Teachers at Castle Rock’s Renaissance Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound School regularly expose their students to outdoor experiences designed to challenge and enlighten. On Sept. 6 and 7, a dozen of them led by example.
The team completed the 200–mile, overnight Ragnar Relay Series from Copper Mountain to Snowmass. The series, held in locations across the country, involves teams of six to 12 who run in shifts. Each participant runs three times at varying distances and terrain.
“As teacher and educators, we are walking away with so much more knowledge and understanding for kids, especially as we get ready to send them out on these adventure ed programs,” teacher Lindsey Burris said. “It definitely has given us new eyes to look at our kids through. We were in that vulnerable place they are.”
Lauren Gunn, a non-runner when she agreed to be part of the team, agrees.
“We walk the path, and try and do the same things (our students) do,” she said. “Even if we’re not runners, we’re not letting fear stop us.”
Students at the K-6 school participate in outdoor education adventures twice a year. Teachers said the overnight odyssey gives them an experience to draw from when asking students to rise to a challenge.
“I can say, ‘I want you to push yourself to the point you are stepping out and taking a risk. It’s OK to fail because you have people around you that will support you,’ ” Burris said.
That support from their fellow teachers during the 200-mile run was vital, the participants said. As one teammate ran, the others drove the course in a van looking for their fellow runner, then stopped to cheer that person on.
“In the middle of the night, I was getting delusional I was so tired,” Gunn said. “But when you felt like there was nothing left, suddenly you would see your van pulled over and there they were — all cheering.”
The support expanded to include teacher Hanni Gilbert, who had to drop out of the race when she suffered a debilitating migraine the morning of the event. Teammates rallied to take her legs of the race, and ran with a T-shirt bearing her name.
Students also urged their teachers on toward success before race day.
“For me, having those encouraging words and the visualization of their little faces just pushed me that extra mile,” Burris said.
The experience not only enabled the teachers to relate more intimately to their students’ outdoor challenges, but brought them closer as a teaching team.
“People ask, ‘What place did you finish? What was our overall time?’ ” said first-year Renaissance teacher Amanda Deegan. “I don’t even know because that wasn’t what it was about.
“I feel like I have a family at this school. It’s not just a job. These are people I’ve been through a lot with already.”