One of the reasons Wellington Middle School has been designated “a school to watch” is science teacher Vicky Jordan, who is completing her 23rd year at the school.
Her excellence as a teacher was recognized by the Edison Innovation Foundation with a “Thomas Edison Teacher Award” presented on Feb. 11 in honor of Edison’s birthday. Jordan received $50 as a first runner-up for the award which honors teachers who personify Edison’s spirit and provide their students with invaluable lifetime lessons.
Middle School Principal Alicia Durand, who nominated Jordan for the award, said “she has spent her career focused on science but more importantly, focused on students. She is an innovator, an inquiry-based teacher who will do anything to help students understand the world around them. She challenges students to higher-level thinking, encouraging them to go above and beyond any curriculum to foster joy in learning.”
Jordan didn’t start her career as a teacher. After earning a degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University, she worked for the Division of Wildlife for five years. During that time she came to the conclusion that the proper education might prevent some of the poaching and misuse-use-of-land issues she had to deal with in her job. After returning to CSU for a degree in secondary education, she spent one year teaching at Blevins Junior High School in Fort Collins before joining the Wellington faculty in 1990.
“I got into teaching because of the content and I stayed because of my passion for students,” Jordan said.
In addition to teaching science to every seventh grader in the school, she also teaches a robotics and computer class and serves as an advisor. Science classes average 30 students and each lesson is tailored to meet the academic needs of a wide range of learning abilities.
Jordan says it’s nearly impossible for a Wellington student to fail to learn. Teachers provide everything from after school and lunch-time tutoring to a program designed to teach study skills and allow students to help each other. “Through the product to the process to a choice of projects, we keep every student challenged,” Jordan said.
For many years Jordan held “night school” on Wednesday nights, often calling parents of students who needed extra help to return to school for the evening. After locking up the school, Jordan made the long drive to her home up Rist Canyon and 5-miles down a jeep road. She’d be back at school by 7 a.m. the following day.
“She’d do anything for the kids,” night custodian Lori Graves said. “I’ve been here a long time and I know. She never goes home early and she spends her lunch hour helping kids.”
Jordan and her husband Rick, a retired PSD science teacher who finished his career in a classroom next door to his wife’s, have two sons, Forrest, a sophomore aerospace engineering student and captain of the baseball team at the University of Colorado and Dylan, a junior at Poudre who is on the climbing team and plays the guitar.
Both boys went to Eyestone Elementary in Wellington and graduated from Wellington Middle School. “They used to help me tutor after school,” Jordan says. “They’d heard me teaching some things so often that as elementary kids they were able to help the middle school kids.” The family spends their free time outdoors. Nature photography is a favorite activity for Jordan.
From integrating science with English and math to promoting hands-on experiences and always looking for new ways to engage kids, Jordan says she’s a “cup half-full” person, always hopeful, always willing to keep trying.
Today I was struggling with a lesson that didn’t seem to be working,” she explained. “I changed it every time I taught it during the day. By the last period, it was a really good presentation!“
Jordan has worked with local science author and illustrator Gary Raham with paleontology projects that grew out of his book, “Deep Time Diaries.” She received a grant that made it possible for Raham to do workshops and serve as a guest speaker in her classes, sharing his expertise as a fossil collector and illustrator. The results are mostly hidden but can be glimpsed as a backdrop for the photo of Jordan with her students.
“Let me grab some kids,” Jordan said when I asked to take her picture. Even though school had been out for some time, there was no shortage of kids eager to have their photo taken with a favorite teacher.
The Edison award was a surprise to Jordan who had no idea she’d been nominated. The fact that she received the honor was no surprise to Principal Durand, however, who said, “quite simply, she is an amazing cheerleader for learning in our school — and in our world.”