‘Life is change but growth is optional’ | VailDaily.com

‘Life is change but growth is optional’

Cindy Ramunno
Kira Horvath/Vail DailyRed Canyon High School teacher Judy Caligiuri helps students Brittany Riggin, 17, left, and Diana Feiler, 18, with their online financial aid applications during the school's college prep class on Tuesday.

EAGLE COUNTY Judy Caligiuri has helped Eagle County teenagers for over 20 years, first in her role as counselor at Battle Mountain High School, and most recently as a teacher and counselor at Red Canyon High School, the Eagle County School District’s only alternative high school. We asked some personal questions of one of your favorite educators:1. What are some of your favorite things to do? I got a renewed interest in bike riding this summer with a friend; snowshoeing up Beaver Creek; reading – I always have some counseling as well as a pleasure book going at the same time. I love to travel – going back to Italy is a goal. Spending time with friends and family has become more important as time goes by. I need my New York City fix at least twice a year. 2. Who are your parents? My maiden name was Keator. My dad passed away, but my mom is turning 90 in January and still lives in the house I grew up in, and still ‘has all her marbles’ she’s proud to tell us. She just sold her 1983 car with 50,000 miles that I’d fill up once a year with gas for her, so I hope she’s the genetic imprint for me so I have a bunch of good years left to work and play.3. Any brothers and/or sisters? I’m the youngest of four children and my siblings are much older than me, which has provided many laughs at family get togethers about the whether that was planned, but my mom still isn’t talking. I have two brothers, one who died of pancreatic cancer, and an older sister who I’m really close with and has always been there for me since I was a little girl.4. What has been your most embarrassing moment teaching? When I started at Battle Mountain, seniors ruled and they had this tradition then of ‘selling’ the freshmen class to seniors at a fundraiser. They included new teachers as well. All of us had to parade in front of the student body in the gymnasium, be put on the auction block and kids ‘bid’ on us for Slave Day. They made the slaves dress up and drop to their knees and bow to seniors all the next day. I had to wear two dozen balloons on my head and wear roller skates and a really short skirt. My mom still has that picture. 5. What was it like where you grew up? I was brought up in New Paltz, N.Y., in the Catskill Mountains about 60 miles north of New York City. Everybody knew everybody so as teenagers, we didn’t get away with much. We felt safe going anywhere in town. When I get things on the Internet about the days when kids stayed out til the street lights came on, drank water out of hoses, rode all over in the car without seatbelts, and not only knew, but were taken care of by neighbors, played wiffle ball with broomsticks as bats, and organized ‘kick the can’ with 30 kids showing up to play – that was my childhood in New Paltz. 6. As you were growing up, what were your parents like? My dad was involved with starting a recreation program for kids to spend their idle summer time, like Little League baseball. He volunteered at the fire department and he worked for IBM, where eventually all of us worked – me just summers in college. But my three siblings worked there long enough to retire from the company. My mom stayed home and took care of us and the house. It seemed there were always kids over. We created a ballfield in the empty lot next door to our house, complete with bases and a scoreboard and gobs of kids would be there for games. 7. What were you like in elementary school? I don’t think I was ever shy. We started elementary school in a house, much like the Edwards campus of Red Canyon. The new elementary school was attached to the high school, which housed grades 7-12, so the high schoolers were always helping out. I thought I was a big deal because my sister invited me to her high school classes and let me help decorate the gym for dances and stuff. My mom ‘made’ me start piano lessons in second grade. I was always at the baseball field in summer or the pool where my sister was a lifeguard. 8. Growing up, any humor? My brother Johnny thinks he’s a comedian. I remember holidays everyone was together and we still laugh about family memories. When my dad died, the four of us kids went out together and to be honest, the stories they told were like listening to a whole different family’s memories. They did different stuff before I came along and developed a memor.9. Growing up, any sad/hard times or situations? My dad worked as a butcher on Saturdays, and in return got our meat for the week. I’m guessing things were pretty tight and he was very proud of paying cash for our house, his car, etc. My mom is fond of saying there was a roof over our heads and plenty to eat and everyone was welcome to join us. But there wasn’t much room leftover for luxuries like a big family vacation.10. What were you like in middle and high school? I was involved in everything. As I’m answering these questions, I realize that I take after my dad. THAT knowledge would have saved me a lot of counseling hours. I played softball, was a cheerleader, involved in class and student body activities, worked weekends, kept score for the baseball team, you name it. But there were curfews – my father mortified me by picking me up from a dance I had a date for because I didn’t have my boots and it was snowing. They watched my every move, so I went a little overboard when I went away to college.11. Where did you go to college? I got my bachelor’s degree in eElementary and special education from State University College in Buffalo. Then I got my masters in learning disabilities from Adelphi University on Long Island. I got my PhD. in counseling at Colorado State University.12. When did you know what you wanted to pursue as a career? My kindergarten teacher remains a mentor in my memory and I think as early as then I knew I wanted to teach. When I got to college and student-taught, I realized I didn’t so much want to be with ‘self-sufficient’ kids as ones who needed that little extra push and self esteem support.13. What made you come here? I had traveled all over the west in the summer of 1976. My husband (at the time) moved here two years later and I followed at the end of the school year. I love this valley and I feel like it’s more my home than N ew York.14. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? That’s a tough one. I think I would be retired, maybe teaching in a college. I definitely want to live somewhere where there’s mixed ages, and lots of opportunities for cultural and learning activities. So some retirement community is out. I’d like to be closer to my daughter but I love the Colorado environment, so maybe a combination of places to work and play.15. What are some of your pet peeves in the classroom? I’m pretty patient. The things that bother teachers in traditional classrooms just don’t bother me at Red Canyon. Because we are more hands-on and my classes are activity- and project-based, I don’t have much trouble with classroom management. 16. What are some of the best things about Red Canyon? The staff I work with has exceptional qualities. They are kid- oriented first and content-driven second. Equally the best is working with Principal Wade Hill. I’ve had at least nine administrators and Wade is one of my top two. Last, but not least, the students. The kids here are bright, outspoken and creative. The school is small enough that I get to see and talk to all the students – something that became increasingly difficult for me at Battle Mountain.17. What’s your advice for high school students? Starting in peer counseling, my mantra for kids is that life is change but growth is optional. I guess the other one would be that the people who light up your life usually know where the switch is – try and spend time with them and not people who drain you because you never know when you won’t have that opportunity and they’ll be gone. Vail Daily, Vail Colorado COWho’s Judi CaligiuriSchool: Red Canyon High SchoolBirthday: Sept. 16Birthplace: Kingston, New YorkFamily: Single parent of one daughter, Caitlin Mary, who was born and raised in the Vail Valley. Ironically, Caitlin works in Manhattan. Judy says: “Living here for 30 years has offered me what I call my family of choice and I feel fortunate to have some best friends who are her ‘aunts, uncles and second moms.'”Years at Battle Mountain High School: 25 yearsYears at Red Canyon High School: 4th yearJobs: “I’m the counselor at Red Canyon but I also teach classes. The staff at Red Canyon is fabulous and I get to team teach with them so I get to see a combination of our expeditionary learning and Teacher Advancement Program reading and writing techniques modeled for me so when I do my own classes I can implement the best teaching skills. I’m not sure that my counseling background would make me as good a teacher as getting to implement what my colleagues teach me in cluster and then show me through working with them. I feel pretty lucky to be at Red Canyon.”

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