Menu
  • Employee Resources
  • Language
    Stay

Principal facilitates leading and learning at Coyote Creek

Coyote Creek Elementary School Principal Gigi Whalen

HIGHLANDS RANCH – When you ask Gigi Whalen what she enjoys most about her job, she is quick to answer it is the students. “Being around the kids–who wouldn't want to spend their days with kids? It's the best thing!” she exclaimed.

Whalen has always loved children, and knew she would pursue a career in education early on. She received a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Colorado-Denver.

Whalen brought a wealth of experience with her when she arrived in Douglas County, having spent 13 years working in public education, teaching elementary and middle school, and serving as a middle school dean. In 2009, Whalen became the Assistant Principal at Pine Lane Elementary School, and went on to lead Coyote Creek Elementary School in 2011.

Q & A with Gigi Whalen 

What was your first job?  
Secretary at a military hospital in Germany. 

If you had the opportunity to pursue another career, what would you choose? 
Singing.

Advice for a college graduate entering field of teaching:  
Make connections with the teachers around you - they have a wealth of knowledge - but also know that they can learn from you - you also have great things to share!  

Who inspires you?  
My son - couldn't love him any more.  

What is the last book you read?  
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

Who do you believe will be remembered for their impact on society during the early 21st century?  
Steve Jobs

What was your favorite subject in high school?  
Teacher's Assistant

Are you a cat or dog person?  
Dog

What was your first car?  
Chevy Chevette

Favorite store to browse?  
Macy's

Favorite Colorado getaway?  
Grand Lake

Favorite restaurant?  
Old Blinking Light

Favorite quote?  
"It is in difficult times that we see who people really are."

Is there something about you that would surprise your colleagues?
I used to be a professional singer.

During her first year as principal at Coyote Creek, Whalen worked with the school’s staff, parent-teacher organization and school accountability committee to identify a learning model that would implement personalized learning. As a result, Coyote Creek is now completing its third year as a “Leader in Me” school.

Based on Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the Leader in Me model offers personalized learning to students, guiding them to find their passion and interests, which in turn, helps them achieve, Whalen explains. Additionally, students are learning how to use the language from the 7 Habits discipline to express themselves in authentic and purposeful ways.

“It’s great to have a common language throughout the school, plus many parents are also familiar with the 7 Habits,” said Whalen, adding that she often hears about kids using the terminology at home, embracing the ability to express themselves in a positive way. “Kids will say to their parents, ‘how can we make this a win-win?””
 
Another aspect of the Leader in Me model Whalen touts is the growth that occurs when all students are encouraged to take on leadership roles. “We have students that organize assemblies, assist with field day, and read the morning announcements. I haven’t read the announcements in more than a year. The kids step up and do so well with the leadership concept, all of the time.”

Whalen also attributes the success of Coyote Creek students to a long standing staff, a supportive community and the overall small size of the school. Coyote Creek has an enrollment of just over 400 students, making it the smallest neighborhood elementary school in the Highlands Ranch area. 

Coyote Creek 6th-grader models "Coyote Creek Original" t-shirtA majority of the children who enter kindergarten at Coyote Creek remain enrolled at the school through their sixth-grade year. “I call these students Coyote Creek Originals; we have a tradition of giving these kids t-shirts so they can be proud of their connection to the school and serving as role models for younger kids.”

The feeling of a small town is ever-present at Coyote Creek. “We don’t have buses; children ride bikes and walk to school,” Whalen said. “I know most of the kids by name.” 

Whalen’s philosophy for leading the school is one of purpose. “Find out where every child is, and take them from there–help them make at least a year's growth from where they begin the year, and personalize their learning to make it meaningful and sustainable.”

“We stay positive even when things are hard,” she concluded.

Coyote Creek Elementary School video thumbnail image

January 7, 2015 | By SCPaulsen | Category: Elementary Education

District News

kids running outside as part of a race

DCSD is requesting parent input on the health and wellness of our students. Last year, DCSD received a large planning grant from Colorado Health Foundation in an effort to assess how the district supports students through the lens of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model (WSCC). The mission of this grant is to review the current state of DCSD's student health and wellness program, and then formulate a three to five-year plan based on stakeholders’ needs, the latest research, and best practices. As part of this process, we would like your input.

How are we doing?

We want to hear from you! How often do you prefer to receive email newsletters from DCSD? How can we improve the news and information you receive? This brief survey should only take a minute or two of your time. Thank you for giving us your input!

Tell us what you think, here!

 

glowing purple lights hover over trays of seedlings in a dark room

It may look like a plain, white shipping container was just parked on the backyard grounds of Mountain Vista High School. The contents of the container are anything but plain, though. Walking inside the container, different colors of ambient lighting glow, futuristic-looking equipment and tall towers are suspended from the ceiling, and the humidity level is set to 70 percent. The container has been recycled into a new kind of learning opportunity for students.