SAMANTHA COYNE DONNEL
From the first moment I stepped onto campus, I was struck by the genuine warmth of the Emerald community. The students greeted me with confidence and, in the classroom, it was readily apparent that Emerald cultivates students’ interests while guiding each child to reach his or her full potential. The level of care and commitment demonstrated by the faculty truly sets Emerald apart from other schools. Parents are viewed as partners and they are encouraged to actively engage in their child’s education.
In any school, relationships are central to establishing a positive learning climate. Emerald’s friendly, collaborative, and dynamic culture provide the foundation for students to take risks and to be themselves. Emerald Mountain students wake up every morning excited to go to school. They care about each other, their community, and their education.
Emerald faculty understand that the best learning happens through experience, discovery and reflection. Our teachers go beyond teaching students basic content-driven curriculum by fostering a culture of passionate learners who dream big, think critically, and push the boundaries of what is possible. At Emerald, we believe that students who are curious, confident, and imaginative will go on to change the world.
I invite you to visit our campus, observe our exceptional teachers in action, and see Emerald for yourself.
EMERALD MOUNTAIN SCHOOL
The evolution of the school began when Nancy Spillane and a small group of families established Lowell Whiteman Primary School, named in honor of a local pioneer of education. These founders created a school committed to educating the whole child. By nurturing the mind and spirit, they believed the environment created for the school would inspire a child to become a critical thinker, a problem solver, and a life-long learner while attaining a solid academic foundation. The school was renamed Emerald Mountain School in August of 2012.
The school opened in August 1993 in what formerly was the old city police station. After extensive research, fundraising, and the construction of a new facility, with the collaboration of the Steamboat Springs community, the school moved to its current location at 818 Oak Street in 2000.
Education at Emerald Mountain School follows a developmental approach that strives to educate the whole student in a positive and constructive environment. The academic program is designed to promote intellectual growth, creativity, confidence, and leadership through an understanding of cultural differences throughout the world and responsibility within the school community.
The philosophy of emphasizing learning as a lifetime skill and acquiring those tools to enable a student to continue self-education is a priority of the entire school community. The goal is that each student acquires an exceptional education, through the development of excellent academic skills, yet allowing the maturity of the individual student. By providing a challenging and nurturing environment, the school enables students to expand their natural curiosity and energy. Each child’s intrinsic and unique strengths – intellectual, personal, artistic, imaginative – are embraced and developed.
We inspire confidence and a passion for learning through a curriculum that stresses academics, personal accountability, experiential and outdoor education, and responsible local and global citizenship. We provide a creative environment that includes multi-age and socio-economically diverse classrooms, low student-teacher ratios, and active parent participation.
We believe the early years in a child’s education lay the groundwork for
success in an ever-changing world.
Our vision is to be the school that best prepares students for future challenges and opportunities.
When we instill personal confidence, commitment to community, and the ability to think independently and creatively, we create passionate learners poised to achieve their dreams and positively impact the world around them.
WHY AN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL?
- Independence in the truest sense of the word. Independent school teachers have the freedom to create educational experiences that meet each child’s needs, without state mandates on curriculum, textbooks, and testing.
- Mission-driven education. Each independent school is driven by its own unique philosophy, values, and approach to teaching.
HIGH ACADEMIC STANDARDS
Independent schools nurture intellectual curiosity, stimulate personal growth, encourage critical thinking, and promote a lifelong love of learning.
- More students in independent schools enroll in advanced courses than in public, parochial, and other private schools.
Independent school instructors usually teach in their areas of expertise. They strive to develop a full understanding of each student’s learning style, interests, and motivation.
- Small classes that allow for individual attention. Low student-teacher ratios encourage close connections between instructors and students.
- Graduates of independent schools have a greater likelihood of completing a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree.
Independent schools promote regular communication among students, parents, and teachers to ensure everyone is working toward the same goals. As a parent, you can actively engage in your student’s education, because the staff and teachers want and value your participation.
- A community of parents who actively participate in their children’s education.
- Independent schools foster vibrant student communities that welcome and respect every family.
In addition to academics, independent schools also nurture students’ personal and social growth and civic conscience.
- invites and rewards curiosity concerning the richness and diversity of all human cultures and encourages respect for all people.
- curriculum that helps students recognize how differing cultures, traditions, histories, and religions may underlie views and values that can sharply contrast with their own.
FIND OUT MORE
FACULTY AND STAFF
Samantha Coyne Donnel came to Steamboat after 16 years at The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles, CA where she served as a science teacher, Department Chair, Dean of Students, Upper School Director, and the Assistant Head of School. Her passion for excellence in education and the outdoors led her to Steamboat and Emerald Mountain School. Samantha’s 19 years in education were preceded by her own education at Bowdoin College and Harvard University where she earned her Masters in Educational Leadership. Samantha, her husband and her eight-year old daughter are delighted to move to Steamboat where they can get outdoors more readily, ski and bike the vast mountain terrain, and become part of the tight-knit community that Steamboat offers.
Jed brings over 15 years of teaching experience in independent schools. He has taught a wide range of students across elementary, middle, and high school grade levels, and he is passionate about fostering a love of literature and writing in his students. Jed is an expert in curriculum design and pedagogy, and he appreciates collaboration with colleagues to design creative, engaging learning experiences across multiple disciplines. He earned his BA in English from Trinity College and an MA in literature from Middlebury College.
Einstein said, “A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?” It is the simplicity of this statement that is beautiful and true. The process of learning an instrument reaches in and touches the curious scientist in all of us, the rational mathematician finding simultaneous order and chaos, the mystery and puzzle lover, the artist. The student finds that we all have our own uniquely personal brushes with which we are able to paint in vivid colors, evoking a rainbow of feelings.
From an early age, many of us take for granted that we will read and write, but to discover the music within us is a gift. In the Music Through Strings program at Emerald, every student chooses to play the violin, viola, cello, or bass in kindergarten. The process of discovery wherein students realize that they each have the capability to bring themselves and others joy through the music they create is life-changing. Though I have heard many a “Twinkle” over the years, I am profoundly touched by the ear-to-ear grin on the Middle-Schooler who has just joined the school and mastered his first “Twinkle.” I know exactly how he feels, and I feel it with him.
Students have an ever-growing list of pieces they are eager to play. “Let’s play Viva la Vida! Star Wars! Beethoven’s Fifth!” And we do! Some of their ideas have generated our best performances. The bows that won’t be quieted (even when I ask); the class pieces being sung and hummed in the halls; the spontaneous “I LOVE Telemann!;” having the same student who asked to play Call Me Maybe previously tell me that Bach’s Bist du bei mir is now her favorite song; … being in the presence of the expanding mind, experiencing the discovery of the joy of music… an environment where this is encouraged, a given, a necessity… this is what brings delight to my work every day. “A table, a chair and a bowl of fruit . . .” is simply not enough.
When I walked into Emerald Mountain School four years ago, I stumbled upon what I was searching for both personally and professionally, a place of inspiration. A place that stimulates creativity; a place superior in brilliance; a place that is filled with great emotion. Emerald Mountain School is inspiration and I am proud to be a teacher at Emerald Mountain School.
Teaching at Emerald has allowed me to use my own creativity in many different ways. I am free to create curriculum that is highly engaging for the students. In math, we look and use everyday situations and apply mathematical theory and strategies to them. Watching the students work diligently at the local market weighing objects, comparing prices, and estimating costs is an image that still brings a smile to my face. Being able to share my love for the arts in both writing and math class inspires student creativity.
I look forward each year to share my love for nature by taking students on fall hikes into the magnificent surroundings around us at the start of the year. To inspire passion and gratitude for where we live. The exhilaration I feel when we strap on our snow shoes in the middle of winter and hike out to rustic cabins to spend two nights in the wilderness to teach winter survival skills to middle school students. The memories will be long lasting from the nights sitting around campfires and sharing stories with students as we are surrounded only by the sounds of night. Those are places of superior brilliance.
I strive to inspire passion, teach understanding, and foster responsibility. I create a warm, positive, and safe learning environment, which helps foster the wonderful talents of the students at Emerald Mountain School. Students are engaged in rich, real-world, hands-on lessons and activities, which stimulate their growth in this ever-changing society. Upon first entering the building, I was truly taken away by the power within its walls and each day since I have found something new that amazes me each and everyday. The journey for all who are part of the Emerald Mountain family, let the journey for us all continue days, weeks, months, even years from now.
I cherish the familiarity and comfort of spending time with family, and that is what coming to work is like for me everyday. From the warm greetings I receive each morning from parents and students, a child coming to my desk asking me to help them with something, or a parent eager to talk with me about their family, to sharing a laugh with a colleague about something silly we said to one another; each day at Emerald Mountain School adds to the sense of belonging and shared purpose we all experience at our school.
All of us at Emerald Mountain School are unique individuals, but we each share a common belief that education is our number one priority. We work hard together, play together, grow and laugh together, all the while striving to learn and grow as individuals.
As the Director of Admission it is my responsibility to introduce and welcome new families to Emerald Mountain School. I have the opportunity to share information about our multifaceted program and invite parents and students to see firsthand the things and people that make our school special; subject area teachers, our approach to personalized learning, Music through Strings, our students, and everything in between.
Over the past twenty four years I’ve worn many different hats at Emerald; from taking out the trash to offering a spot for a student to join our school and everything in between. For the final few months of the 2016-2017 school year I am serving as the Interim Head of School.
I know and believe in all aspects of Emerald Mountain School. Our students thrive in the supportive and encouraging environment our teachers have created. I look forward to sharing with you just what it is that makes me so passionate about Emerald Mountain School.
Give me a call; I’d love to show you our school!
At 22, with Fire Fighter II and EMT certificates in my pocket, I left Athens, Ohio in my rearview mirror and headed toward the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee with the promised spot to train to be a raft guide. During my time guiding, I met people who had traveled extensively. Some followed an endless summer around the world, while others spent the winters working on mountains and their summers on the water. One year I joined my friends that headed west each winter and landed in Steamboat Springs. There I resided in an old Airstream at the campground on the west side of town for my first winter. Although I didn’t realize it then, the magic of the Yampa Valley was already in my veins. For the next several years I worked on many rivers, rafted many others, skied on several mountains, and traveled to several countries. I developed a deep appreciation for the natural world and laws that govern it. Having found that I wanted to share my love of Science and further spark children’s natural sense of wonder and curiosity, I headed back to Ohio, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in science education. The mountains continued to call, and after graduation, I again left Ohio in the rearview mirror and moved again to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This time around, I began my teaching career as a middle school science teacher in Routt County. My husband and I have made our way down the valley, settling in Yampa, CO with our three dogs. The events of the early twenties set the angle of my trajectory to land here at Emerald Mountain School. I believe that learning is about curiosity, discovery, and mental agility. Emerald Mountain School provides an environment in which the classroom extends far beyond the confinements of the physical walls and of the school day. Science teachers are guides, meant to excite learners about the world and universe around them. The Yampa Valley provides a wealth of hands-on opportunities for learners of all ages and interests. Exposing students to the environment around them and how their choices can impact their environment is essential. By investigating the Yampa Valley, students can learn about the myriad of microclimates, interesting flora and fauna, the amazing ecosystems,and how our land features were formed, the classroom becomes the world around them.
I have been accused of falling in love with a new sport over and over again. It can become all-consuming without me even realizing it. I see the same thing in the students as they find a topic or activity that sparks their imagination and attention. I feed off their enthusiasm as questions flow and start to create mental pictures. Regardless of the situation, topic, or interest, a drive to explore explodes and the resultant energy nearly consumes both mind and body. I love finding unique and interesting ways to help them consume every aspect of the newly found interest. Laughter and smiles resonate on a daily basis through friendships and conversations.
Teaching at Emerald means being a lot of things to the students, not just a facilitator of knowledge. I find just as much joy and happiness in helping a child grow as a responsible and just human as I do when lessons click and when they make serious connections between different subjects and material.
Finding control and balance in PE also can be applied to social science and life. What I find interesting is the ability to bend and adjust to demands found in the classroom, in the gym, or socially. Helping the students to stand up for what they believe in while accepting an opposing view also plays an important part in my day.
Emerald Mountain School is my home. For 19 years, I have had the unique opportunity to work with an incredible variety of curious young people, committed parents, and talented teachers. I wear a lot of hats at this school. I teach middle school math and primary school social science. I am the student council faculty advisor and a Girls on the Run coach. I lead outdoor education trips in winter, spring, and fall. As the academic dean, I help guide the curriculum; assisting both teachers and students in meeting their scholastic goals. Truly, the only reason I can juggle all these balls effectively is because I love my job. Every day, I get the chance to teach, learn, and grow. On a daily basis, I am immersed in creativity, wonder, excitement, hard work, and progress.
Though I have had many years of training as a teacher, I am regularly humbled by the novel ways that my students teach one another. Because my classroom is a comfortable and safe place to take risks, students often find themselves at the head of the class, demonstrating their problem solving strategies and discussing their insightful connections. Since my class sizes are small, I get the chance to answer every student’s questions and to allow for all voices to be heard. Every day, I have the time and flexibility to interact with all the children, to teach to their strengths and to set high, individual expectations.
I love that my students call me Cindy. I love that I know the names of their pets and who among them likes pepperoni on their pizzas. I love when I see a student that I taught 15 years ago and she reminds me of a lesson that I taught her like it was yesterday. My days are filled with magic because at Emerald Mountain School, I have the permission, incentive, and time to care about the academic and social progress of each child, each day, for years.
All people are creative. Art is a way to solve problems, think critically and to express one’s self in ways that are otherwise not possible. People of all ages love to say “I am not an artist,” but I believe that all human beings have endless abilities to express themselves visually. It is my job as an art teacher to make all students see the inspired visual gifts they possess.
I began my formal teaching career at this school over 15 years ago. I can even proudly say that I briefly got to teach in the tiny room on 8th Street that once was the town morgue! I spent six years here teaching and learned so much about art education, childhood, and the creative abilities of my students. After a ten year hiatus (which involved having two amazing kids, teaching at Colorado Mountain College, making art for galleries, starting two businesses, and beginning graduate school), I am so honored to be back for this school year as the art teacher. The school has grown so much and it is exciting to be part of it.
To conclude, in the spirit of the NPR series, “In this I believe,” I can honestly say:
I believe in ART as…
a tool for communication, a way to understand our global community, a method to discover our identities, and a tool for change.
I believe in…
the paper that no one else wants, mixed-media, recycled/reused materials, sketchbooks, and making “stuff” with my hands.
I believe that…
no two art projects should ever look the same, there are no mistakes in art, happy accidents are wonderful, and that art is a real academic subject.
Mary has over seventeen years’ experience working as the administrative assistant at Emerald Mountain School. She wears many hats throughout the course of the school day assisting parents, students, teachers, and staff. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Eastern Illinois University and taught third grade for three years in the suburbs of Chicago before moving to Steamboat Springs with her husband in 1989. Their son, Drew, is a 2012 alumnus of Emerald Mountain School and currently attends Colby College. She enjoys spending her free time cycling, reading, skiing, and making pizza on the grill with her family.