Personal, professional experiences shape principal’s philosophy
HIGHLANDS RANCH – Mary Page is the epitome of lifelong learning, and it was through the process of learning that she found her true calling as an educator, and role as principal of Plum Creek Academy.
Page received her undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance and studied French Art Song in Paris, France at La Conservatoire Superieur the summer after her college graduation. She relished performing and sought opportunities to be a soloist. Some of her teachers recognized she had additional potential, and placed her in roles where she found herself creating choreography or conducting rehearsals...contrary to her preference of performing.
The transition from stage to classroom began after the birth of Page’s daughter.
“I was singing in the chorus of La Boheme with Opera San Jose when my daughter came along,” Page said. “I wanted to have more time at home with her and started substitute teaching because I thought it would be flexible hours. And then, I fell in love with a special education kindergarten program. I knew that my professors had been right all along... I was a teacher, not a performer.“
Q & A with Mary Page
What was your first job?
If you had the opportunity to pursue another career, what would you choose?
What advice would you share with a college graduate entering field of teaching?
Who inspires you?
If you could uninvent one thing, what would it be?
What is the last book you read?
Have you recently seen a movie that left a lasting impression with you?
Who do you believe will be remembered for their impact on society during the early 21st century?
What was your favorite subject in high school?
What was your first car?
What is your favorite store to browse?
Do you have a favorite Colorado getaway?
What is your favorite restaurant?
What is your favorite quote?
Do you have any pets that enrich your life?
Page entered the Teacher in Residence program at Metropolitan State University, and earned her Special Education license. A masters degree in Educational Leadership and principal licensure from the University of Colorado followed, and it was during this time that Page realized that the influence of her older brother was her true source of inspiration. Doug was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 18 years old, and succumbed to suicide at age 21.
“Growing up with Doug was like having a life coach,” Page remembers. “He was the one person who taught me to follow my own moral compass, even when it wasn't the popular thing to do. I had no idea how significantly my relationship with Doug would anchor me in life and shape what it is I do today.”
Page began work in Douglas County as a severe needs special education teacher at Eagle Ridge Elementary School. She also served as a special education coordinator at the District level before taking the helm at Plum Creek Academy (PCA).
Students find their way to PCA through the individualized education plan (IEP) process, with the goal of supporting students in their learning and with successful transitions back to a less restrictive environment and post secondary preparedness. PCA provides a curriculum that is aligned to the Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum (GVC), while providing students a safe and supportive educational environment.
“When you walk in the doors of Plum Creek Academy, you will be greeted with a warm welcome and friendly faces,” Page said. “We are a school that thrives on positive relationships and dedication to meeting the needs of all students… the school is designed to meet the needs of students who are temporarily unable to participate in their neighborhood home high school. We offer a comprehensive researched-based program for students who experience emotional disabilities or autism. Every moment, big or small, is an authentic opportunity for learning. Being present is the best possible approach to helping students grow.”
A triumph for students came recently when Alternative Cooperative Education (ACE) Teacher Peggy White worked with her classes to develop business plan proposals focused on increasing suicide awareness. The ACE II class captured third place in a nationwide competition and received a $200 prize to use as seed money for their project.
Respect accompanies the pride that Page has in the teachers at PCA.
“I want to hear their perspective. I want them to feel their own influence in the building. I try to support them in their areas of interest and need. To be honest, they motivate me everyday,” Page shared. “There is no special education teacher who has a magic wand. Sometimes I think people want to fix what they perceive is wrong with the child. It's not that these students need to be fixed; they need to be accepted for who they are and celebrated for what they offer to their community in a way that only they can. In my opinion, all it takes to be successful with a special needs child is to see them as a person who wants to be happy, successful, and to feel that they belong.”
As for Page, she is continuing to learn, this time as a student in the Argosy Educational Leadership doctoral program. She expects to complete her dissertation and receive a Ph.D. in Spring 2017.
"I'm really hoping that the research I do will support systems and programs in DCSD for students with disabilities. I haven't solidified my research topic yet, but am thinking of the correlation between traditional discipline versus restorative practices on success with student behavior. This gets back to my core belief that every moment is an authentic learning opportunity."
While Page still loves music, and incorporates it into her life whenever possible, she knows she has found her true calling with her career in education.
“Working with children and seeing them succeed is a different kind of applause. It's one that lasts a lifetime.”