Stephanie Gail Rossi
Currently, I am retired. I retired in May 2020 after being a social studies educator for 40 years.
∙MASTER OF ARTS: University of Colorado at Denver Sept. 93 – May 1997 Social Science Thesis: Multicultural Curriculum: Does It Encourage Critical Thinking in Adolescents? Created Secondary Course: Indigenous Studies: Native Populations of the World ∙BACHELOR OF ARTS: University of Northern Colorado Sept. 1976 – May 1980 Major: Social Science Minor: *Russian Language
In the past five years, I have donated both time and money to national and state congressional campaigns. I have canvassed, written postcards, and distributed campaign literature for local elections. I also donated money during the recent presidential election season (2020) to a variety of organizations.
Colorado Education Association (CEA); Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA); Board Member of the Jefferson County Education Association. Was also a board member of Facing History and Ourselves. Currently, I am a member of JCEA Retired.
I was actively involved in organizing for JCEA for many, many years as I really enjoy helping people understand the collective power they have as members of a democratic society. I represented and advocated teachers for twenty years as member of the bargaining team and negotiated contracts as both a chair, member of the committee and Vice President of JCEA. Over the duration of my career, I testified for and against education legislation at the statehouse in Denver and have proudly done so.
As a former social studies teacher, my active participation and being civil in my civic engagement is very important to me. Democracy asks that the people participate in their civic society and I celebrate the freedom that is contained in civic participation. We citizens get to come together and listen to ideas other than our own, understand that the people speaking are just as passionate as I am, that they too are participants in a democracy and by listening to them, I learn about how they come to their own conclusions. I like to do the work necessary to not only collaborate and compromise but within that energy-filled exchange of ideas, philosophies and principles, I thrive and ferret out common places where we can work to resolve our differences without attacking each other personally. I find it sad the way public discourse has dissolved into ad hominem attacks, petty jabs and purity standards that few if any can achieve. We all lose when we do not listen and talk with each other - not at each other and I would prefer to help create a win-win scenario for all involved, and while some may think that is naive, I believe in it firmly until all other options are completely exhausted.
I operate with a single principle: difference is not synonymous with deficient. Other's opinions and values reflect a human being before me who is just as passionate as I am, and I want to know and understand (deeply) how they arrived at those conclusions. I also believe that I do not need to make others wrong in order to make me right. I have a personal anecdote I wish to share to demonstrate this philosophy. A former student Austin Ness sent me this letter in May of this year as I was retiring. Austin graduated four years ago and I asked him if it was alright to share this with you. "Of the near endless memories I have of my time in the collective annex of WRHS with you, one that consistently springs to my mind comes from your AP Psychology course my senior year. I can’t remember why the topic came up in such a course, but during one of our discussions another student, XXXXX XXXXX, commented on what he took to be the over-reach of the “femi-nazis”. Understandably, many of the students in class had a quick and impassioned reaction to this term, and the class threatened to devolve into a shouting match. However, you were able to wrangle it back into order (well, as much control as any high school class has order). You admitted that the term had initially engendered a similar reaction in you, but that you took a deep breath and a moment to collect your thoughts and asked the student to clarify what he meant. While his further explanation left a lot to be desired, quashing that initial spark of emotion ended up allowing us to have a genuinely interesting conversation about feminism and areas it could go too far, fall short of its goals, and need to be reimagined. I remember this instance fondly, I think, because it's so out of place with our modern debate. Initial, emotional reactions are all we can muster today, partly due to the 24/7 news cycle. Nuance and understanding, even if it ends in continued disagreement, is lost to us. You and I never had this difficulty when we talked, so I’d never had the chance to see you so effectively reframe an outburst into a conversation before this. In fact, this is a skill I've seen multiple of my college professors fail to employ on the same level. To me, it’s a consistent reminder to slow my mind, take a breath, and listen to learn rather than to reply, and I think it has benefited me in many of my classes and my own learning. " Throughout my career as an educator, I wanted all my students to know they belonged; they were entitled to their opinion (with facts cited to back them up of course) and that an open, honest discourse is necessary to maintain the health of a democratic society. I poignantly remember the days after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and a young man in my class proclaimed "All of those people deserved to die. I don't feel sorry for any of them." The class took a collective breath and my thoughts raced as the emotional outburst was surely one option, and yet I said. "Can you please help me understand how you believe this and what led you to this conclusion?" He explained himself - and it had to do with the events of Ruby Ridge and Waco, and by the end of the year, he apologized for his comments about Oklahoma City. That dear child was truly my teacher in helping me understand the skill of listening and asking more questions over assumptions and condemnation.
SKILL #1: GATHER DATA I really believe it is very important to collect all necessary information (documents, facts, data, numbers - any information that pertains to the topic) to provide the opportunity to make a well-informed decision. As a bargainer, I had to have a wide-variety of information before me - budgetary numbers from the state and the District, survey data from teachers I represented, bargaining information about what other Districts were asking for, etc. and use all of this information to help frame a sound bargaining position and help create an ratifiable agreement. SKILL #2: LISTEN As a member of the bargaining team, I felt it was my responsibility to listen to all members - from both ends of the spectrum. As the bargaining chair, I recall visiting a high school and listened for two hours as a few members aggressively told me what needed to be done and how I needed to bargain. I listened to them get all of their frustrations out (and I did not personalize anything). I have learned that there are many, many reasons why people will lash out at someone. Often it is out of frustration and I was simply the person nearby. When people feel they are not being honored, or appreciated, they oftentimes lash out at someone they are comfortable with. It is safe, and so I "put up my shields" and work to actively listen and ask more questions when I did not understand. I began to address many of their concerns and was interrupted by a teacher and as he began to challenge me, his peers asked him to quiet down. "She listened to us for two hours so let her answer." As I walked out of that meeting, one of the most vocal critics walked me to my car and thanked me for coming "to the proverbial Lion's Den." I asked him to join our team, and he declined but got another member of his faculty to join. It was a good day! SKILL 3: HARD ON ISSUES AND SOFT ON PEOPLE- Tough decisions must be made when I agreed to be a bargainer, to be on a hiring committee, whenever I stepped into a leadership role. I worked with limited resources and budgets, with ideological purists in labor issues, with apathetic members who just wanted an agreement reached - but none of those issues were one person's fault. Complex problems oftentimes create complex solutions and I believe in communicating often to keep people informed, as best we can, which leads to skill #4. SKILL #4: COMMUNICATION - Keep people as informed as you can, know your audience and respect your teams and the tasks you have been assigned. SKILL #5: RECOGNIZE WE ARE HUMAN -Emotions and reason do not mix well and yet they both emerge when difficult topics are being worked on. Processing information when solving problems is critically important, and I believe a process must be honored. As a member of the bargaining team, I recall hearing "I hate this process it is tedious and takes time and why can we not just get to solving the problem." Members from both sides of the table, would make comments like this. And whether it was because I had bargained for so many years and understood the process, and of recognizing the role time plays in creating a ratifiable document, or because I was the oldest, I counseled members about the importance of time. Good wine and cheese need time and the historian in my reminded people that the Founding Fathers worked on the Constitution for four years and still they did not have the Bill of RIghts in the document. That came a few years later after members of this new society saw what needed to be tinkered with and what truly needed to be enshrined in a document such as the US Constitution. Now, that all being said - time is not something to be used to delay, or prevent a solution from being achieved - so I manage the process as best I can ( to both honor the time needed to craft a good agreement, to allow people the time they may need to think out loud, to get frustrated, and then when we need to push through - do and get the work done. It is a balancing act that I believe in the end more accurately ensures a better agreement. SKILL #6: Celebrate in the end the good work of the people involved and thank them for their work, time and commitment.