2019 Apple Awards representatives

March 15, 2019
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On Saturday, April 6th, HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-Op will join the Douglas County School District, our charter authorizer, to honor the 2019 Apple Awards recipients. Apples Awards recognize and celebrate the excellent and innovative teachers and faculty in the district. This year Ms. Alejandra Darocha and Ms. Lynne Dare are HOPE's representatives.

Personal passion for education

Article in YourHub/The Denver Post

At age 12, Ms. Alejandra Darocha knew she wanted to be a Special Education Teacher. She watched her younger sister struggle and saw how speech therapy helped her.

“That led me to be a lifelong learner, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology in Mexico and then working in the industry for a few years before coming to the United States (Michigan) to study English, later joining a teacher exchange program in North Carolina and eventually receiving my Master’s in Special Education,” said Ms. Darocha.

Ms. Darocha moved to Colorado to start her family with her husband she met while in Michigan. She has been a part of HOPE, as a Moderate Needs Teacher, for nearly a decade, this year serving K-8th grade students in several HOPE Learning Centers. Ms. Darocha previously taught in two other districts in the state, including Denver Public Schools, and also in North Carolina. 

“HOPE is one of the first education environments where I feel I can easily modify student's curriculum to better meet the needs of my students,” said Ms. Darocha. “Being bilingual is also an asset to the HOPE Learning Centers I work with who have a high population of ESL (English as a Second Language) students (80+ percent). Nearly 50 percent of HOPE’s overall student population are ESL learners.”

Immigrating to this country from Mexico was a transition for both Ms. Darocha and her family. She reached a point in her life, after receiving her Bachelor’s degree and working, where she wanted to explore the world.

“Moving to live abroad and starting again in a foreign country is a terrifying but also an exciting experience. It continues to be hard to have my extended family live so far away (in Mexico) and miss milestones happening in my life as I have grown my family,” said Ms. Darocha. “When I see my HOPE students struggling, I tell them my life story and my struggles in adapting to a new country. I explain to them that if you really want something, and you have a plan for it, you really can accomplish something big for yourself.”

Ms. Darocha’s colleagues describe her as someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty. She is known for her attention to detail and helps her teammates frequently with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs). She additionally assists HOPE being an interpreter in meetings, translating documents and conducting evaluations for bilingual students. In fact, Ms. Darocha went back to school to become a certified translator/interpreter through a program at Aurora Community College.

“Her ability to connect with students and create trusting relationships with all who know her are evidence of her effectiveness,” said Ms. Darocha’s supervisor, Ms. Paula Arduini. Ms. Arduini also notes that Ms. Darocha is always positive and delightful, and those around her enjoy her “witty” personality.

“We are a tight-knit team who work well together,” said Ms. Darocha. “HOPE is definitely where I belong. I can’t see myself anywhere else. I enjoy the variety of work and the different faces in the multiple locations I visit each week.”

At the heart of all of Ms. Darocha’s work is her students. She really cares about them and their families. Ms. Darocha says that becoming a parent herself has helped her become a better educator.  

“I truly empathize with the families I work with and the struggles they face. It is important for us to work together to build a plan for a child’s growth,” said Ms. Darocha. “I want our families to understand their rights and are provided the best possible service. Many families I work with tell me when I sit down with them that this is the first time that any educator has explained their child’s learning style and how it can best be served.”

The most rewarding part of Ms. Darocha’s role is to attend HOPE’s Graduation. Though she doesn’t work with high school students this year, it warms her heart to see students she has worked with when they were younger cross the stage and earn their diploma.

“It signifies so much they have overcome to succeed,” said Ms. Darocha.  

HOPE has selected Ms. Darocha to be one of their Apple Awards representatives. This is an honor that recognizes outstanding educators in the Douglas County School District, who is HOPE’s charter authorizer. Ms. Darocha will be honored at an event on April 6th at the Vehicle Vault in Parker.

A life’s work

Article in YourHub/The Denver Post

You will find Ms. Lynne Dare at her HOPE Learning Center, Front Range Academy in Broomfield, every weekday morning at 6 a.m. There is not one day that goes by that Ms. Dare is not excited about the day ahead. She may be well past retirement age, but her passion for this work is unwavering and keeping her young at heart.

“I learn something new every day, and I would have it no other way,” said Ms. Dare, who has been involved in education since 1994 and HOPE for 14 years, where she currently serves as the Learning Center Director. “And I don’t think I could be a part of a learning environment that is not like HOPE. There are so many youth who need to go at a pace that suits their learning style. It is important for each student to be proud of their individuality, both academically and socially. When they do, they perfect skills and find success. The students at HOPE just need someone to care about them and not pass on any judgments.”

Ms. Dare says her work at HOPE’s Front Range Academy comes naturally to her. Early in her life, she injured her arm and had to work very hard to overcome it. This developed her competitive spirit, that has helped in many aspects of her life, including her work at HOPE. She decided to get into the business of serving at-risk students when she saw many students in her community falling through the cracks in other learning environments.

“There are truly no ‘bad kids.’ Our students just need support. This builds trust and honesty. I don’t want to fail my students, and they learn they don’t want to fail me,” said Ms. Dare, who had previously spent two decades in the insurance industry.

Part of the success of Ms. Dare’s HOPE Learning Center is due to the staff who work around her.

“The longevity of my staff has contributed to our success. I am fortunate to have found people who are doing this to make a difference, and not for a paycheck,” said Ms. Dare.

Of HOPE at Front Range Academy’s 66 current high school students, six students had dropped out of their previous schools before enrolling with HOPE and nearly half are over age but under credit. More than half also have tough personal circumstances, including dealing with homelessness, having learning disabilities, dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, and more.

“Graduation day is one my favorite days. To see the pride on the faces of my students is priceless and makes what I do worth it!” said Ms. Dare.

Ms. Dare says her and her staff have worked hard to develop creative teaching techniques that resonate with students.

“This school year, our students have begun teaching electives in areas of interest. A group recently taught a Positivity Class and others are teaching a Music and Movie Production Class. This has helped our students gain leadership. It has also helped our staff gain further respect as the students are learning the challenges of teaching,” said Ms. Dare.

After high school, the graduates at HOPE’s Front Range Academy go on to do great things. One of whom spoke at HOPE’s Senior Day in January. He has recently graduated from the Denver Police Academy. When he was at HOPE, there were several times he was discouraged and wanted to give up. But the HOPE at Front Range Academy team kept encouraging him.

“He is so thankful that we stuck with him as his diploma was a stepping stone to this next exciting phase of his life,” said Ms. Dare.

This spring, in honor of Ms. Dare’s hard work and dedication to HOPE, her peers nominated her to be one of HOPE’s 2019 Apple Awards representatives. This is a program that honors outstanding educators in Douglas County School District. HOPE is a charter school of the Douglas County School District. An event to honor this year’s representatives will take place on April 6th at the Vehicle Vault in Parker.

“Ms. Dare is completely committed to her students. Through her boundless energy, she insures that students feel welcome at HOPE’s Front Range Academy and that they know they are capable learners,” said Dr. Susan McAlonan, HOPE’s Director of Student Services and Academic Liaison.

“She is extremely loyal,” said Ms. Jorji Sharp, HOPE at Front Range Academy Teacher and former Apple Awards Finalist. “Everyone at the center knows Ms. Dare has confidence in them, causing them to believe it for themselves.”