Having fun is what it's all about at Chamisa

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By Ben Carlson

Time flies when you’re having fun.
And as she starts year five at the helm of Chamisa and her 22nd year in education, for principal Debbie Smith, time has flown by fast.
“Chamisa is a highly creative and collaborative learning community,” said Smith. “Last year, staff participated in several events involving the students, parents, and community with lasting impact on future learning opportunities.”
One such event was their Raise the Roof Literacy Night and Family Reading Challenge.
In that event, staff worked to provide an evening of engaging, entertaining ideas for parents to become literacy partners with their classroom teachers. The success also extended to local businesses, as rewards were garnered for their Family Reading Challenge during the year.
A second successful collaboration with friend and neighbor, Piñon Elementary is their annual White Rock Cultural Fair.
The event involves individuals and families from the local area and the region working as presenters. They share food, crafts, art, dance, music, languages and storytelling from their cultures.
Another extension of learning was a $10,000 grant from the LAPS Foundation, to create the new Rynd Outdoor Learning Classroom. The structure is a Geodesic greenhouse with opportunities for cross-curricular lessons and activities.
The LAPS Foundation project was dedicated last spring, and summer projects included the completion of raised beds for classes to begin adopting when they return in August.
The Cheetah focus for the new school year is a theme called, Chamisa Investigations Academy (CIA).
“Our primary goal this year is to engage students and staff in creative, authentic learning experiences, which motivate students to acquire the skills they need for future opportunities,” said Smith. “Teachers have been meeting this summer and attending professional development in areas of interest, so they can bring exciting learning activities back to students.”
Another way schools make students feel valued is how they feel on campus and crews have been working hard to enhance the look for the front of the school.
“Our grounds crew has done a tremendous job, with the landscaping project in the front driveway,” said Smith. “It was a huge job, mostly done during the hot, dry June – dust flying everywhere, but they were given the flexibility to be creative and it has been a super joint effort.”
Chamisa prides itself on being a learning community, where staff, students, families, and other volunteers come together to benefit education in all areas.
“Every volunteer adds one more connection to learning in the life of a student. Our classroom volunteers, Lunch Buddies, Science Guy, Rocketeers, Coders, reading buddies, former students, grandparents, parents, veterans, storytellers, club sponsors....all of them are key ingredients to Chamisa’s success,” Smith said.
Smith spent a portion of her short summer reading, gardening, crafting and spending time with family. Four generations came together this summer, including the apple of her eye, her 2-year-old grandson.
School principals are never far from their sites and usually seem to meet with staff even informally to discuss ideas and plan for the next year.
“Now I’m back at school and can’t wait for everyone to come back,” Smith said.