Lessons learned as Eagle County Schools interim superintendent leaves valley

There was a book published by author Robert Fulghum many years ago titled "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." The book was a compilation of essays pondering insights on life. The essays in the book included such topics as the value of sharing and being kind to one another and even reminded us "cookies and cold milk are good for us."

The book became popular when I was a much younger educator, but even now I still pick this book up from time to time and remind myself there are still lessons to be learned from it. As I reflect on my year in this valley serving Eagle County Schools as interim superintendent, this book comes to mind. The many life lessons I have been reminded of this year in the valley, some complex and some simplistic, have provided me with both professional and personal growth.

There is a reference in this book to the importance of sharing and holding hands when we go out into the world. In our valley, the concept of sharing and caring for one another has been apparent to me throughout the district and community. Whether it is volunteering in the schools or fundraising to further support school activities and programs for kids, there is always a hands-on, heartfelt support for students, families and one another.

I observed this at the galas I attended, in the many classrooms I visited, at community events and with the volunteers I met. Like our community, our district staff also showed me the importance of taking that extra minute with a child or going the extra mile for them. Having the privilege of watching the bond implementation and the many school construction projects that will impact student lives for generations to come further points to the commitment this community makes to its future.

It has been great fun to see the beauty of this valley and how it becomes a living classroom for our students. Like the line in the book, "live a balanced life," this community provides a balance of learning experiences for its children.

It might be the Learn to Ski program sponsored by Vail Resorts for our elementary and middle school students or the outdoor adventures that can easily turn into hands-on classrooms when kids visit Walking Mountains Science Center. And it's the after-school tutoring and summer programs sponsored by YouthPower365 and the girls' bicycle adventures through The Cycle Effect that further promote that sense of learning and adventure our students experience outside the regular school day.

Our youth-focused organizations teach kids that the balance Fulghum talks about in his book is all around us. The mighty river, the many walking hikes and pathways or the precipitous mountains become a part of the school experience. This district and community do all they can to ensure that every child is a participant in the treasures of this valley.

So as I return home to Colorado Springs and say farewell, I leave with great memories and a thankful heart. I have had the honor of spending this year in a district that is packed with talent — in its staff, Board of Education and educational leaders. I appreciate and have been humbled by the critical parts they each play in the lives of our students. The many school events, classroom visits and graduations have shown me how much the Eagle County Schools staff, school board and community who serve students value them. That is a lesson I will always remember.

It appears I have seen Fulghum's book played out this year in Eagle County. The value of caring for one another, taking time to discover what's important and "holding hands when we go out into the world" have taught me of the passion young and old have for learning, helping and exploration in a small community tucked away in the Colorado mountains.

Many thanks to all of you for a year of joy and recommitment to the belief that when a school district, school board and their community work together on behalf of their students, great things happen. Happy trails.


Maggie Lopez, Ph.D., is the interim superintendent of Eagle County Schools. She can be reached at margarita.lopez@eagleschools.net.