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This school district uses personalized learning to help students get ahead

Colorado Succeeds celebrates innovation in schools around the state.

GREELEY, Colo. — Greeley-Evans School District 6 is being recognized for their efforts to help every student learn in the way that is best for them. 

It's called personalized learning and it's something Terry Highfield, a facilitator in the district, said he believes in.

"So, when we’re able to help kids from where they are individually then they’re able to experience a lot more success," Highfield said.

Highfield is a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) facilitator for students in kindergarten through fifth grade at S. Christa McAuliffe STEM Academy in Greeley.  

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He said that paying attention in class should go both ways. He wants students to pay attention to his instruction, but he believes teachers need to pay attention to what students want to actually learn about. Highfield said this allows education to be flexible.

"Because the old model where it kind of treated kids as one size fits all doesn't really work as well," Highfield said. "If all students are asked to do the same project or take the same test, that's going to cater to certain students more than others."

Levi Aldridge is a seventh grader at McAuliffe STEM Academy. He said he likes having a say on what he learns and how fast he learns it.

"When you can do it your own way, it really helps. You see the potential you have and how you can grow that potential," Levi said.

He is interested in robotics and said teachers give him open-ended goals.

"I really enjoy being able to use my creativity," Levi said.

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Teachers begin laying the foundation for personalized learning early on, according to Highfield.

"It really is a pathway that starts in kindergarten and weaves all the way through high school," Highfield said.

David Isley, an engineering teacher at Northridge High School, said addressing the interests of students creates engagement.

"They get to do things that they want to do instead of what the teacher is forcing them to do, right? So, they get to explore things that they are interested in," Isley said.

Credit: Nelson Garcia
David Isley works with a student during Engineering class at Northridge High School in Greeley.

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Jorge Hernandez is a sophomore at Northridge High School. He said students can discover their direction through personalized learning.

"I think you have to definitely try new things and you have to make sure you're not afraid to start new things," Hernandez said. "Because I feel like a lot of students need to express themselves."  

Julie Hill runs the Success Foundation, a nonprofit that supports Greeley-Evans School District 6, where 70% of families are lower-income. She said personalized learning helps with equity.

"I think personalized learning allows all students to find success," Hill said. "We want to provide all children with the same equal opportunities."

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9NEWS partners with Colorado Succeeds, a group created by the state's business leaders to celebrate innovation in schools. Each year, Colorado Succeeds gives out The Succeeds Prize in different categories.

Greeley-Evans District 6 won The Succeeds Prize for Personalized Learning.

"All the teachers in this building work very hard to help students succeed and so to get recognition for that is always nice," Isley said.

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The Succeeds Prize comes with a $15,000 cash award. Colorado Succeeds also supports sharing these examples of innovation with other school districts around the state.

"If anyone wants to do what we’re doing here in District 6, I think we would, we would be very honored," Hill said. "You're proud that you were able to show someone the way or blaze a trail for new thoughts."

In addition to Greeley-Evans District 6, here is the list of the remaining Succeeds Prize winners for 2021:

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