Teacher Spotlight: Andrew Virdin


The first teacher spotlight this year shines on Andrew Virdin, a high school English teacher, for the high level of Global Outcomes that students consistently demonstrate in his classroom. When walking into Mr Virdin's classroom you will see students engaged in rich discussions, and it is hard not to stay a little longer and listen to our impressive students. He provides his students with sentence frames to assist them in elaborating on their ideas to form opinions and provide evidence which is why high standards for communication are observed in his classroom.

Critical Thinking

In English class, after reading a novel in the classroom, students held a debate about the impact of a novel ending. In small groups, students gathered evidence from the text to prepare claims for the debate. Another small group created the rubric that would be used to evaluate students and measure critical thinking during the debate. This group of students presented the rubric they created to their classmates for feedback before the debate started. Students created how they would be scored and evaluated on the debate and they demonstrated high competency in the communication Global Outcome. This put students at the center of the classroom and owners of their learning.

Global Awareness and Compassion

Last year, Kevin Wolf, a novelist, visited his classroom and shared the first chapter of his new book with the students. The students read his first chapter and provided the author with feedback. The author gained insight from the students and used their input to make changes to his novel before publishing. Students were provided with this authentic experience, and the author made plans with Mr. Virdin to come back to the creative writing class to give the students input on what they are writing.

Mr. Virdin provides his students with additional authentic audiences for their writing. He has students write short screenplays in his class and all of his students submit their plays to the Screenesters competition at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. Last year, one of his students, Sophie Greenway, was one of 3 finalists, and had her play performed at the Denver Center for Performing Arts by professional actors. Sophie got to work with directors and actors to direct her play and afterward the show came to EPHS and performed the play for our studnets and teachers. Her play was captivating!

Big picture

Social Emotional Learning

In addition, Mr. Virdin continues a partnership he began with the public library. Last year the partnership provided students with a book club experience to discuss the book The Hate You Give and how it resonated with them. Adults and students were invited to participate together in the discussion and it was a great connection to our Global Outcome of social and emotional wellness. The library provided a free screening of the movie at our local theater and it was a packed house. Global awareness is a Global Outcome that students frequently demonstrated in Mr. Virdin's classroom, and Mr. Virdin himself has traveled all over the World and has many stories and experiences to share with our students in Estes Park.

Mr. Virdin was selected by the Colorado Education Association to participate in a capstone project focused on culturally responsive teaching. As part of this project he is working with elected officials, advocates, and other partnerships surrounding the topic of social justice with a capstone of student created cultural narratives that will build global awareness, compassion, and empathy.

EPHS English Department Increases Passion for Literature

In collaboration with his team of colleagues and support from high school principal, Chuck Scott, the English department has expanded literature course offerings that are more engaging for students. This provides opportunities for students to improve writing skills in ways that motivate and prepare them for work experiences after school. Mr. Virdin added a creative writing class last year and the numbers have doubled this year and a 2nd section taught by Ms. Ryder was added. Now students can take a class titled 20th Century American Music as Literature class. This is great for students who want to learn about music but band and choir are not a good fit for them. Mrs. Hansen has added a travel writing class and a young adult literature class. Numbers have also doubled in acting class from the popularity. Students are gaining passion and love for writing and choosing it as an elective.