Boulder High School New York Writing Contest
In 2008, students in Ms. Jordan’s Readers Workshop class began studying the Broadway musical, Wicked, as a way to consider judgment. What happened was nothing short of miraculous—the students, struggling learners, many of whose first language was not English—fell in love with the musical and with learning.
During that school year, 40% of the students reading below grade level became grade level readers. 96% improved their reading level, many by two grade levels or more! These students’ median CSAP growth scores were higher than both the district and Boulder High School.
The following school year, the students, excited for a new academic challenge, began a unit on community, using the 2008 Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights. The next year, they endeavored into a unit on what it takes to achieve a dream, using the 2010 Tony-Award winning musical Billy Elliot.
In response to students’ enthusiasm over these musicals and what they learned about themselves and their opportunities in the world, Ms. Jordan, a National Board Certified Teacher, created the New York Writing Contest. Students have volunteered to spend their free time writing a four-part personal narrative responding to the following prompts:
Who were you before?
What did you learn from Wicked, In the Heights, or Billy Elliot?
Who are you now?
How do you plan to give back to society?
Students will submit their writing on February 3, 2012, and community judges will assess their work and announce ten winners. These ten winners will earn an all-expense paid trip to New York City to watch Wicked and Billy Elliot and meet the casts of both shows.
Now the students only need one thing: your financial support! They are trying to raise $10,000 to cover the cost of the trip. Here’s how you can help:
- Read the students’ biographies (click the "Student Biographies" link on the left side of my homepage) and decide how you would like to support them in their efforts.
- Fill out the Donation Options sheet (click on "Donation Options" link on the left side of my homepage) and indicate whether you would like to be recognized on our “Donors Page.”
- Write a check to Boulder High School and send it, along with the Donation Options sheet, to BHS, 1604 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO 80302 (attn: Ricki Hetherington—school treasurer).
- You may also donate goods or services for our fundraising Silent Auction to be held March 6 and 8, 2012. Please contact me at (303) 819-2570, and I'll be happy to pick up any items you donate.
- Because your donation is fully tax deductible, you may contact Ricki for a receipt and a tax ID number for tax deduction purposes. (720) 561-5302; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your donation is fully tax deductible!
You may request a receipt, which will contain the school’s Tax ID number!
Colorado Daily Camera Article
Boulder High 'at-risk' students head to 'Wicked'
Teacher, students inspired by book and musical
By Vanessa Miller Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 10/07/2009 11:21:10 PM MDT
Last year, every teenager in Laura Jordan's reading workshop at Boulder High struggled academically. Many were still at a fourth- or fifth-grade reading level and had never made it through a book.
Now, Jordan's students are on fire to read and write. They credit their transformation to Jordan, her lessons about judgment -- and the book "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West."
Through the generosity of strangers, the students will see "Wicked," the Broadway musical based on the book, Thursday in Denver.
Jordan taught the students about judgment through the novel, which is a twist on the "Wizard of Oz" that shows a different side of the "wicked witch" and serves as a commentary on good and evil.
" 'Wicked' taught itself," said Jordan, a language arts teacher, adding that she, too, became a student of the book. "It taught me how to not judge them."
Jordan admitted that, at times, she couldn't stand her difficult students and judged them as typical teenagers who didn't care to learn. Many of her kids admitted to meeting those low standards by hating school, disliking their teacher and feuding with their classmates.
"I used to ditch a lot and I wasn't interested in school, and then we started talking about judgment and 'Wicked,'" said Boulder High junior Adriana Hernandez, 16. "Me, as a person, I changed, and now I don't judge and I don't push people away, and I'm interested in school, actually. I joined cheerleading."
Because of the profound impact "Wicked" had on the class and on Jordan, she sent a letter to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and asked if there was any way her students could get reduced-rate tickets to the show at the Buell Theater.
"I teach a highly at-risk population at Boulder High School," Jordan wrote in the letter. "My students are all non-native speakers of English, many of whom have never succeeded academically. Most of my students come from very economically disadvantaged families. In fact, I've spent several nights this semester driving food and water to homes where the water was turned off for failure to pay the bill or where parents have been incarcerated and have not been able to pay the bills.
"Obviously they cannot afford ticket prices, even for the upper balcony," she wrote. "Is there anything you can do to help these students to access this incredible show?"
Jordan told her students she would try to get them tickets for $10. Some said they might be able to swing that.
And then she got the call. Jordan's theater connection had landed 70 free tickets, meaning all of her students could go the play. They leave for their first trip to the Denver performing arts complex at noon Thursday. The show starts at 2 p.m.
"It's a big deal because I've never been to a play like that," Adriana said.
Just for today, Jordan told her students, they should leave their hats at home and dress "like you're going to dinner with your grandparents."
"If you're a boy, that means pull your pants up," and, Jordan said, motioning to her stomach, "If you're a girl, cover this area."
Several of the shows' actors and executives have either visited the class or written to the students, Jordan said. Boulder High junior Angel Ramirez, 16, said he's excited to see the play -- something he never would have felt before last year.
"I didn't care about school at all," he said. "But now I know it's important, and it's going to get you somewhere someday."
Angel said he never understood books or much of his classwork because he never tried.
"I would give up because I didn't understand anything," he said. "Last year was the first time I started a book and finished it and understood it all."
In Jordan's plea for "Wicked" tickets, she sent essays that her students wrote about what they learned from the play. This one brought tears, she said.
"The most exciting thing about this year is all of us now knowing that we can be somebody, or as they say in 'Wicked,' our lives are unlimited," wrote Boulder High junior Ashley Kennedy, 16. "These are the things we learned this year and are things that can and will change our lives forever."