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Meet Justin Houck, Cherry Valley Elementary School

Cherry Valley Elementary School

FRANKTOWN – At first glance, one might think that Justin Houck carries one of the lighter loads among principals in Douglas County. Houck is the principal at Cherry Valley Elementary School, a school serving thirty students, located 15 miles south of Franktown.

Most of the staff members, including Houck, fill more than one role at the school. Houck, however, also serves as the assistant principal for Franktown, Larkspur and Sedalia elementary schools–bringing the total number of students he serves to more than 600.

The strong ties Houck has to Douglas County School District (DCSD) go back to when he was a child, and a student at Castle Rock Elementary School. He grew up in Douglas County, and graduated as a member of the first International Baccalaureate class at Douglas County High School.

Houck attended Colorado College, where he earned both his Bachelor of Arts in History, and his Master of Arts in Teaching-Secondary Social Studies. It was only after he began his college education that he realized he wanted to pursue a career in teaching and learning.

10 Facts about Justin Houck

  1. What was your first job?
    My first job was sorting books at the Philip S miller library in Castle Rock - I lasted about 6 weeks.
  2. If you had the opportunity to pursue another career, what would you choose?
    College professor–my passion is helping others to learn and grow, so I would definitely stay in the realm of education somehow.
  3. Advice for a college graduate entering field of teaching:
    Always do what is right for kids because it is right for kids. There are times when you will be presented with options that are convenient for adults, but if it is not in the best interests for children, it's not worth doing in the long run.
  4. Who inspires you?
    Frankly, everyone - I get inspired by listening to other people's thinking, watching how they work through problems, and gaining insight into their perspectives.
  5. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
    Slow time - there is never enough time in the day to get done what I wish to accomplish!
  6. What is the last book you read?
    I re-read The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. I learn something new every time I read it!
  7. What was your favorite subject in high school?
    Science - and what an odd coincidence that I had the opportunity to work with my high school science teacher when she joined the assessment department!
  8. Are you a cat or dog person?
    I love dogs but own a cat. I do like cats - they're very self sufficient which works great for my odd schedule!​
  9. Favorite store to browse?
    Amazon - you never know what rabbit hole you'll pop down with their recommendations!
  10. Favorite Colorado getaway?
    Anywhere outside - I didn't learn to appreciate our beautiful state until I taught in a classroom without windows.

“I was not at all interested in pursuing a career in education upon entering college, but then I took a practicum class geared toward the middle school experience in my second year, and I really enjoyed it,” Houck said.

After teaching at a traditional high school in Colorado Springs, Houck taught math and social studies at a small alternative high school in Littleton, where he had the opportunity to serve in several leadership roles.

When working in an administrative capacity, Houck recognized the potential he had to increase his contribution to the learning environment. He made the decision to return to his own studies and received an Education Specialist degree from the University of Northern Colorado.

In 2010, Houck arrived at DCSD, serving as a Data Management Specialist in the Assessment department.

“I wanted to have a greater impact on improving student support,” he said.

As he worked in this capacity, he developed an in-depth understanding of the factors that influence student performance. As time passed, he also realized that he missed interaction with kids. It was time to combine his administrative experience and teaching knowledge, and step into a leadership role at a school.

Houck did more than step - he jumped into his four roles with enthusiasm and a smile, noting “many of my previous positions have been quirky–and I always like a challenge–so the opportunity to be a part of four elementary schools was right up my alley!”

The challenge of working with four schools is something Houck embraces. He enjoys and appreciates the camaraderie that exists in DCSD, and says he has some great colleagues who provide awesome support.

At Cherry Valley, Houck is helping kids oversee the operations of the Cherry Valley Elementary Eggspress, an emerging operation that produces farm fresh eggs and fresh vegetables, and supporting a wellness initiative that has engaged the entire community.

“Our school community is so close and so strong,” remarked Houck, “We must all wear many hats (students, parents, and staff), and everyone pitches in to ensure we continue to heighten the quality of education we provide for all kids. When we had school-wide field trips in earlier this year, our parents worked very hard to provide transportation​ so we could spare the expense of a bus. With a budget as small as ours, this is huge!”

“I have two guiding philosophies,” Houck shared. “One, expect the best for kids, expect the best from kids; and two, always keep improving–there is never a day in which everything is perfect. This is true for kids and adults alike.”

While the school is small, Houck is passionate about provide the technology and resources necessary to establish the foundation for a world class education. He keeps an eye on the budget and remains focused on allocating resources to areas that will provide kids the knowledge they need in middle school, high school, and beyond.

When asked what he enjoys most about his job, Houck said, “Helping kids to grow into happy, healthy, and successful adults. I also love helping others and teaching them something new. Although elementary school is one of many stepping stones toward adulthood, it is one of the most important!”

Cherry Valley Elementary School video thumbnail

December 9, 2014 | By SCPaulsen | Category: Cherry Valley Elementary School, Elementary Education

District News

Last month, the Board of Education passed a resolution tasking the Superintendent to convene a task force inclusive of members of the general public and staff members. This task force will develop a survey for parents of students eligible for special education services and a survey for staff members who serve students eligible for special education services.

Board members sitting at the dais

CASTLE ROCK - On February 6, the Douglas County School District (DCSD) Board of Education confirmed its commitment to begin the process of seeking approval from voters for additional local funding.

“Our children need a bond and mill levy override (MLO) to be passed in 2018, beyond any doubt,” said DCSD Board of Education President David Ray. “We want to move forward immediately with the necessary processes and collaboration with our community in order to finalize a formal funding package.”

Eleven Douglas County School District schools have been named recipients of the 2017 John Irwin Schools of Excellence Awards. The John Irwin awards are given to schools that demonstrate exceptional academic achievement over time. These schools received an "Exceeds Expectations" rating on the Academic Achievement indicator of the School Performance Frameworks reflecting exceptional performance in Math, English Language Arts, and Science.