Meet Bethany Marlow, Kindergarten teacher!
While the author is unknown, not a truer thing could be said for teaching than, “A great teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart!” That is just what Ms. Bethany and her team do!
We, as parents, hand our babies over to Kindergarten teachers to have those teacher’s help ease them into school. They wipe tears, comfort troubled minds, encourage independence, handle their share of “Kleenex” moments, and love each student with all their hearts! Whether they realize it or not, they’re teaching so much more than phonics and figures. They’re inspiring young minds when they’re most open to seeing their potential. They take the babies who walk into their classroom each fall and turn them into big kids who are equipped and excited to tackle the next 12 years. Those classrooms are where it all begins, and REMS is blessed to have Ms. Bethany leading one of our Kindie Crews.
Ms. Bethany grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Both her parents were teachers, and as a child she wanted to be a teacher as well. She surprised everyone and broke the mold as she went to the University of IL and received her degree in Business. For 20 years she worked in hospitality, restaurant and hotel management industries. In 1999 she took a job in a restaurant here in CO and that is where she met her sweetheart, Jeff, and they were married. They have been married for 15 years and have 3 children. Alex who is 24 and lives in Oklahoma, JJ who is 14, and Josh who is 12.
Bethany started her career in REMS like most of us do. As a mom with kids in school, she wanted to be involved. She started volunteering in the library 10 years ago, participated in voyages, and other areas in the school. She loved it and wanted to be a part of it. She had been a stay at home mom for 9 years when she decided to get back into the workforce but did not want to go back into the restaurant business. She received her teaching license and began working as a substitute teacher in the District. “I learned very quickly that I loved working with the little ones in school. Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades were where my heart was.” She subbed as much as she could in Renaissance as both her kids were students in the school at that time. She says, “I loved the culture and being able to be with my babies during the day.” When an opportunity to work full time in REMS opened, she took it. She started as an aide in the Kindergarten crew 5 years ago! As with all schools, changes are inevitable, so when the Kindergarten teacher position was posted, Bethany jumped at the chance to receive her alternative licensure which would allow her to be the main teacher in one of the Kindergarten crews. Working and going to school at the same time has kept her busy, but she has been “so grateful for the opportunity to find [her] passion, a second career at mid-life.”
“One of the things I love most about Kindergarten, they are so full of joy and wonder all of the time. Everything is new and exciting!” said Bethany. “Being a wife and a mother is something I love and continues to be very important to me but teaching feeds my soul.”
“I have had the opportunity to be mentored by Ms. Kathy and am so grateful for her. I get to work with some of the best people in the world and I love that! I learned during my subbing days that there was something special in the culture here at REMS and to be a part of that now is a blessing.”
“As a teacher one of my biggest goals is that every child feels safe and loved and happy when they come to school. I feel like we really set the foundation in Kindergarten for them to have that for the rest of their school careers.”
Next year marks the first year since she started that she won’t have her child at school with her. While she is feeling a little sad about that, she shared that, “With JJ finishing his 8th grade year at Mesa and Josh preparing to head over there, both kids are thriving beyond the walls of Renaissance. They are taking what they have learned here and applying it to middle school and beyond. I am so grateful for this community. I truly believe that we are crew. This is a really unique and special place to be.”
When asked what Bethany loves about Renaissance, she responded: “Renaissance is an experience like none other. There is a community that does not exist anywhere else. We take care of our school, each other and each person is invested in the well being of the next. We push our students to go on voyages and bond as classes. We teach them that they can conquer mountains, while caring for their crews. That attitude will be with them the rest of their lives and will reach far into their communities. Renaissance is a special place!”
During the summer months you can find Bethany and her family out hiking and in the mountains. They have a jeep and spend a lot of time checking new areas out. Bethany has been to 47 of the 50 states, Oregon, Washington and Alaska are all that is left. “We love road trips and really love to see as much of the country as we can. We especially love to find the off the beaten path places, National Parks and overall, just to explore with our kids.”
When we asked the staff what they think of Bethany, this is what they shared:
“She has a passion for her job that is contagious. She is constantly thinking of ways to make learning fun!”
“Bethany is compassionate, patient and kind. She is completely engaged in her students and really care for them.”
“Bethany truly loves each of her students and wants to see them succeed.”
The Parents had even more wonderful things to say!
“I love the love my child feels from Bethany! Hug, high five or handshake to start the day, heck yes!”
“Bethany is sweet, caring and believes in all her children in the classroom.”
“Bethany is a blessing to our family. She has made a lifelong impact on our child. Her continued love and kindness for the kids is shown in everything she does!”
“She is so welcoming and lovely. She makes new parents feel like we have always belonged and provide support that reaches far beyond the classroom.”
Ms. Bethany, thank you for all you do and taking our babies to help them become the big kids!
Next time you all see Bethany in the hallways, thank her for a job well done!
Meet Ms. Cari Lazarony, kindergarten EA!
“Cari is kind, loving, warm, and so funny. We laugh every day, because funny things happen in Kindergarten! I see her stop and be so patient with each child who may need that extra support. She will do whatever it takes to help our children.” This is what Ms. Bethany had to share about Cari and the role she fulfills in her classroom.
Cari grew up in California and attended UCLA. She majored in Sociology and wanted to be a criminal profiler! However, she also completed 3 years in the Pre-Med program before finding her real passion in Sociology! She shares that she was doing well in the program, but she was not loving the classes. Her favorite classes were her Sociology and Psychology classes she was taking for fun. It was in her 3rd year in the Pre-Med program that she had an Ah-Ha moment and realized that she was not having a lot of fun. “So I stopped and took more Sociology and Psychology classes. I had an amazing professor who helped guide me to what I really should do. I became really interested in why some groups are discriminated against. The prison system was the place it was easiest to work while going through college.” Right out of school she started working at a small college in administration and fell in love with the education process. She also worked in admissions at UCLA and was able to be hands on with several local high schools. “I really enjoyed working with students and being in that environment.”
Cari and her husband Ryan have been married for 11 years this year. Together they have two sons, one in first grade and the other in third grade in the discovery program here at REMS.
When both kids were in school, Cari worked as a writing teacher in a local homeschool co-op group. She also volunteered at Renaissance as often as she could. Cari shared that when her family first moved to Colorado her boys were 3 and 1, she had Renaissance picked out as the school she wanted them to attend. It took two years to get into the school, but it was worth the wait for her family. “I love Renaissance, I love the culture, the expeditionary learning style, the outdoor learning, I love everything about it.” Cari’s youngest son was in Ms. Bethany’s crew last year. “I knew Bethany well and when the opportunity to work at the school popped up, it was an easy choice. I loved Bethany as my son’s teacher, and I thought we would work well together. I love having the same schedule as my kids. Being in the same school and able to see them and give them squeezes throughout the day is the best.”
When asked what the best part of her job is, Cari said, “The kids! They are so funny. I love working with them, being a part of their journey at school and I really love Kindergarten. I hope to stay as an aid for now and maybe eventually teach my own class down the road.”
“I love working with Bethany! She knows her stuff and makes it fun! She is very flexible, which I think is very important when you are a teacher.”
In her free time Cari loves to road trip! “My favorite road trip was when I took my boys to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to see the Smoky Mountain National Park.” You can also find her out hiking with her family during the summer. “I also really enjoy reading and writing!”
Cari is a blessing to the school and to the families she is directly involved with. She is calm and brings an easy-going spirit into the classroom. The children she works with genuinely love her! She fits into the Kindergarten family well and we are so grateful to have her! Just read what everyone shares about her!
“Cari loves helping out with the classroom. Her commitment to the kids is amazing. She is always upbeat and ready for anything that is thrown at her.”
“Cari is so much fun to have in the school! She has a great energy about her.”
“Cari is so even tempered. She does not let things bother her and she works really well with everyone she comes into contact with.”
“As a parent, I am truly grateful to have Cari as part of the crew. She is positive and a great role model for my child.”
“Cari belongs in this school; she is smart and picks up on things really quickly. She also provides a perspective others may miss.”
Cari, you are truly loved for all you do! We appreciate you!!
An important message that has always stood out from Deborah, is that every staff member, teacher, educational assistant, building engineer, etc. is an integral part of Renaissance and our success as a school; every position has enormous value and being a part of REMS is knowing this fact and working together as a true community. While that is true, having Deborah as the school’s leader has made this a reality. In the four years before Deborah became Principal of Renaissance, REMS resided in Parker and went through a new principal every year, for four years straight. It wasn’t until Deborah took the reigns, fourteen years ago, that the mission and vision of REMS solidified and the community that we have come to know and love was built.
Deborah is a Colorado native. She grew up in the countryside between Estes Park and Loveland in a community known as Sunrise Ranch and has declared that she had the “world’s best childhood!” A common theme that kept arising as Deborah was sharing some of her background was that as a child she was a thinker. She’d have grand thoughts and loved putting those thoughts into action. If she wanted to have a play she would organize it and build the event from the ground up. She didn’t care to be in the spotlight, but relished in the behind-the-scenes details. “I was always really curious. If I saw something exciting that I wanted to do, I always found a way to make it happen.” She loved time being creative and developing something out of nothing … it’s fitting, then, that she would find her way to Renaissance. Her childhood was immersed with other people from a variety of backgrounds in the community she lived in. Deborah broke bread with people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and religions. Living within a tight community allowed Deborah to experience wider perspectives that helped shape her worldview that community and service to others is key in life. Deborah spent her childhood playing outdoors and forming a love of nature. Deborah grew up surrounded by many animals, but there was one horse, Jasper, who she credits teaching her a valuable lesson about fear. Deborah was terrified of Jasper; he was mean and would buck her off of him, throwing her to the ground. Jasper would purposefully stand close to fences while she was on him or he’d run miles from home, buck her off and leave her there. “My dad explained to me that Jasper knew I was afraid of him and the only way I would break him would be to overcome my fear, get real with it, and get over it. One day Jasper swung around to bite me and I punched him in the nose as hard as I could. After that, Jasper and I formed the closest bond and he was an amazing horse. I was not raised by soft people, but they loved me and were teaching me grit.” Deborah’s passion for teaching was shaped by spending every summer from age 5 to 18 with her grandma in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. Deborah’s grandma taught her to drive a car at age eleven. “My grandma was a lady before the times. She was a school teacher, one of the very first special education teachers in the country, and made huge contributions that shaped who I am today. She’d have me helping with her students every summer.” Deborah describes herself as having always been interested in people. “I learned really early that everyone has a story; I learned early on to really appreciate our differences.”
After graduating from public school, Deborah set out for college and found herself attending numerous schools: Western, University of Wisconsin, and finalizing her early childhood education degree at Regis University. She eventually went back and attained a Master’s Degree at the University of Nebraska. While Deborah’s three children, Jimmy, Morgan, and Tara were little, she stayed home for a while. She ran an in-home daycare so she could use her early childhood education experience. While her children were young she started a local mother’s group to offer support for one another and breaks from their children with babysitters; this mother’s group is still in action today. When Deborah got divorced, she needed to go back to work full time so she worked at a before and after school childcare facility and then went on to teaching. “I loved teaching! There’s a creativity that comes with teaching that resonates with me. I felt like I really connected with kids. I was teaching fourth grade at the time and a quarter of the class couldn’t read. I could turn kids on to books, but couldn’t understand how to teach fourth graders to read, so I dove into ways to become a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader.” Deborah completed the yearlong training at the University of Nebraska. “The training was four hours away. I would drive that every Thursday night to make class and then come back home on Friday. I did that every week for a year. At the end I was a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader and I also got my Master’s Degree. As a single mom with three kids at home I couldn’t make enough money as a teacher, so I also worked in the country club bar area and also as a golf cart server on the weekends.” Eventually Deborah became the literacy specialist for a school district in northeastern Colorado and soon became a principal in the district. “I applied to be the Reading Recovery Teacher Leader here in Douglas County. I didn’t get that job but they asked me if I would take the principal position at Renaissance. At that time our current building was being built and the school was in Parker. I felt like Renaissance really spoke to my heart and my beliefs in terms of what would be good for kids. My background with community definitely was a good fit with the vision of REMS. The work of the school couldn’t really be just academics but looking larger at the whole child. People were hurting from the previous leadership and it took some time to build unity in purpose and build systems in place with great alignment.”
Eventually Deborah remarried and with her new husband, Jim, came two more children, Austin and Alyssa, who were younger than her three children. The most challenging aspect of Deborah’s career has been finding the balance between work and family. “At times I felt like my family took the sacrifice for the job. I don’t always feel like I was as present to my own children as I wish I was. The young years go by so quickly … hang in there moms!” Deborah’s children are all grown now and she is enjoying all the perks of having close relationships with adult children. “If I would have known how rewarding and enjoyable it all is I would have had many more children!” Having had to make sacrifices herself as a young, single mom, Deborah has found it humbling to know the sacrifices that families make to have their children go here to Renaissance. “When I feel discouraged I go and visit other schools and gain a better perspective to see how good we have it here. I wish my own children could have had this experience. Many times it isn’t until the kids are older as alumni do they realize how this school has changed their lives. I know the mission works and I see it with older alumni.”
This year marks Deborah’s thirtieth year in education and her passion for the vision of Renaissance and the Renaissance community is still just as strong as when she signed on as principal. “I’ve never worked anywhere where everybody cares so much. Everybody really has their heart in it. I could see that the way we designed the learning was so much more relevant to more authentic learning, creativity, and curiosity. Even after all these years we are always trying to find ways to do it better. We create experiences that don’t come from a kit. We have teachers and staff here that give so much of their own personal time. It takes a lot of time and effort to go on and run our voyages. It feels good to work amongst professionals of that caliber. That goes for the families as well. They’re all in as well, it all really works together.”
Deborah’s favorite piece of Renaissance? Adventure Ed! “The kids here learn to really get to know themselves; they come out truly empowered and know how to advocate for themselves. It’s their foundation. An alumni came back and said that he felt like he left Renaissance on a rocket! And I believe that’s true. For every six months that they are old, it takes six months to prepare their self esteem. If we can have them leaving elementary school knowing who they are and feeling good about themselves, we’ve done a great service to them, because there’s just no time afterwards. The joy is they’ve learned how to push themselves out of their comfort zone. Adventure Ed is, by far, the hardest program to maintain, but it is so worth it. This community needs to insist that our adventure ed program is a non-negotiable.”
As one can imagine, the day of a principal varies greatly depending on the specific school and staff needs of the day and the time of year. There is always a lot of juggling as well as a lot of problem solving. “My day consists of layers of district stuff, teacher evaluations, etc. I have different priorities at different times of the year. I’m always looking at individual student growth as well as system growth. There’s an instructional leadership component to my job as well as a management leadership area that both go hand in hand. At the end of the day my job is to serve teachers so that teachers can serve kids. I see my role as principal as a role of service to others.”
When Deborah isn’t juggling the demands of the job, she is working on having a better sense of work-family balance. “I made a commitment to my husband that we would ski every Sunday. We have a house in Lake George, so Friday nights I drive up to be with Jim and drive to work again Monday morning. I’ve really worked hard on protecting my weekends for time with family.” Deborah loves to kayak, camp, and spend time outdoors. She loves to read and sew and is even taking Greg’s guitar class alongside REMS students so she can someday soon play the guitar around the campfire.
Deborah’s greatest source of pride are her children. “I am incredibly proud of my children. We had a number of challenging years together but I feel like it really served them well. My children knew that they needed to serve others in order for us to be okay.” And when I asked Deborah if she has any lifelong goals for her future (besides strumming the guitar) she told me “I would love to be a teacher again … but only if I could teach at Renaissance!”
It takes an incredibly strong, resilient, and passionate educator to lead a school so rich in culture such as Renaissance. Deborah is fearless when it comes to protecting what we value here at REMS. She is great at doing the “hard stuff,” but equally great at lifting people up … whether it’s staff, students, or the community. Deborah makes many behind-the-scenes sacrifices in order to give all of our children the most resources possible. Similar to when she was a child and didn’t need the spotlight, these sacrifices are quietly made with more administrative duties added to her day so that the most funds are spent on individuals directly in our classrooms. Spend time with Deborah and you’ll see the demands of the job are plenty and the stakes are always high; we couldn’t be more grateful and proud that our principal exceeds these demands of the job and does it with grace and strength.
Thank you, Deborah, for all you have done to serve Renaissance and our children.
This year Astride Kohnke is the Committee lead for our monthly Spirit Nights. The Kohnke family has been at Rennaissance for 2 years, and they decided they wanted to come to Renaissance after they toured all the schools within Castle Rock - it being their top choice! In their family, they have 2 kids - Cruz is almost 3 - and Avery is 6, currently in first grade. Justin, Astrid's husband, works as a Private Wealth Advisor; while Astrid is in the process of buying the Montessori School of Castle Rock. Astrid said that her children have inspired her to be 100% involved in their educational journey.
Astrid loves Renaissance because of all the schools they toured - and compared to schools she attend as a young child - Renaissance's philosophy of "We are crew, not passengers" spoke to her. Astrid believes that we are stronger together and loves that there is expeditionary learning with Voyages. They believe that having these activities and this focus is an integral part of forming who their daughter is becoming and will be as an adult.
When asked about her favorite way to volunteer, Astrid had this to share: "I have the honor of spearheading Spirit Nights this year. I get to reach out to businesses who want to give back to our children, who feel passionate about helping fund schools and want to help make a difference in young kids lives. In doing so, I am also able to promote them so they too can be rewarded for their awesome contributions! And in our school's awesome way, I get to be a part of parent's showing solidarity almost every month and contributing towards our Spirit Nights. My way of volunteering brings me instant gratification every single time!"
We appreciate all the time spent by our volunteers -- A great big thank you to Astrid and all the time spent in leading the Spirit Night committee!
We are crew
We love to celebrate all of the ways our Parent & Staff Crews make Renaissance a great place to grow and learn!