Q&A: Riverview School Principal Adam Volek
Continuing our interviews with Roaring Fork Schools principals, Adam Volek, principal of Riverview School, a kindergarten through 8th grade school, shares his favorite moments from working with the dual-language programming and starting a new school.
You’ve been principal at Riverview since the school opened in 2017, implementing a number of fairly innovative approaches like dual-language education, expeditionary learning, outdoor environmental education, etc. How would you say the school is doing?
We are so excited about our early childhood-8th grade school and what we offer our families. We are proud of the growth that we have made in such a short period of time.
Our educators have worked with so much care and enthusiasm to craft programming that supports our school’s vision and mission in order to meet the social-emotional and academic needs of each and every student at our school.
Our scholars have shown such great growth and have become strong leaders in their environment. We empower our scholars to help shape their experience in academics, arts, music, culture and athletics.
We also strongly believe in our collective voice and the importance of shared leadership as a school.
How do you engage parents and community members in decisions for Riverview?
Since coming together as a community to develop Riverview’s mission and vision, we have understood the value and power of a shared voice with our community and our stakeholders.
We’ve been hard at work to implement what our community asked for during the school visioning process.
We continually ask for frequent feedback from our parents through surveys, our advisory committee, and our parent coffee talks.
We value this input and find ways to make adjustments where needed. For instance our parents and local community members have spearheaded an effort to build a community garden and greenhouse.
We’re so excited to see this happen this school year and for the extended learning opportunities that this garden will bring to our children in the fall and for years to come.
We are also grateful to have a Community Liaison who has helped us to partner with Manaus, Aspen Ski Co, Aspen Community Foundation and other organizations that have so generously supported our efforts.
You’ve spent time teaching English in foreign countries. How does learning a foreign language help young students advance academically?
As a teacher I had the privilege of supporting a very diverse range of learners and found that providing sheltered language instruction was important. I served a variety of emerging bilingual students who came to me with an incredible array of experiences.
I have learned so much from the children and families that I supported over the years — especially the importance of positive relationships. It all starts with what we decide to learn about our kids, their strengths, what excites them, and what their goals are.
Learning a second language helps our students develop their socio-cultural competencies and the capacity and love for other cultures. We see our scholars seek to understand and celebrate the incredibly diverse array of cultures that exist in our schools.
You came to the Roaring Fork School District from Denver Public Schools. Are there issues and challenges that Western Slope schools have to deal with that the Front Range schools do not?
The field of education is one that brings with it such complexity and joy regardless of geography. From the Front Range to the Western Slope, the commonality is the strength, hope and grit of our educators.
Our teachers pour so much love and care into their work and I feel lucky to have had the privilege to work with such an incredible group of people across my entire career.
What I have noticed about the caring educators on the Western Slope is the sincere commitment that everyone has to supporting our local community, inspiring children with the arts and supporting all children in becoming stewards of our environment.
Would you describe a few of your most rewarding moments at Riverview so far?
Watching our dual language program come to life and being able to see what our teachers are accomplishing with our kids and their families is really incredible.
Seeing our specials teachers find ways to create projects that integrate learning from classroom to classroom is really special.
Our teachers have created the space for our kids to learn Spanish and English and to connect that learning to projects that incorporate music, art and STEM. Because of this, our kids see their knowledge and use of languages as something to celebrate and be proud of.
This year we hosted a “Dia de Los Muertos” festival in which our students created a variety of items that decorated an Altar that parents built. It was a very special event that recognized the incredible confluence of culture that we have at Riverview and was an example of our newly established traditions.
As a school we participate in crew each and every morning when school starts. We circle up, talk about what is on our mind, practice teamwork and share our appreciation for one another. The other day on the playground, I watched as 20 or so of our 4th grade students did this on their own without an adult. The students circled up, had a discussion, came up with a plan and engaged in a meaningful, inclusive and imaginative game.
What is one thing you hope Riverview students will learn before starting high school?
Part of our vision is that our scholars become “culturally responsive trailblazers” who are agents of change. As a staff, we believe in the importance of our students heading to high school with a strong foundation in core academic skills, a love for the arts and empowered to make decisions that truly make our world a better place.
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Basalt High School students view the Roaring Fork Valley and learn about the watershed from EcoFlight’s educational plane trips.