“This I Believe…”

This speech was given by 8th grader Charlotte Williamson at the Skinner continuation ceremony.

Skinner is all I have done since August 19th, 2010. When I look back, I can remember that first week like it was yesterday. My mom went to the First PTA meeting and came home the PTA president, as usual.

My year started with summer school, masked as “6th Grade Academy.” There I met Ms. Frahm, my awesome 6th grade Language Arts teacher who doubled as my basketball coach. But, during my first days of Skinner my most vivid memories surrounded some crazy 8th grade teacher, who I didn’t really know yet. His main goal was to scare us, as he yelled up and down the halls. And if you were so unlucky to be left accidently after school by your brothers, this teacher, known as Mr. Dehning, would use his line of, “Stick out your hand, make it into a fist, now put out your thumb. Now you have a way home.” After school, I found a strange safety in being the only 6th grader in Skinner’s Drama club, holding Ms. Gilman’s new baby while she was directing. Yet, what was most astounding was the support from all my teachers my 6th grade year. We were like a little family Mrs. Torres, Mr. Martin, Ms. Hale and Ms. Frahm, working together to make sure we succeeded.

Then there came the cool 7th grade. Mr. Smith and Ms. Winter joked around, but got us to somehow do our work without us knowing. Mr. Dennis and Ms. Anderson pushed us to our limits on assignments such as the “Monologue” to be performed in front of Mr. Dennis, his face never giving away any clue to our grade, or the infamous “Reformation” assignment, where Ms. Anderson challenged our views on government and religion. All these teachers expected us to do our best, and if we did not succeed they would amply assign PIE and Saturday School. This was also the year Mr. Dwyer came to Skinner and I found my love for violin and music. That summer, I went on the Washington D.C. trip. Ms. Frahm and Mr. Dehning, that crazy teacher who taught me to hitchhike when I was 11 were the chaperones. That opportunity changed my life; the trip brought us closer as a Skinner community.

8th grade year, finally, we had made it to the top, only one more year at Skinner. I became close to my drama teacher and now 8th grade Language Arts teacher, Ms. Gilman, my official second mom. My drama class became even more exciting with the introduction Maestra Allen, the spunky Spanish teacher with a love of crazy wigs. The very loud teacher I barely knew as a 6th grader, and who took me to D.C., became a good friend, and even a cooler history teacher. I was lucky to meet this next teacher before 8th grade, when she came to my house on a home visit; Ms. Skrobko, one of the nicest people I know. She took me in her learning family when my schedule was changed. She helped me make a pointless science fair project idea into a meaningful research project that I was interested in. She became someone who was always there when we needed to catch up. Then there is Ms. Murayama. Well, I think we are definitely ready for high school. She taught me one of the hardest lessons we had to learn before high school. She explained, ‘The teachers will not, I repeat will not, follow you around for your homework. If you don’t have it the day it is due, you have to turn it in on your own time.” But that is why I will miss her; she like other teachers she gave us a reality check. We are going to high school, we have to be ready.

I feel that Skinner has been a long road of preparation, hard work, but has given us what we need for our future. So this I believe. I believe in Skinner. In the opportunities and memories made in its hallways. I believe Skinner has created the future presidents, CEOs, valedictorians, actors and actresses; people who will go on to be translators, professional orchestra or band members. I believe that where ever we decide to go, what ever we decide to be, Skinner will have affected and will continue to affect how we will make decisions, and live our lives, continuing our educational journey. So, I believe in Skinner. I believe in us.

Principal Intern Brad Mann’s thoughts on Skinner

I want to thank the entire Skinner team for all the support, encouragement, and learning you have given me throughout this school year. I am convinced that I will be a better school leader having had the gift of being at Skinner as a Principal Intern. You all are truly amazing!

Some of the gleanings that have deeply impacted me are:

  • The commitment of the entire staff in developing life-long learners – your hunger to improve and perfect your craft pours mightily into the students.
  • A student support team that perseveres, adapts, and is unrelenting in creating a seamless safety net for all students
  • A leadership team that pours their heart and energy into building capital within every member of their team
  • The ‘linking of arms’ in the task of creating an even better Skinner: from afterschool PIE/tutoring, to character development in the cafeteria, to the sparkle that is continuously present in the facilities, to the collaborative efforts of Neighborhood center and School. Everyone gets involved!!
  • Finally, a pervasive willingness to step in and help when there is a need.

Thank you for embracing me as a learning Leader and investing in me! I hope to make a ‘Skinner thumbprint’ on the schools I get the privilege of serving!

~Brad Mann

7th graders are spectacular science scholars

Skinner Middle School 7th graders were lucky enough to join forces with Urban Advantage Metro Denver (UA Metro Denver),Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Zoo, Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Denver, Aurora, and Adams 14 Public School Districts to help students think and explore like scientists in order to improve science literacy among urban middle school science students.

“Research has shown that a deep understanding of science is grounded in doing science. Not only do students need to understand scientific content, but they must also understand the scientific investigation process,” said Polly Andrews, director of youth and teacher programs at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. “By conducting their own long-term science investigations, UA Metro Denver gives students a chance to learn science in a manner that is not currently available in these school districts.”

UA Metro Denver provided professional development opportunities to give teachers the skills, knowledge, and confidence to teach STEM content in a rapidly changing world. The program tapped into the traditionally underutilized resources and STEM-related expertise of science-based cultural institutions who share the formal education system’s commitment to improved science thinking.

“In the fall, all of our students were expected to complete a science fair project and present to a judge,” said Ms. Amy Winter, 7th grade science teacher. “In the spring, 7th graders completed and presented another research based project, but students could choose how to explain their findings, through Power Points, Prezis, movies/videos and even clay models.”

Skinner students chose a topic of interest, conducted an independent science investigation project, documented the process and presented their findings to a peer group. Out of 400 applicants, 11 Skinner 7th graders were chosen to present their research at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on May 11th.

“My partner and I researched bear activity, conducting field research at the Denver Zoo five times using our free vouchers for this experiment,” said Elena Barragan, one of the scholars chosen to present their research at the museum. “We concluded that bears are more active in the afternoon because they are tired in the morning due to the enrichment activities they are given to search for their food.”

Modeled after the successful New York City Urban Advantage developed by the American Museum of Natural History and the NYC Department of Education, UA Metro Denver was FREE thanks to a generous grant from the National Science Foundation Discovery K-12 Research Program.

D.J. will miss Skinner but excited for NHS

The three years I’ve spent at Skinner have been the best years of my life, so far. I am glad I chose Skinner because of the great staff, the students and the preparation Skinner has given me. The teachers are very supportive, with more one-on-one time to work out problems you’re facing. The staff is very trustworthy and nice. I also like my peers because they are all very respectful and welcoming. We treat each other as family. We talk to everyone without anyone being left out. At Skinner, we have no cliques, which is nice.

Skinner has prepared me for the peaks that lay ahead on my educational path. Skinner also gave me a strong foundation and very high expectations were placed on me at Skinner. A few ways Skinner has prepared me is that I can feel confident about being successful in Honors classes and I can do 10th grade math next year when I’m in 9th grade. With the magnificent learning experience I received at Skinner I am proud to call myself a Skinner Scholar.

The next chapter of my life will start at North High. I am so happy to be going to North for the next four years. I’m happy because the school is a rising star and I will love being a part of a small revolution. I am also excited about the great academics North provides to its students. I can take AP and college classes while I’m there. North sounds like a great school, it is very traditional. When I graduate from North, it will be exactly 50 years after my dad graduated from North. North is a new mountain of challenges, but because of Skinner, I am ready to travel this terrain.

– D.J. McAllister, 8th grade Skinner student


Skinner scientists invent solar cars!

Congratulations to the Skinner Scholars who participated in the 23rd Annual Junior Solar Sprint – sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) – on Saturday, May 18th! Middle school teams from across Colorado spend a semester building solar- and battery-powered model vehicles with guidance from a parent, teacher, or coach. The Solar Sprint event provides an fun, educational and exciting opportunity for teams from across Colorado to race their vehicles and compete in design categories. Thanks to the hard work these students put into their model cars, Skinner was among the top 10% of builder-racers!

Building solar- and battery-powered cars requires skills in both math and science. The primary goal of the competitions is to generate enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills at a crucial stage in the development of young people. The competitions also help improve students’ understanding of scientific concepts and renewable energy technologies, and encourages young people to consider technical careers at an early age.

Representing Skinner in 8th place were team leaders Demetrius Sabell and Maximus Sabell along with Dylan Mey. In 17th place was team leader Ryan Breitenstein along with Luis Nava. Several middle schools from all around the state entered into solar and lithium battery races totaling 86 cars.  Special thank you to Heather Versailles of the Neighborhood Center for spearheading the semester-long project.

For more information, please visit: http://www.nrel.gov/education/jss_hfc.html

Awards! Awards!! Awards!!!

Senator’s Recognition Award

On March 26th, three Skinner Scholars were honored at the Denver Puppet Theatre and awarded the Senator’s Recognition Award, sponsored by Senator Lucia Guzman. The winners were awarded a cash price as well as gift certificates by State Representative Dan Pabon. The award winners representing Skinner were:

  • 6th grade: Gregory Anderson
  • 7th grade: Elena Barragan
  • 8th grade: Vanessa Aguilar-Loarca

Safe City Awards

On April 12th, The Safe City Youth Leadership team awarded two scholarships at this year’s Safe City Youth Conference. Only two scholarships were given – and Skinner Scholars received both!  To enter, students were asked to submit an essay, poem, artwork or music piece to the Youth Leadership team that explained what this year’s theme, “If Not Me, Then Who Will Follow the Beat to My Song?” meant to them, as well as an explanation of how the scholarship will help them obtain higher education.

The first award was a $500.00 scholarship in memory of community activist Walt Beckert. This award was awarded to Skinner 8th Grader Hugo Burciaga.

The second award was a $250.00 scholarship from College in Colorado and the recipient was Kolette Lavoy, also an 8th grader.

Skinner has participated in the Hope Scholarship program (http://www.meedcolorado.org/HOPEScholarship.html) for the past several years and Skinner is pleased to continue to be able to provide this opportunity to the students (6th, 7th, & 8th grade). Teachers nominated students in one of two categories :

1) Academic Achievement- Student must have a progress indicator of 4-‘exceeds expectations’

2) Most Improved- Student must demonstrate a steady and marked improvement in his/her progress indicator, moving from either a U-unsatisfactory or PP-Partially Proficient to P proficient.

Students are required to complete an essay, project (poem, artwork etc.), community service form, and parent questionnaire. Winning students receive a $500 investment scholarship, a trophy, and their parents receive free college credits toward their own education. In addition, the winners and all nominees will be recognized at a school-wide assembly on April 24.

Good Luck to our Scholars!

Totally Tennyson 80s Themed Pub Crawl/Fundraiser to Benefit Skinner

“Totally Tennyson III – Presented by Leprino Foods” is coming up on April 27th, 4:00 p.m .– 2:00 a.m. The event takes place in the Berkeley neighborhood of Northwest Denver on Tennyson Street, between 38th Avenue and 46th Avenue. A $25 ticket gets participants complimentary ‘tastes’ of everything Tennyson Street has to offer, including food, drink, merchandise, discounts, live music and fun and games along the way. With more than 30 participating businesses like Berkeley Inn and Patrick O’Carroll’s, party-goers will enjoy delicious bites and beverages all up and down Tennyson Street.

The final stop is an after party at the Oriental Theater, beginning at 10 pm, that will host a costume contest with a $500 grand prize as well as a concert featuring popular 80s cover band, The Six Million Dollar Band.

This year Totally Tennyson will support 14 Denver Public Schools in NW Denver including Skinner. This is Skinner’s second year participating in Totally Tennyson. The funds received from last year’s event helped the school purchase it’s new wireless, electronic scoreboard installed in Skinner’s East Gym.

Tickets are $25 and are on sale now at www.totallytennyson.com. Be sure to select “Skinner” at checkout for our school to receive credit for the purchase. If you’re unable to attend the event, consider purchasing a $20 teacher ticket to send a teacher for free! See the website for lots more information and hilarious photos from prior events.

Join us at the Mile High 5 Race and Fun Run – Community Race for NW Denver Schools!

Please join us at the Mile High 5 Race and Fun Run – Community Race for NW Denver Schools!

The 3rd Annual Mile High 5 will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2013 at Sloan’s Lake in NW Denver. The proceeds from the event will go towards benefitting the following NW Denver Schools: Skinner Middle School, Brown International Academy, Centennial Elementary, Edison Elementary, North High School, and Valdez Elementary.

Skinner will be using our proceeds to pay athletic fees for families who need support and to update our athletic equipment. Our athletic department currently doesn’t have a budget so the extra money is really needed.

The mission of the Mile High 5 is to encourage physical fitness in children and adults, introduce them to a life long love of running and racing. The Mile High 5 event is open to competitive and recreational runners and walkers.


7:30am – 8:30am – Registration & Packet Pick up

8:30am – 5,000 ft fun run (almost a mile)

9:00am – 5k (3.1 mile)

9:15am – 5 mile


Individual 19 – 64 yrs: $25 | After April 27th: $30

Individual 6 – 18 yrs: $10 | After April 27th: $15

Seniors 65+ yrs: $10 | After April 27th: $15

5,000 ft: $5, race shirt optional purchase

REGISTER NOW @ http://milehigh5race.eventbrite.com/

Your entry into the Mile High 5 includes: Registration for the 5 mile OR 5k (3.1 mile), a race t-shirt, and post-race refreshments. The 5 mile and 5k (3.1 mile) are chip timed.

If you don’t want to run, but still want to help, write a check to Skinner Middle School, earmarked for “Mile High 5” and turn it in to Ivonne in the office.

Come and cheer on our students the day of the race! Make sure your student is wearing a Skinner shirt to show off our school pride.


Skinner enrollment to skyrocket in 2013-4

Skinner will have its largest 6th grade class for the 2013-14 school year in 10 years!

According to numbers released by Denver Public Schools’ Office of Choice and Enrollment Services, 218 6th graders have been assigned to Skinner following the DPS choice process, a 66% increase over the current class of 6th graders, and the largest 6th grade class since 2003. For the first time since 2005, Skinner will have over 500 students across grades 6, 7 and 8 enrolled in August 2013.

“Skinner teachers have focused on high academic achievement for all of our students,” said Skinner principal Michelle Koyama. “It’s clear that our community is enthusiastic about our excellent academic program, extended Spanish language classes and rich arts offerings in a socioeconomically and culturally diverse environment.”

In 2011, Skinner jumped two levels to achieve the Green “Meets Expectations” status on Denver Public Schools’ School Performance Framework (SPF) rating system, a 53% increase in the school’s rating over 2010. In 2012, the school increased its points earned on the SPF by an additional 16%. Between 2010 and 2012, Skinner’s SPF rating increased a whopping 78%. Skinner has seen similar increases on statewide TCAP standardized test scores: Skinner’s overall median growth percentile in 2012 was the highest of all the DPS middle school network schools! Check out our achievements:

  • Median growth percentiles in writing increased in all three grade levels, with an overall increase of 17% from 2011 to 2012
  • 7th grade reading, writing and math all made double digit gains in 2012, increasing proficiency by 10%, 12% and 14%t respectively
  • Skinner has posted an increase in the percentage of students proficient in writing every year since 2009

“Skinner has become the ‘go to’ school in Northwest Denver because of the tremendous growth in test scores, programs offered, overall reputation and parent involvement,” said Renee Martinez Stone, the parent of a Skinner student. “This incredible growth shows that families want high-quality neighborhood schools for their kids. ”

In addition to the strong academic core classes Skinner offers, the school also provides honors options in all core subject areas; daily math and/or reading intervention for students not yet proficient in those areas; 8 levels of Spanish language instruction; P.E., visual arts, band and orchestra; and nearly 20 Friday Enrichment” classes options, including “Learn how to Geocache”, iPad Moviemaking, Woodshop, Skateboard Club and Phone App Development. Additionally, twelve different Skinner teams compete against other middle schools in sports like basketball, cross country and volleyball.

We are so proud of our students, families, teachers, staff and community – and look forward to an even more spectacular 2013-4 school year. Go Scorpions!

Viviana, 6th grade Scientist

Science is awesome. Everyday I’m enthusiastic about what I’m going to learn in science. Atoms, space, Earth, water are some of the things I like to learn in science, especially since I like to do experiments and discover new things.

Being in Science Olympiad was an awesome experience even though I was kind of nervous when I got there. But when I saw all my class mates so excited I got excited as well. Schools from all over Colorado were there to do their best in Science Olympiad for their schools.

When you’re in Science Olympiad there’s no time to rest. You have to be prepared for whatever they’re going to give you. That’s because in Science Olympiad there are a lot of things to do. For example you have to find out your room number of your category, get as much information that you can about your category, and start getting all that information about that category.

For me Science Olympiad was great. You get to hang out with your friends on a Saturday and get a rest from your family. If you go to Science Olympiad you won’t regret it.

-Viviana, 6th grade student

Skinner Science Olympiads!

For the first time in recent history, Skinner was one of only two DPS teams (East High was the other) to compete in the recent Colorado Science Olympiad. School teams of 15 students competed to demonstrate their science knowledge in 23 events covering all areas of science, from Anatomy to Meteorology.

Skinner scholars showed they know their way around the scientific method:

  • The 8th grade team came in 4th place for experimental design, 9th place for water quality and 26th overall
  • The 6th grade team came in 15th for keep the heat, 16th place for anatomy and 30th overall

Olympiads worked on lab practicals and pencil-and-paper tests, in addition to “build it” opportunities, including:

  • Rotor egg drop – students constructed a device according to parameters to safely spin a raw egg to the ground without breaking (think helicopter).
  • Mouse trap car – students used the lever of the mouse trap to provide force to move a self-constructed vehicle to a prescribed distance.
  • Boomilever -students constructed a balsa wood fixed-crane device designed to hold the most weight possible

We are so proud of the accomplishments of our students and teachers in our science department!  Now what we know what to expect – look out world!

Nine musicians selected for citywide honor orchestra

Nine Skinner musicians were selected to participate in the 2013 Citywide Middle School Honor Orchestra.  Only a select number of students per school, recognized for their talent and leadership skills, are asked to audition.  A representative from Denver Public School’s music program traveled around the city to conduct auditions.  Skinner is so pleased to have had nine of our student musicians selected to participate, a huge increase from last year, when just one student was selected – and a testament to the skill and expertise of our band and orchestra teacher, Mr. Jordan Dwyer.

With this honor comes the responsibility for the students to learn the music, attend all rehearsals and participate in a professional manner as a young adult.  This year’s conductor is Rebecca Jonas, orchestra teacher at Westview Middle School in Longmont.  The Middle School Honor Orchestra will be a part of a concert along with Honor Orchestras representing DPS elementary and high schools.  The concert will be on Saturday, April 13th, at 3:00 p.m. in the auditorium of John F. Kennedy High School, 2855 S. Lamar St., Denver, 80227.

Congratulations to our Skinner musicians selected for the 2013 Citywide Middle School Honor Orchestra:

  • Alyssa Archuleta
  • Chloee Beam
  • Cathy Diaz
  • Alyssa Wade Gasca
  • Cassidy Gordon
  • Vincent Haney
  • Kolette Lavoy
  • DJ McAllister
  • Charlotte Williamson
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