January 18, 2022

Succeeds Prize: Warren Tech wins for technology-enabled learning

The high school program built an entire theater for live sound and event production classes.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Inside the Warren Tech South campus, the Live Sound and Event Production class looks more like a concert, with students like Vivian Sikorsky learning on professional-grade equipment in a venue constructed specifically for them.

“It’s amazing to me that they built an entire theater for this class,” said Sikorksy, a senior.

At Warren Tech’s new South Campus, Jeffco Public Schools built a program based on industries that need more workers, said instructor Ron Gordon.

“I think that’s the Warren Tech model,” Gordon said. “We try to recognize where there’s a need in industry and do our best to fill that need.”

He knows the event production industry because he worked in it for years before coming to Warren Tech to teach.

“A lot of guys are retiring and need fresh talent,” Gordon said.

Gordon fosters that talent through an immersive experience, with students using soundboards and creating lighting routines for musicians performing on stage.

“It is a totally unique program,” he said. “I don’t think it exists anywhere else in the country quite like this program. Going deep in the live sound engineering, in the light programming for concerts.”

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Sikorsky said this caters to her love for music.

“You learn about it, apply it, and you learn more about it. It’s really cool,” Sikorsky said. “It’s like a weird little ecosystem that this class is.”

This is just one of dozens of programs within Warren Tech’s three campuses in Jefferson County. The school is a half-day program educating students from other high schools in trades like video production, studio recording, hospitality and physical therapy.

“Let me tell you, it is probably the coolest thing I have done,” said Sierra King.

King is a junior enrolled in the aviation program, where she can learn to fly a plane in class with technology rarely found in high schools.

“Our teacher really fought for us to get those big flight simulators, which is super helpful because it gets us flight hours,” King said.

She said the simulators make a huge difference when she gets in the cockpit of a real plane during her private flying lessons.

“I’m definitely still nervous every single time,” she said. “I’ll sit there. We’re doing everything. We’re doing the pre-flight checklist, getting ready, and I sit there and I’m still nervous, but I know what I’m doing.”

Through the aviation program, Warren Tech is also helping to change a field dominated by men, King said.

“We’re super worried that there’s not gonna be any women, and the fact that it’s bringing in more women for us is crazy,” she said.

This is a school changing the future by employing techniques honed in the past. Warren Tech has been around since 1973, operating under a single concept, according to Associate Principal Eric Stout.

“Students thrive with relevance,” Stout said. “It clicks on a part of their brain that helps them become more engaged, helps them retain more. Students become more active in their own education.”

King said class is both fun and interesting.

“It’s not a normal school class where we have to study and take notes,” she said. “We learn as we go, and that’s what makes Warren Tech amazing for us.”

9NEWS partners with a group called Colorado Succeeds, created by business leaders from around the state. Each year, they award The Succeeds Prize to six school programs to celebrate innovation.

Warren Tech wins this year’s Succeeds Prize for Technology-Enabled Learning, presented by Ball Corp.

“I think what Warren Tech has done that helped us to win the Colorado Succeeds Prize that I think more school districts hopefully can learn from is just that idea of big-picture thinking,” Stout said.

The Succeeds Prize comes with a $15,000 cash prize and year-long support for sharing their story with other schools around the state. 9NEWS features one winner on the first Friday of each month throughout the school year.

“I think it’s a very appropriate award,” Sikorsky said. “It’s a very different learning experience.”

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