Let’s get to know our wonderful new Learning Specialist, Ms. Ashley! From gymnastics, to firefighting, to a house full of pets, you’ll soon understand why she’s such a great addition to our Crew. Ashley was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. She and her sister were raised by their dad, and in Ashley’s high school years, he remarried, and she now has two older step siblings. As a youth, she played t-ball moving up to softball as she got older. Even now, she enjoys playing on a softball team in the summer. She shares, “While I enjoyed playing ball, I always wanted to learn how to tumble. I signed up for classes at a local gymnastics’ gym. A few months later, they started a competitive cheerleading team and asked me to join. I immediately fell in love with competing, making new friendships, performing, and learning new skills. From ages 8-18, I traveled the country to compete and placed 7th in the world for my division. My team and I even made it on ESPN a few times! When cheer wasn't consuming my life (which was rare, ha!), my family enjoyed traveling and going on cruises to explore new countries.”
When it was time to head off to college, she attended Illinois State University where she received a Bachelor’s in Special Education, Learning and Behavior Specialist. “I knew I wanted to attend ISU because of their reputation to produce high-quality educators throughout the Midwest. With their SPED major program, I would be able to student teach for two full years within various settings. Prior to earning my degree, I had experience with elementary reading, middle school social/emotional disabilities, elementary co-teaching, early childhood disability diagnosis/intervention, and high school severe needs.”
“Prior to attending ISU, my first degree was fire science because I wanted to be a firefighter like my dad. I always enjoyed ride alongs with him and loved the adrenaline rush when the bell goes off. Once I started taking classes and completing clinical hours, I realized that it wasn't my true passion. For the final five years of my cheer career, I volunteered to coach our cheerleading team of athletes with disabilities. While it was a new world filled with new experiences, I thoroughly enjoyed watching these athletes grow and come out of their shells. Most athletes initially came into the gym extremely shy and timid with minimal participation. Each and every competition, I would fight back tears watching these cheerleaders perform their hearts out as if they were a completely different athlete than when we first started practicing. That's when I found my purpose.”
Five years ago, Ashley started working in the Douglas County School District. Needing a change from the typical public-school scene, she started looking into other job opportunities in the district and saw Renaissance’s need for a Learning Specialist. Ashley shared, “From the beginning of my professional career, I've always heard amazing things about REMS. One of the reasons why I moved to Colorado is to explore and go on adventures all around this beautiful state. When I heard that REMS had an outdoor adventure emphasis, I fell in love and knew it would be exactly the change I needed. From day one, I could immediately sense the difference in culture and the feeling of being part of the Crew. My husband and I recently purchased a house in Castle Rock, and I enjoy teaching in the community I call home.”
When I asked her, what are you most interested in being a part of, or learning more about while at Renaissance? “Going on backpacking trips and learning survival skills! I'm also interested in encouraging students to find their passions and use their strengths to build upon those passions,” she said.
What is the purpose of a learning specialists’ role at Renaissance? Ashley explained, “I recognize that each student's brain is unique and learns differently. My role is to dive deeper into how each student learns best, and to provide them the tools/resources to be successful both inside and outside of the school setting. This might include providing assessments and collecting data, to provide individualized programming for students. Once a student is on my caseload, I might pull him/her to work with me in a small group or on an individual basis to provide instruction. I might also push into his/her general education classroom to provide support with the curriculum. Each of the students on my caseload has goals that are monitored for progress frequently to keep track of growth.” Ashley also shared that one of her professional goals is to try to make a difference in her students’ lives. “I thrive on building connections with my kids and helping them understand that I'm a person they can trust.”
Beyond all that, she is married to a wonderful man named Charlie, who has lived in Douglas County, going to school in Franktown, as well as other Douglas County schools. She says, “Charlie is the wittiest and most kindhearted person I've ever met. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, cooking, being an uncle, and spending time with his friends.” How did they meet you might ask? Well, match.com worked in their story! “We both had started our professional careers and didn't enjoy the Denver dating scene! Charlie has the coolest job ever! He is an innovative chef for a mozzarella cheese company based in Denver. He travels the world to find new food trends that he can use to create new concepts for his company. We always have cheese in our house!! Together, we enjoy traveling and share a love of animals. Each year we've been together, we've adopted a new pet. Currently, we have one Doberman and two cats. We plan to add another Doberman puppy to our family this December!” What a fun way of sharing their love of animals!
As a very driven person, Ashley has goals for herself on a personal level, too. “Personally, I enjoy setting short- and long-term goals for myself to work towards. Currently, I'm working on learning new lifts and gymnastics skills at a local CrossFit gym. Spending that hour during my day to shut my brain off and focus on myself has been extremely beneficial to my mental and physical health.” Maybe she can show us some of her gymnastics skills soon! How many of our REMS students want to see that??
Ashley also loves to travel. “My family is full of pilots and flight attendants! My first airplane ride was at 9 months old, and we went to Hawaii! One of my hobbies is looking for travel deals and planning trips with my friends and family. Once COVID restrictions are lifted, Switzerland is next on my list!”
And as a fun fact from Ashley, “I am the first educator in my family... so I thought. When my dad was a toddler, his birth mom passed away in a car accident. As years passed, my dad lost contact with his birth mom's family. Over the last few years, I've connected with these family members. Turns out... many of them are special education teachers!”
Ashley, we wish you the warmest welcome to Renaissance. We are grateful to have you as a part of our Crew! You are a fun, exciting addition to our community and we look forward to knowing you more as the years pass!
We are crew
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