a little different from everyone, more of the traditional french accent. In Quebec, the French has a lot more slang and is a little more messy.
Nina: Do you miss having more languages around you? Here, it’s rare to speak more than English, but in Quebec, almost everybody speaks at least two languages…
Nadia: I actually don’t miss it all. In Quebec, almost everything is in French, so it was hard for English speaking families to get around. There was sort of this feud between the French-speaking Quebec and the English-speaking Quebec... the French resented the English because it was them keeping things from being fully French. So it’s weird in a good way not to be surrounded by that anymore.
Nina: Do you dream in different languages?
Nadia: No, not really. I used to have thoughts in French when I was little, but now it’s just English.
Nina: Do you want to learn anymore languages?
Nadia: I want to learn a language that doesn’t have the latin roots. I want to learn a language that’s completely different, like German. I was in Munich this past summer and it was really cool.
by Nina Auslander
What is your background? How did you get interested in education?
I became interested in teaching toward the end of my college experience. I had really fallen in love with physics and sharing that passion through teaching seemed an obvious choice. I was also probably influenced by the fact that my father was a teacher and administrator in schools his whole career. I quickly found the work in schools to be invigorating. To me, working with students is incredibly rewarding — helping them learn and grow into citizens who will help make the world a better place.
What are some approaches towards education that you have from your old school that you plan on bringing to Watershed?
I don't really think about bringing approaches from White Mountain to Watershed. I really want to learn about and support the best of what is already happening at Watershed. That said, at White Mountain we are working on having students more involved in discussion about program improvements. I would want to be sure that students have a proactive role in helping to shape the educational experience at the school.
What aspects of Watershed most excites you?
I am particularly excited about the work the students and teachers do at Watershed. By wrestling with big questions and engaging in the community, it becomes clear that education is not about memorization and recall, it's about about preparing for life in our complicated world. It seems to me that Watershed students learn not just about the world, but in the world and for the world.
What aspects of Colorado excite you the most?
I have been intrigued with Colorado since childhood — the beauty of the mountains, the wide-open spaces. This is a bit hokey to share, but in 4th grade everyone had to choose a state to do a report on: I chose Colorado. As an adult I have hiked and camped in Rocky Mountain National Park and skied at Vail, Snowmass, and Copper Mountain. I have also spent time in Denver and Boulder and really enjoy the culture and the openness of the people I've met.
At this point, do you see yourself bringing any major changes to Watershed? If so, what do you believe the school can improve upon the most?
As I mentioned above, I really hope to learn more about the strengths of Watershed before making any judgments about changes. In general, I feel that the best way for a school to evolve is to really identify the strengths, and work to build upon those strengths.
Do you have any plans to address the lack of economic and racial diversity at Watershed?
This is an important part of Watershed's future work, and I am glad to see that it is an active conversation at the school. I'm bringing no specific plans, but I know from my experience here at White Mountain that it is an all school endeavor — everyone has a role to play as we wrestle with resources and working to be sure the community is welcoming and supportive of all.
by Dani Cooke
If you recall any exasperated cries coming from the 9/10 classroom at the end of last year, you must know that such passionate distress had a great deal to do with a fifty-eight page report covering one of the most complicated issues facing the U.S. political scene in recent years: immigration. After all, if 535 highly-educated politicians who manage public policy and legislation as a career can’t find a solution to an issue, who better to do so than a class of fourteen and fifteen-year-olds?
Last year, in the chronological epicenter of the U.S. immigration system’s most tangled debates, the 9/10 expedition (WS graduating classes of 2019 and 2020) spent an entire semester in an in-depth study of borders and biodiversity. This course culminated in a complex environmental and human impact study of the Trump administration’s proposed wall along the US-Mexico border. Through the work of humanities teacher Pablo Stayton and science teacher Hannah Nelson, this examination of topics, which ranged from drug trafficking to the tourism industry in Big Bend National Park, caught the attention of local politicians including Boulder-based Congressman Jared Polis.
On October 16th, 2017—one semester and a summer break from the report’s completion—a group of fourteen students jumped back into last year’s hard work for a meeting with Congressman Polis (sporting his signature business suit and worn, off-white New Balance sneakers, of course). During this meeting, we summarized the 58-page report and briefly outlined the context of the course. We then answered a number of questions from him and a legislative aide about the report and our conclusions about the proposed border wall’s potential impact.
Congressman Polis also shared some of the immigration-related decisions Congress is currently facing. Namely, the Trump Administration has provided an ultimatum in response to the majority’s opposal to the wall’s construction: if Congress approves the construction of a smaller section of the proposed border wall, DACA will not be repealed as has been stated previously. (It is likely that, following this decision, DACA recipients would be able to obtain legal status in the United States through some sort of vetting process.)
In this meeting, we were given the unique opportunity to share our well-researched understanding of the proposed border wall and its its implications; we also gained insight into the decisions Congress is facing currently in respect to the wall. Though written by a class of ninth- and tenth-graders, there is a definite possibility that this impact study will result in a powerful impact of its own.
View the complete Environmental & Human Impact Study here:
by Lola Hemmat
Can you even imagine not having a home to go back to each night? Not having your guardian to keep you safe, and instead being alone and vulnerable every night? It’s a horrible truth that many youth have to face every single day, they don’t get to imagine what it would be like to live like this, because they know.
On November 2nd, my classmates and I did a sponsored sleep out for homeless youth in Colorado for Attention Homes. Did you know that there are 2,000 homeless youth in the Denver Metro area? All of these kids didn’t have any warning or idea that they would be forced from home, making it hard for these homeless children to continue their education. A non-profit called Attention Homes, can be the solution. Attention Homes accepts everyone from the age of 12 to 24, and they don’t discriminate against your ethnicity, sexual orientation, or anything else. They support the children with any emotional or educational needs they have in the homes they provide.
The problem is growing and getting out of control. So the expedition teachers for the sixth and seventh grade and a math teacher thought the middle school students should help. They decided to work with Attention Homes. The goal we had set for ourselves to earn for Attention Homes was $1,000 dollars, but by the time the sleep out rolled around, we had raised $4,400!
On the night of the sleep out it was around 30 degrees fahrenheit, so you can probably understand that not all of us were so excited to be sleeping outdoors. But we used grit, (one of the Watershed character traits) to get us through the night. At the beginning of the night we talked to three people working for Attention Homes, two of them were once homeless themselves, but Attention Homes helped them get back on their feet. After the specialists came, we headed outside into the cold to write some journal prompts. One of the prompts was to appreciate the people or person who puts a roof over our heads. This made many of us thankful for just how amazing the people in our lives are, and made us think of how horrible life would be without them.
I know we donated as much as we were able, but after sleeping out I wish I could do more to help. I wish everyone would do something to help, I wish people would stop treating these people like they aren’t there. But I don’t have to wish these things, I can do them and have others help. So, if you ever see someone on the streets,do something for them. Buy them a meal, some socks, or even just have a conversation, anything helps.