Archives for January 2013

Skinner Students Scope Out CU Medical School

Forty Skinner’s College 4 Y.O.U. Pre-Collegiate Program students visited the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (CU-AMC) in Aurora as part of their fourth Saturday College Visitation Academy.  The students boarded the bus at Skinner early to travel the students to CU-AMC.  Upon arrival to the Anschutz Medical campus the students were treated to a filling continental breakfast, provided by the staff of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

During the morning hours, the students participated in various “hands-on” scientific and research-based experiments led by CU-AMC staff and faculty in the ultra-modern lab facilities.   After their research experiences, all the students were treated to a scrumptious pizza lunch provided by CU-AMC’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  During their lunch various pre-med minority students sat and ate lunch with Skinner students and shared their experiences as a middle school and high school student and what lessons they have learned and how they prepared themselves to make them a better and successful pre-med student.

Part of the Neighborhood Center’s commitment to our students encouraging STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), the students had a productive and enjoyable daylong visitation.  The College 4 Y.O.U. Pre-Collegiate Program student’s next regularly scheduled visitation will be February 18th as they travel to visit Red Rocks Community College in Golden.

Recruiting for Skinner’s Wellness Team

Interested in improving school health?  Do you have ideas for new health initiatives for Skinner Middle School?  If yes, we’d like to invite you to be a part of the new Skinner Wellness Team!

Our first meeting will be Tuesday, February 5th from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. at the Neighborhood Center@Skinner. DPS is partnering with Action for Healthy Kids to engage parents, teachers, administrators and community members in school health. Come let your voice be heard!

For more information, please contact Lynne Feingold at or 303-253-4302.


Don’t miss Skinner community potluck party on February 7th

Come one, come all, to the Skinner community annual potluck party on February 7th at 6 pm. With pasta to share, a salsa tasting contest and a family dance party, it’s an event you won’t want to miss!

Do you make an incredible salsa?  Mix it up, bring it promptly at 5 p.m. and enter it into our salsa tasting contest, to be judged by Skinner leaders.

A DJ will play hits from yesterday and today – wear your dancing shoes so you can show off your cool moves on the dance floor.

Skinner 6th grade families should bring a pasta dish; 7th grade families will provide salads and sides; 8th grade families are on the hook for desserts. The school will provide beverages and everything else.

Looking forward to seeing you at this popular and fun event for Skinner Families – see you on the 7th at 6 p.m.

Paying it Forward

Ian Spetnagel, a 7th grade Skinner student, just received the “Nugget For a Day” award for exemplary sportsmanship while playing on Skinner’s football team this past season. Nominated by Mr. Dehning (Skinner’s 8th grade social studies teacher and football coach), Ian will:

  • Attend a Nugget’s practice, meet all of the players and take photos with them
  • Take a tour of the Pepsi Center
  • Receive a Nugget’s jersey
  • Receive eight tickets, in a catered suite, for that evening’s game

As it turns out, Ian recently changed my life – and the lives of others I don’t even know. An outstanding student, Ian went the movies about a month ago and was inspired to purchase tickets for people behind him in line. “Paying it forward,” he said.

Ian’s act of random kindness motivated me to pay it forward at a CU Buffs basketball game the following weekend – I paid for drinks for the couple behind me in the concession line. The gentleman at the game was really surprised and happy when I told him I was only following one of our student’s lead by paying it forward.  A few minutes later, his wife found me and assured me, “I’ll pay it forward, too.”

Doing an unprompted good deed for another is something all of us can do – young or old, rich or poor, outgoing or shy. If you have an elderly neighbor, why not shovel his sidewalk in the morning after finishing your own?  You could pick up trash you see on the ground so our kids grow up in a clean neighborhood.  When you see a young mother struggling to carry babies and package, lend her a hand.  Anyone can pay it forward – it’s just a matter of thinking about it and doing it!

Thanks to Ian’s example, I know paying it forward has become part of my everyday life. I hope it spreads like wildfire across the Skinner community. Way to go, Ian!

-Mr. James Duran, Skinner Student Advisor & Athletic Director


Skinner scholars to go to D.C. in 2014

Skinner 6th and 7th grade students have a remarkable opportunity next year – the Spring of 2014 – to participate in a week long field trip to Washington D.C., Gettysburg and Philadelphia to experience the 8th grade social studies curriculum by seeing the history, geography, economics and civics of the United States first hand..  This field trip is open to all Skinner scholars and is an unbelievable opportunity for this year’s 6th and 7th graders (next year’s 7th and 8th graders).

Students are eligible to register up to 90 days before the trip but are encouraged to get involved now so they can participate in school wide fundraising for the next two years to help defray some of the trip’s costs.  Currently there are 28 students signed up.

If people in the community would like to help Skinner scholars afford the 2014 trip, they should watch for our fundraising activities, make a direct donation and/or hire a middle school student for yard work, babysitting, housecleaning or other odd job, paying with a tax deductible donation to Skinner Middle School.

For more information, please contact Mr. Dehning at


Skinner Scholars go to Keystone Science School

Riding is style this year, Skinner 6th graders embarked on yet another annual visit to Keystone Science School.  The trip was mentally and physically draining but in a positive way!

Rarely do teachers and students receive an opportunity to leave the walls of the school behind and bond with one another while engaging in scientific field work.  This year’s experience brought us together to investigate the effects of the mountain pine beetle on forest ecology.  Together we delved deep into the issue to understand the seriousness of the challenges faced by stakeholders and members of the ecosystem.

Returning to Skinner we bring an understanding of everyone’s perspectives, some ideas about logical steps for local government and a stronger sense of community among our Skinner Scholars.

– Mr. Martin, 6th grade Science teacher

Celebrating 60 years of Skinner teachers

On Friday, December 14th, Skinner Middle School hosted staff and teachers from the past and present at the 60th Annual Staff Alumni Holiday Luncheon.  The event was coordinated by Skinner secretary, Joanna Alvarez and current staff contributed both money and an assortment of scrumptious dishes to the lovely buffet luncheon.

The event is something that is looked forward to by past Skinner staff and faculty all year as an opportunity to connect with colleagues and friends from years’ past.  The guests passed around yearbooks and many hugs and greetings were exchanged as over 75 alumni and family members chatted and reminisced while they enjoyed the delicious meal.

Skinner Scholars also had a table set up with old photos and documents for the Skinner staff alumni to enjoy and also help identify faces in photos which weren’t labeled.

Renae Levin taught English at Skinner from 1965 until 1971, at which time she transferred to North High.  About the Luncheon she said, “I have a chance to connect with people I taught with.  I think it’s a tribute to Skinner that they manage this through thick and thin.  The (current) faculty, administration and staff go all out for us and we aren’t asked to contribute anything.  It’s quite a significant tradition.”

Gary Goodnight taught Science and Technology classes at Skinner from 1976 until 1986.  He installed Skinner’s first computer lab, now that number has grown to four.  Said Mr. Goodnight, “I’ve missed very few luncheons.  I enjoy sitting down with all the old colleagues.  Skinner was probably the best teacher incubator that I have seen in all of DPS.  That camaraderie and warmth is still very much here.  I taught at six DPS schools and this was, by far, the best group of people I ever worked with.  Back when I came to this luncheon when I taught here, a teacher came who had taught my dad.  That is a link from all the way back until now.”

Berniece Huber began teaching Latin and English at Skinner in 1958.  By 1964 she was also a part time counselor.  She retired from Skinner in 1982.  “I used to host the luncheon when I worked here.  We had a lady, Ruth Wheeler, who taught Biology, who used to come every year, until she was almost 100!  The Home Ec teachers and students used to prepare the food for the luncheon.”  Ms. Huber went on to reminisce about the teachers’ experience, “the staff had separate lounges until the mid-70s.  The ‘Hen House’ and the ‘Men’s Roost’, where women weren’t welcomed.  However the pop machine was in the men’s lounge and it (the men’s lounge) was absolutely full of cigarette smoke.”

Jon Baier taught Tech. Arts (wood, metal, plastic and leather shop and computer tech) at Skinner for his entire 40 year teaching career, from 1963 until 2003.  “I enjoy coming to see all of the people I taught with.  I also like seeing Dehning (current Skinner 8th grade History teacher) and watching his hair recede every year.”  That comment was met with a burst of laughter from Mr. Dehning.

Philip Ricciardi taught Tech. Arts at Skinner from 1972 until 2000.  While he was a student at Skinner in the early 60s, Ms. Berniece Huber was his Latin teacher.  Says Mr. Ricciardi, “Quite honestly, we were a family here at Skinner more than any other Denver Public School.  We all kind of grew up together.  I was 21 when I started teaching here, most of us were single, and no one ever had any desire to leave.  To me, this age level is the most important.  At this age level, you can either make them feel good about themselves and succeed, or fail.  That’s a huge responsibility and opportunity for a teacher.”

Skinner Middle School is proud and honored to host the school’s incredible staff from the present as well as years past at this annual event and looks forward to hosting many more Staff Alumni Holiday Luncheons in the years to come

Meet Skinner’s Social/Emotional Team – Educating the Hearts of Our Scholars

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

Early adolescence is a time of many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes – and the transition from elementary school to middle school can be stressful and overwhelming. Puberty begins, bringing hormonal, emotional, mental and social changes.

Students start making more of their own choices about friends, appearance, sports, studying, and school. They become more independent, with their own personality and interests. This shift in students’ sense of self is a key characteristic of their social and emotional development.

All this change can cause problems for young people. Without settings – home, school and community – attuned to their needs and emerging independence, they can lose confidence in themselves and slip into negative behavior patterns such as truancy and school dropout.

Here at Skinner Middle School, we know how important these years are for our students, both educationally and developmentally.  We have built an exceptional team to help guide our students through these sometimes-tumultuous years:

Mr. James Duran
Mr. Duran has worked at Skinner for 15 years, first as a science teacher, and now as Skinner’s Student Advisor and Athletic Director.  Mr. Duran also teaches a wood shop class, which is a passion of his.  “I love our kids and I enjoy working with our families,” said Mr. Duran.

Ms. Jaimie Stickl
Ms. Stickl is Skinner’s GEAR UP College/Career Counselor and has worked at Skinner since March of 2012.  Ms. Stickl grew up in Niagara Falls, NY and received degrees from Grove City College in Pennsylvania and Regent University in Virginia.  “I absolutely love the students here at Skinner.  I also love the culture here and the staff is so highly qualified and team oriented.  It is a privilege to be part of this team,” said Ms. Stickl.

Ms. Sandy Stone
Ms. Stone is Skinner’s Restorative Approaches Coordinator, and has been part of the Skinner family since 2007. Restorative intervention guides students to identify their role in a situation/conflict and their responsibility for repairing or resolving the issue, using misbehavior and poor decision-making as opportunities to learn and strengthen community bonds by working through the conflict resolution together. “I love working with this transitional and precarious age group – it is rewarding to see students grow and develop the skills they need to become well-rounded and successful young adults,” said Ms. Stone.

Mr. Joe Waldon
Mr. Waldon has been Skinner’s Social Worker for the past six years and he lived in Kenya, East Africa, prior to coming to work for DPS.  He is from southern Indiana and attended Valparaiso University.  Mr. Waldon said, “Skinner students are amazing – I love how friendly they are.  The same is true for the staff.  It feels like family.”

Some resources and additional reading for the parent of a middle schooler include:

Please Help Feed Our Dedicated Teachers

Skinner student-led conferences will be from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 24th and Tuesday, January 29th. Our dedicated teachers and staff will be there to speak with families and answer questions.

Please help us feed our amazing faculty on these nights! We hope you will consider donating an entree, a side dish, a dessert, beverages or cash so they can stay focused on our students and parents. Thursday 1/24 will be Mexican themed (think enchiladas, tacos, beans & rice) while Tuesday 1/29 will be Italian (break out your amazing lasagna or spaghetti recipe).

RSVP to Assistant Principal Lindsay Meier at or 720-424-1528.

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