Thursday, December 21, 2017


If you’re an aspiring actor, you’ll likely make your way to Los Angeles. If country music is your jam, Nashville is your place. But, if you want to try your hand at professional running, chances are that you’ll pass through Flagstaff at some point. And for those of us lucky enough to call this place home, we get to reap the benefits that attract runners from around the world – thin mountain air, pristine trails, and a community of runners fostered by Team Run Flagstaff (TRF).

Since 2006, runners of all ages and abilities have been gathering at a local track on Tuesday nights for a low-stress, structured workout led by professional coaches. Coaches like TRF Founder Mike Smith (he also serves as the current Board President), the NCAA National Men’s Coach of the Year of the two-time National Cross Country Champion NAU Lumberjacks. At one time, it was a big deal to get 10 or 20 runners out to a practice, but today, TRF is 250 members strong and has a variety of programs and events. Cristy and I sat down with Mike and our good friend Erin Strout, the TRF Executive Director, to learn more.

Community Program
The bread and butter of TRF, Tuesday night track practices are a mainstay in this community. I love that the workouts are structured by time, which means that if you’re running a 60-second “all out” pace, one person might make it all the way around the track, another might make it halfway, and you just end up where you end up. Running is an activity with a lot of judgment on it, and this method creates a safer environment. It’s just as inspiring to see someone with Olympic dreams fly by, as it is to see the person who is new to the sport chasing their own personal goals.

Kids Run Flagstaff (KRF)
In a town full of runners, it’s only natural that kids would start gravitating to the sport. The year-round KRF program is for 5th-12th graders and is designed to create an environment where kids are having fun running and instilling a lifelong love of the sport. Although KRF is non-competitive, they are committed to supporting the runners who want to be competitive and they are careful not to interfere with the school running programs. The KRF program is relaunching in January with a new coach, so stay tuned. One thing that won’t change….the amazing Under Armour sponsorship that gifts each KRF participant with $400 of gear!

Step into Running 
When I moved to Flagstaff 10 years ago, my lungs and self-confidence were not ready for Flagstaff running. Through the wonders of social media, I “met” Erin on Twitter, and decided to make my foray back into running by meeting her in real life at Step into Running. I am so proud of everything Erin and TRF have done with this program, which is ideal for adult beginner runners, or those who have been away from the sport for a while. It doesn’t matter if you run a 5-minute mile or a 12-minute mile, you are a runner, and Step into Running reinforces that message. It’s offered twice a year in six-week sessions, and includes SO much more than just the running – nutrition, flexibility, strength, etc.

TRF Pro 
These are the runners who come to Flagstaff with a dream, and TRF Pro gives these elite professionals an opportunity to pursue that dream and connect with this community. I’ll never forget showing up to a track practice and having Nick Arciniaga lead us in warmups. He had just placed 7th in the Boston Marathon. How cool is that? There are stories like that all over this town, and these TRF Pro runners are making a mark on our community

Downtown Mile

Lenners Family at the 2017 Downtown Mile
I don’t have a legacy in many things in my life, but this is one that I’m so proud of….I’ve completed every TRF Fourth of July Downtown Mile since the race inception in 2012. I’d be hard-pressed to think of another community event I love more. Our whole family (even our six-year-old) dons our best red, white, and blue to take on the mile race through the streets of downtown Flagstaff. If you haven’t experienced this one, it should be part of your new holiday tradition!

We’re about to put a bow on 2017, and for many of us, it was an emotionally taxing roller coaster that would sometimes slow down, but never really stopped. “It’s a really crucial time for everybody to take care of themselves,” Mike said about the times we’re living in right now. He added, “you can’t do any good in society if you don’t take care of yourself.” So, lace up those running shoes and practice some self care

How to Help:

Membership: Buying a membership is the number one way to support TRF. For just $125/year you get to be involved in supportive and dynamic running community, with professional coaches to boot. There are even some local elite athletes who buy memberships to support the club, but never come to track practice because it doesn’t work with their training schedule.

Cash Donations: Donations will be used for TRF programming, and one of the most urgent needs is a paid coaching position for KRF.  You can easily make an online donation (or buy a membership) here:

Sponsorships: The Downtown Mile is an incredible opportunity to get exposure for your business, so consider becoming a sponsor. Or, if you know a kid whose family might not be able to afford KRF, consider offering them a sponsorship.

Volunteer: Programs like the Downtown Mile and Step into Running are always in need of volunteers to make things run smoothly!

For more information about any of these opportunities, visit, and like their Facebook page!

The Zeller kids leave their mom in the dust at the 2016 Downtown Mile

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Month 11: THANKFUL

For Month 11, we want to share our gratitude for this strange year, despite it all. Wishing you all a restful holiday. Get your tax credit donations in, and fire up your enthusiasm and goodwill heading into Month 12!

JACKI: “Thankful” can be an overused term that easily loses its meaning (I mean, not as much as #blessed, but that’s a different story for a different day), but as I look back on the past 11 months since we gave birth to 48 Months, it’s the word that rises to the top for me. And here we are, in this month of thanks, on the precipice of hitting the one-year mark since our world was fundamentally changed. While each day brings a new cringeworthy headline, there are also so many stories of hope, courage, and perseverance. Instead of focusing on a new organization for this month (stay tuned for December though!), we wanted to share some of the things we’re thankful for, and hopefully inspire you to take a moment to be thankful for your blessings. Kidding. 
In no particular order (and not including my family because of course I’m thankful for them, except when they make my house a mess):
  • Pod Save America: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….this podcast gives me life and I’ve learned so much. Please join me in becoming a Friend of the Pod.
  • Strong Women: This whole #MeToo thing is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, but because of the courage of so many women, I have hope that it WILL get better. 
  • Cristy: My 48 Months (and life in general) partner in crime. She couldn’t get rid of me if she tried and I will never stop being thankful that she came into my life. 
  • AZ Charitable Tax Credit: Arizona is politically wacky. But we somehow have an extraordinarily generous dollar-for-dollar tax credit program. If you donate the maximum of $800, you get that ALL back on your AZ tax filing. It literally could not be easier. Join me in making a difference for an organization that you love.  (More information can be found here:
  • 40: I had a big birthday this year and got to celebrate with many of my favorite humans. Being surrounded by amazing friends is the cure for almost anything.
  • Body Pump: You are my workout spirit animal, you keep me sane, and stop me from punching things. 
  • Donald Trump: Wait, hear me out. I will never be thankful that this monster ascended to the highest office in the land, but in the spirit of finding bright spots, I have now given my time, money, or goods to 10 non-profit organizations in my community. I doubt 48 Months would exist without President Trump, and for the opportunity to become more involved in my community, I am thankful.
  • Kim Crawford: You get me through the highs. You get me through the lows. You just get me.
  • YOU: We don’t exactly have advertisers beating down our door to try and capitalize on our insanely high blog traffic. But, that’s not why we do this! To those who take the time to read our stories, and join us in helping local non-profits – thank you! We’re inspired by the stories we hear and we can’t wait to keep sharing them.

CRISTY: Echoing much of what Jacki said above. President Cheeto Tiny Hands is a sociopathic, sex-offending excuse for a human being.  However, here we are, and despite it all, there’s so much gratitude for 2017.  When we started this we said MAYBE HE WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN and we’ll eat the crow. Nope. Will be serving up standard turkey fare this week. No crow in sight.
But seriously. Practicing gratitude is an exercise that I try to work into my routines (some days more successfully than others). Generosity of time and resources always… ALWAYS.. boomerangs back and in ways that cannot always be anticipated. If I can impart one piece of 45-year old lady advice, this is what I hope is heard.  Give wildly and without hesitation. You’ll feel young, alive and like your footprint on this earth matters. Give slightly beyond your comfort zone and see what happens. Please try it and let me know what happens. I’m so serious about this.
Here’s my grateful list. Like Jacki, my family isn’t on the list, because #duh. Unlike Jacki I put her first on my list because I’m an amazing friend like that.
  • Jacki/Jax/JLen: She’s the Kim to my Crawford, the sour to my sweet (kidding), the Pioneer to my Woman, and the general icing on my cupcake every single day.  Thankful doesn’t begin to describe what she means to me.  
  • NPR: I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times or my middle age, but many days I’ve got NPR on instead of music. Singing along to the (wordless) Morning Edition theme song loudly in my kitchen is a particular favorite of my children. Unbiased, need-to-know headlines delivered by the voices I trust. It’s a lifeline in our sea of chaos.
  • Together We Will, Northern Arizona:  My Resisterhood!  I have met some of the most powerful, committed and funny women that I have every known since Election Day.  We rally, protest, raise money for causes that Donald Trump hates, tweet, drink wine, and plot the destruction of our enemies every damn day.  You know who you are and you rock my world.
  • Public School Tax Credit.  Like the Charitable Tax Credit (see above), Arizona tax filers can give $400 (joint filers) or $200 (single filers) to any public district or charter school in Arizona. Schools use the money to provide the “extras” to their students. Education in Arizona is a drought and these tax credit dollars are welcome sprinkles of rain. It’s a win/win dollar for dollar tax credit.  Visit for more information.  Write your check before 12/31/17 so you can claim the credit on your 2017 state tax return.
  • Haven Montessori:  I have worked at this lovely school for almost ten years.  After a few successive retirements, basically the cheese stands alone, and I was promoted to the Executive Director position this year.  The current state of the world has reignited my passion for the work that we do. Children are the future, we have to give them the tools they need to deal with the problems they are being handed.  Maria Montessori developed a curriculum addressing the whole child, with a strong emphasis on citizenship and community. Every day we work to instill these values in our students with the hope that when they leave us they will have the confidence, and a lifetime love of learning, that enables them to tackle the issues they will face.   My work is a labor of love and I am grateful to my core for the talented teachers and staff, the supportive parents, and the amazing children I am privileged to know.
  • Orange Theory Flagstaff: I ran for years and trashed my knee. I put on pounds, and Daffy Donald and his band of morons sent me into a high calorie downward spiral.  I joined OTF in August and I report at 5am at least 5 days a week to work out my stress, my anger, and get my body healthy. I’m grateful for the community, the coaches, the loud Top 40 tunes, and the copious amounts of sweat. 
  • Game of Thrones: Yeah, I binge-watched all seven seasons starting in August and just finished. It changed my life.  #WinterIsHere #ButNotInFlagstaff #YouKnowEverythingJonSnow
  • SNL and Alec Baldwin: Too many great skits to name that keep us laughing through our tears.
  • The Women Writers, Comedians, Artists and Activists.  Sara Schaefer, Tess Rafferty, Karen Fiorito, Lindy West.. SO MANY MORE I CANNOT NAME.
  • Family and Friends: I lied. I have to mention them. My husband, my kids, my parents, my siblings, my nieces and nephews. I’m #blessed with more goodness in this respect than any human probably deserves. My mother lives on in the love and fun that we have with each other, as well as our commitment to community service. I have the merriest band of friends that has roots in every part of my life. I am eternally grateful for all of you
Where is your gratitude this holiday season? Where will you share it? Please post your comments.

Happy Thanksgiving from 48 Months! Only 37 more to go!! 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Month 10: Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona

We are in double-digit months now. Time flies when you’re having fun? Ok, maybe not, but while DJT is tweeting about the NFL, butchering the pronunciation of Puerto Rico, playing whack-a-mole with his White House staff, restricting birth control coverage, and generally not doing anything to help America, there are still good people doing very good work out there. So let’s try and focus on that for just a moment or two, and reduce the chaos to a quiet buzz in the back of our minds.

Haven Montessori girls at morning practice
For Month 10, Jacki and I chose Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona (there are GOTR organizations in almost every community....if you aren't in Flagstaff you can surely find one). This is an organization near and dear to my heart, as my daughter participated for three years, and I’ve known dozens of girls in our community who have benefited from the fabulously positive messages of this program.

Jacki and I had the opportunity to correspond with Marney Babbitt, Council Director for GOTR N. Arizona.  According to Marney, “Girls on the Run inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based positive youth development (PA-PYD) program that is designed to enhance girls’ social, psychological and physical skills and behaviors to successfully navigate life experiences. The program’s intentional curriculum (for girls in 3rd-5th and 6th-8th grades) places an emphasis on developing competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution in young girls through lessons that incorporate running and other physical activities. The life skills curriculum is delivered by caring and competent coaches who are highly trained. The impact of the Girls on the Run program is fully dependent on 108 volunteer coaches who deliver the program each fall throughout Northern Arizona.”

I don’t know what you were like as a preteen, but my name may as well have been "Awkward Insecure Hot Mess Schaefer."  Convinced that I was ugly, fat, and the ultimate nerd loser (complete with glasses and probably the worst hair and clothes known to the 1980s), I stumbled through those awkward years in complete survival mode. How I wish I had had a program like this when I was in 5th or 6th grade and beginning to navigate the world of cliques, hormones and the pitfalls of middle school.  Having a 6th grade daughter now, I worry constantly about the social pressures and negative body image messages that pummel her on a daily basis.  Programs like GOTR help to combat this with lessons of girl power and positivity.

"She believed she could... so she did!"
For 2017, GOTR is experiencing its largest season ever with 257 girls (203 of who receive financial aid), who comprise 20 teams at 25 schools throughout Northern Arizona. GOTR seeks to teach life skills, promote healthy habits and improve self-esteem. The 8-13 year old age group is particularly vulnerable, so GOTR focus on them to increase self-confidence and encourage healthy peer relationships during such a tumultuous time. Marney explains that Girls on the Run seeks to “ensure that every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.”

GOTR is funded by individual donors, grants and sponsors. They rely heavily on community support to insure access for all girls who wish to participate regardless of income. Data reveal extremely positive outcomes for girls who participate, including increases in confidence, connection, self-esteem, positive body image, managing emotions, helping others, and being intentional with decisions.  

This all sounds pretty extraordinary, doesn’t it? These days we need organizations like GOTR more than ever as we seek to inspire confidence in young girls that will empower them to become community leaders, empathetic friends, and powerful voices for the future.

My coworker, Jen Ernst and I, visited a Haven Montessori Girls on the Run practice week before last. We cheered the girls on as they completed one last lap around Guadalupe Park (some ran, some walked, some did a little dance along the way).  All had huge smiles on their faces as they passed us and slapped our outstretched hands for a High-5. We told them how proud we are of them, and how they can do anything they want to in life with determination and hard work. Jen and I fought back tears as we walked back to our office and heard the seminal GOTR chant, “Girls on the Run is sooooo much fun!” 

How can you get in on the fun?  

The 10th Annual Girls on the Run Celebratory 5K is Saturday November 11, 2017 at Ft. Tuthill. The celebratory 5k is an important part of the GOTR experience. The magical event gives the girls a tangible sense of achievement; they set a goal and they reach it! Our 5K is an un-timed fun run open to all:

Businesses can sponsor the 5K or a girl in the program:

Females (18+ who can submit a background check) can complete the race with a girl as her “Running Buddy:"

If you’d like to bring Girls on the Run to your school in 2018 or coach in 2018, let us know here:

Give the gift of confidence. Every donation to Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona allows more girls to experience the power of our program, activate their limitless potential and boldly pursue their dreams:

Follow GOTR on Facebook to stay up to date on all of their upcoming events!

Thank you sincerely to Marney and all of the wonderful volunteers who make GOTR possible in our community!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Month 9: The Martin-Springer Institute

When Cristy and I mapped out the organizations we’d focus on for each of the first 12 months, we of course didn’t account for the massive curveballs our nation would be tossed each month (or, each hour). We had a perfectly wonderful organization picked for September (and we’ll definitely come back to it), but then Charlottesville happened, and we listened to our President try to normalize these atrocities, and we knew our focus needed to shift. Then things hit close to home when an Iraqi American-owned business in Flagstaff was vandalized with Nazi symbols (Link to, and we realized that NOW is the time for organizations like the Martin-Springer Institute.

The Martin-Springer Institute (MSI) at Northern Arizona University attends to the experiences of the Holocaust in order to relate them to today’s concerns, crises, and conflicts. Their programs promote the values of moral courage, tolerance, empathy, reconciliation, and justice. Doris Martin (nee Szpringer) and her entire family survived the Holocaust, and knowing that this history could not be forgotten, she and her husband Martin founded MSI.

MSI Director Björn Krondorfer said his organization has a dual mandate of preserving the history of the Holocaust, but also bringing it to contemporary times. Nothing is more contemporary than our current political situation. We’ve spent years focused on bullies in school, but today the bigger question is, what do we do with a bully in the White House? Suddenly, people feel encouraged and emboldened to say and do terrible things. Björn and MSI have some practical, real-world advice and applications for those of us who might feel at a loss:

  • Moral Courage: Doris Martin is a huge believer in the concept of moral courage. If you see something, say something. Don’t be a bystander and let things happen. This is an important lesson to teach our kids, and one we can also heed as adults.
  • Exposure: We need to be exposed to things that might make us uncomfortable (speakers, books, etc.), but in a productive sense. By creating safe spaces for difficult dialogue, we can get things moving in the right direction.
  • Investment: If you believe in certain values, now is the time to get invested. We cannot stand on the sidelines and allow what happened in Charlottesville, or even here in Flagstaff to become our new normal. Investment may look different for different people, and that’s ok. You don’t have to be on the street corner holding a protest sign, but you must stand up for your values. Democracy cannot be taken for granted.
  • Education: MSI has a robust outreach program, providing guest speakers for local schools and events, and a vast resource library with nearly 600 volumes. There is nothing more powerful than being armed with information. 

When asked how we could get involved, Björn gave a response that might be our new rallying cry at 48Months. He told us there are three ways to support MSI – Talent, Time, Treasure. At the end of the day, aren’t these the three things that can really help ANY organization?  Here are a few ways to get involved with MSI, and help further their vitally important mission:

  • Follow their Facebook page for updates about events, programs, and news:
  • Special Events: MSI plans many events that are open to the public (some are only available to NAU students). The upcoming Symposium on Refugees on October 15 will discuss the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish perspectives (check the Facebook page for information on this event. We will also post on our 48months Facebook page).
  • If you work with kids (or know someone who does), reach out to Björn to have him speak to a class, or connect you with a Holocaust survivor. 
  • Donate! About 1/3 of the MSI budget comes from endowments and they are looking to raise $5 million in the next five years. Every little bit helps, and we need organizations like MSI now more than ever. 

For more information, visit:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


- Jeremy Adair

My first introduction to the Montessori philosophy was when I sent my
children to pre school at the West Side Montessori Preschool. It was a
great experience for them and gave them a solid independent start to
their education. My daughter is now a Montessori teacher at Haven
Montessori. It was 20 years ago that I started my first year of
teaching art at the Montessori Charter School of Flagstaff. Teaching
art has been an amazing experience for me. I run into children I have
taught over the years that are now in collage or beginning their
careers as young adults. It has been fun to watch numerous children
and their siblings grow to be young inspiring adults.

Jim and Marlane Spencer were the original founders of the Montessori
Schools of Flagstaff. They had a vision and went to work to create an
amazing learning environment for the young children of F-lagstaff 30
some years ago. Our school is currently under new management as Jim
and Marlane have retired but their dreams for educating young children
continues to grow.

Our current director Kim Loaiza is highly educated in the Montessori
philosophy which is implemented in all of our classrooms by our
amazing teachers and staff. Our administration is always willing to
give immense support to the teachers, students,and parents that are a
part of the community at Montessori Charter School.

Art Music and Spanish are important components of the curriculum at Montessori.
As the art teacher, I am greeted each morning by beautiful, respectful
and enthusiastic young children ready to create their own masterpiece.
Teaching art for grades 1-8  really gives me the chance to challenge
each and every student with the knowledge of art and its history
through the techniques and numerous projects we explore each year. It
is amazing to see their work develop and their confidence soar from
year to year. It has been a great pleasure to work all of the years
for such an amazing school.

For more information on Montessori Schools of Flagstaff, please visit

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Month 8 School of the Day: MOUNTAIN SCHOOL

-Jacki Lenners

When I became a stepmom almost 10 years ago, my stepson was about to enter kindergarten. His mom got up before the sun to stand in line at Mountain Charter School registration, securing his place in the kindergarten class. Things have evolved, and thankfully there is now a lottery system, but the core of what drew them to Mountain School in the first place, is still there as my daughter enters her second year (first grade). 

After having our daughter at Haven Montessori (another fabulous charter school, and the reason that I had the fortune of meeting Cristy) for the previous four years, it was a huge decision to switch things up for kindergarten. But, we knew she was armed with a strong foundation, and Mountain School had always been part of our plan. 

Mountain School’s foundation begins and ends with its people and their overwhelming love for children. Ms. Renee, the school’s founder, had a vision of creating a place where students can grow individually and families play an integral role in the school. Ms. Gina, the principal, is standing out front every morning, greeting parents and kids with hugs and words of encouragement. She sets the tone for the nurturing, caring environment that permeates the school. My daughter is a hugger (this is not genetic), and I’m blown away as she walks the hallways, throwing her arms around various teachers. 

Mountain School has that “small” feeling, but the programs and amenities are anything but small. Our daughter anxiously awaited her art, PE, Spanish, and music classes each week. Señora Michelle fostered her newly discovered love of Spanish, and Ms. Maggie’s spring music performance is something I remember attending for my stepson each year, and I’m so excited to continue that tradition. 

Academics and hugs aside, one of the things we love most about Mountain School is the before- and after-care program. While I wish I could pick her up at 3:15 every day, that’s just not possible. These programs are often an afterthought at schools, but Ms. Sally puts my mom guilt at ease, creating an enriching, fun program full of activities, crafts, and games. 

I’m so thankful that Mountain School came into our lives nearly a decade ago, and that our daughter has the opportunity to experience this awesome school! 

For more information about Mountain School, please visit!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Month 8 School of the Day: HAVEN MONTESSORI SCHOOL

-Ross Altenbaugh

True story: I MOVED to Flagstaff so I could send my kids to Haven Montessori. *Full disclosure my sister (and co-founder of 48 Months!) is the Executive Director at this adorable little mountain school in Northern Arizona. So I am definitely biased but this is all still true! 

Haven is this amazing place where children (from six weeks to sixth grade) can truly learn to be respectful, thoughtful, and intentional little human beings. The heart of Haven is centered around Dr. Maria Montessori’s method of valuing the whole child including the emotional, physical and social development of the human spirit. My sister won’t love that I am about to curse on her blog, but this is my post so who cares (am I right?): HOLY SHIT THIS SCHOOL CARES ABOUT MY BABY’S HUMAN SPIRIT. 

Cue the waterworks. 

On the first day that we took our 15 month-old Abraham, my oldest and only at the time, to school I was very nervous. Ms. Beth (aka the Toddler Whisperer) was standing and greeting each friend as they came in the classroom. All of the kids were changing into their indoor slippers and beginning a “challenging work” in the classroom. What do I mean by a challenging work you ask? You know - typical stuff all babies do at 12 months. Things like flower arrangement, washing a table, washing dishes, or squeegeeing a window. Was Haven creating the next generations of Flagstaff’s janitor population? No! The classroom had been strategically designed to encourage the children to CHOOSE works that interested them as people. Each of those enjoyable “works” helped these little people improve things like their motor skills, hand/eye coordination, and fostered peer learning. Simply fascinating. 

And even though I didn’t think Abraham was big enough to do those things on his own or do anything independently really (after all he was a baby in my eyes), he proved me wrong. He fit right in to the classroom community and it was not but a few days that my child was sitting with friends in his own chair eating lunch unassisted. 

You see, that is what Haven does. They consistently create an environment for your child to amaze you. And that just keeps happening as both of my children grow at Haven. They learn from the older kids while helping teach the younger children. After all, isn’t that how it is supposed to be? 

All I know is that our current political situation would look very different if our President had been able to learn at a place like Haven Montessori.

For more information about Haven Montessori, please visit!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Month 8 School of the Day: BASIS FLAGSTAFF

-Alicia Vaughan

I love the small, impassioned community at BASIS Flagstaff. I have the unique perspective of being a teacher, a parent, and now an administrator, and in each role, every year, I am blown away by the collective talent of our teachers and the extent of our extracurricular activities. Teachers come to us with expertise in their subjects, and often after having work experience in their field. They are passionate about their subjects and we see that translate to students. It is a rigorous curriculum, and that is backed up with a wealth of academic support, and plenty of opportunities for growth in our clubs, or in AIA sports. Our seniors do inspiring research projects that have positive impacts on our community, and then go on to college – usually with scholarship money. As a parent, it’s amazing to see all that my child is learning, and the dinner time conversations have gotten much more interesting. Our families and booster organization are committed and supportive of our mission, and spoil us by filling the teachers’ lounge with goodies, hosting socials, and putting on the end of year luau. BASIS Flagstaff is a special place.

For more information on Basis Flagstaff, please visit

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Month 8 School of the Day: SINAGUA MIDDLE SCHOOL

-Rory Faust

Our family faced a unique wrinkle when researching middle schools – not only would our son be attending middle school for the first time, he would be attending school for the first time. After seven years of home-schooling, we decided to send our oldest son to middle school two years ago. Yes, we too questioned the sanity of this decision. Middle school isn’t exactly the softest landing spot for a home-schooler, at least that’s what I thought before our Sinagua experience.

After researching all of the in-town options and applying to several charters and magnet programs, we finally settled on Sinagua’s STEM magnet called Middle School Institute of Technology and Engineering, better known as MIT-e (pronounced “mighty”).  Our oldest son had such a wonderful experience in his first semester that his younger brother was begging to apply to the MIT-e program, and a year later we had two sons enrolled at Sinagua.
The coolest thing about MIT-e is students get to tackle real-world projects that involve problem-solving and hands-on work. Teachers present the students with problems and students design and engineer solutions, using only household items to complete their projects. 

Each project begins with an idea, progresses to the execution stage with the teacher’s assistance, and then is tested. Most projects are team-based so students can work together on a solution. Our sons have designed and built bridges, prosthetics, tennis racquets, a desalination still, and a future city, among other things.

To enhance the learning experience, teachers bring local engineers and business owners into the classroom to discuss real-life problems they are trying to solve in their professions, and students are often involved in the idea-solution process. The MIT-e program has a competitive admissions process. Prospective students must complete an application which consists of a questionnaire, two letters of recommendation, and an in-depth essay. Not everyone gets in, and those who are admitted must maintain at least a B to stay in the program. Additionally, students must re-apply every year to continue in the program.

The benefits of Sinagua Middle School extend far beyond the MIT-e program. Because it is a former high school, the facility offers more amenities than any other middle school in town – a large auditorium, two gyms, a band room, a turf field and rubber track, and a modern, spacious building.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is that the administration, faculty and staff do an amazing job fostering a positive and accepting culture. Sinagua feels like a friendly community, whether you are a continuing traditional student or a home-school student dropped into middle school.

To learn more about Sinagua Middle School please visit

Friday, August 18, 2017

Month 8 School of the Day: FLAGSTAFF JUNIOR ACADEMY

-Katie Woodard

We have had a child or two at Flagstaff Junior Academy for the last 7 years and we are so grateful we found this school! There are so many great school choices in our town. FJA goes from preschool to the 8th grade. The preschool is Montessori based and the kids are in multi-age classrooms through 4th grade. As a younger child in the classroom, they learn so much from the older students, and the older students gain so much confidence by teaching the younger kids. The kids are outside almost daily! The teachers are top notch and really take the time to individualize the kid’s education. Kids the same age can be at several different math and spelling levels.

We have been on some of the most fun field trips around during our years at the elementary school (and yes, I went on quite a few!). We visited the Biosphere 2 in Tucson, the Grand Canyon, Lee’s Ferry, the Phoenix Zoo and so many more. There are many great learning experiences at the middle school as well, including the chance to participate on the ski team (not an FJA team but accessible due to FJA’s schedule) take a San Juan River trip, visit Catalina Island and bike to the Grand Canyon! The after school activities are endless and include mountain biking, basketball, ultimate frisbee, cross country and so many more.

FJA is very well rounded and really focuses on educating the whole child. I see really curious, confident and happy kids there. The school feels like a wonderful and big family, and the teachers and staff are my favorite part of the school!

For more information about FJA, please visit

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


- Katie Krause

W.F. Killip Elementary School and Community Learning Center is a true community school. Located in Sunnyside, Killip services students and families within walking distance to the school. Although we have several students who attend outside of Sunnyside, we are a walking school with no buses. Killip is a Title-I School with 100% Free and Reduced Lunch. We are proud to offer our students and families a safe place to acquire academic support, as well as other opportunities to enhance their interests and passions through our afterschool programs. We are known every year for our successful chess program and school garden.

Killip is a STEM school where all K-5th grade students have the opportunity to engage in real world learning through the lens of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Our teachers and Instructional Specialist have worked hard to create units based off the Next Generation Science Standards. In these units, students read about the science concepts, engage in an engineering task related to a real world problem which also has tie-ins throughout the academic day with math, social studies, art, and technology. Within each unit, students hear from guest speakers, volunteers and attend fieldtrips to further the connections made in class. Killip is truly preparing students for a rigorous 21st Century world.

We know all students at Killip. I am very proud that the teachers meet weekly in collaborative teams to develop units, revise them, look at student data, have meaningful conversations about data and student needs, and make action plans for all students. We have extension opportunities and every student receives targeted interventions at their level daily. Every student at Killip is our student, whether they are in our class or not.

I have been teaching 5th grade at Killip for 7 years and I am so proud of my school. We are always looking for ways to collaborate with community members, parents and teachers and aim to help all students reach their full potential. Killip teachers make it a priority to get to know our families and celebrate diversity and various cultures.
Because we are a community school, we are always welcoming community members to get involved with our units and the opportunities we give our students. Being a Title-I school, we appreciate tax credits allowing us the chance to further experiences for our students and support for teachers. 

To learn more about Killip Elementary please visit

Sunday, August 13, 2017


-Hannah Staudinger

FALA has the reputation for being a school full of flowery hippie children dancing and singing their lives away. That is, well… not entirely false. The flowery hippie children are there, but they aren’t just singing and dancing their lives away, they’re singing and dancing because their lives depend on it. Every single person at the school has their “thing" and some people even have multiple, but the ability to completely throw themselves into a piece of work without hesitation is at the core of every FALA student. Nothing is done halfway, every person is held accountable. As stereotypical as it sounds, passion oozes from the school. And while many of the students may not want to necessarily go into the arts professionally, the balance of intense passion for the arts and challenging academics help to shape students into well-rounded and compassionate human beings.

As a student, I get frustrated with the school, with teachers or a performance or whatever else it may be, but I love it. It boggles my mind what the school is able to accomplish with the money we have, and I can only imagine the heights to which we could soar given a budget that is less restrictive. In my time at FALA I have been able to take rigorous AP courses, coordinate an event to raise awareness for homelessness in our community, and travel to the state capitol to lobby for environmental stability as well as participating in numerous theater and dance performances, and that’s just me. Other students are able to contribute in any infinite number of ways.

FALA gives students life changing experiences without even knowing it. In April I had the opportunity to perform in Shoah: Salvaged Voices, a play based on Alexandra Zapruder’s Salvaged Pages, a collection of diary entries from Jewish teenagers in  the Holocaust. The show, written by the Advanced Creative Writing class, was already incredibly emotionally taxing for both the writers and performers given the nature of the content. Then, on the last performance Doris Martin, a Holocaust survivor attended the show. I went into the lobby after the show, and I will never forget how Doris approached me with tears streaming down her face and said, “You described what it was like to be me when I was your age. You explained me.” That was the moment the switch flipped and I realized, other schools don’t give you that, other schools don’t force you to connect with other people like that.

Our school is able to do so much good given what we have, I cannot imagine what it would be able to do if each person who read this were to donate five dollars.

To read more about FALA (and donate your $5!) please visit

Friday, August 11, 2017


- Dee Engelthaler

Northland Preparatory Academy (NPA)... sounds snooty, doesn't it? Elite, exclusive, even.  It isn't. NPA is just like every other middle or high school in Flagstaff. Just smaller. No tuition. No entrance exam. No cafeteria. No football team. Okay, there a few nuances to NPA besides its lack of football team and cafeteria.

At NPA, the class sizes do not exceed 22 students. This means your teachers will know who you are, by name. For better or worse, you will not just be a face in a crowd of thousands. Your classmates will also know who you are. You will get to know everyone, and they, you. I'm not saying you will be BFFs with the entire student body, and walk the halls hand-in-hand singing, "Kumbaya," but you will get opportunities to talk and connect with others who maybe you never thought you would. You will learn to push yourself... academically, emotionally, socially, and maybe even athletically!  As a student at NPA, you will hopefully find strength and empowerment in your abilities as a student and as a person. You will learn to balance the rigors of academia at NPA, while also nurturing the other things that are important in life, to you, whatever those may be... music, chess, dance, leadership, sports, and so on.  You will be reminded daily, by me, your friendly neighborhood Spanish teacher and Peers adviser, that high school isn't forever...NPA isn't forever.  It's just a stepping stone to help you create the person you want to be in life!

For more information on NPA, please visit

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


- Chrissy Speer

In the months leading up to my daughter finishing up pre-K, I drove myself nuts trying to find what school would be best for her to start kindergarten.   We are so lucky in Flagstaff to have so many options for elementary schools and with so many specialty charter schools here I honestly wasn't even considering my neighborhood school.  I mean why would I send my child to (GASP) public school when there are so many other options that are also free?  Long story short, after sitting in on 3 different kindergarten classrooms to observe, I walked in DeMiguel without an appointment.  Within seconds of walking in the building, I could tell it was a pretty amazing place.  From the high ceilings to the windows to the huge plants everywhere to the smiling faces everywhere...I just felt good in there.  The principal happily showed me around on the spot.  The classrooms were large, the library was enormous, and the hallways were covered in student artwork.  My mind was made up by the end of the tour that DeMiguel was the perfect school for our daughter.

Here we are with our oldest heading into fourth grade and our youngest heading into second and I know that the decision I made 4 years ago choosing DeMiguel Elementary School was one of the best I have ever made.  The teachers and the volunteers of DeMiguel work tirelessly to create amazing experiences for the children every single day.  Just a few things that stand out over the last year are field trips to Grand Canyon National Park, Walnut Canyon, and the Museum of Northern Arizona.  Our PTA put together a fun run that raised almost $40,000 completely with volunteers and 100% of that money went back into our school!  I think about all the afterschool programs offered like chess club, glee club, Club Invention, and Odyssey of the Mind that keep our kids happy and engaged when we are working.  But mostly I think about the sense of community that my family feels as we walk through the halls or go to a STEAM night or hang out at the local park after school.  Sending your kids off to school is scary and sad and exciting all at the same time and it isn't always perfect.  I have so much gratitude for the educators, parents, volunteers, and friends that have made this journey a happy one.

For more information on DeMiguel Elementary School, please visit

Monday, August 7, 2017

Month 8 School of the Day: PINE FOREST CHARTER SCHOOL

- Shelly Thomas (Mom of Pine Forest student Sam Thomas)

My son’s friend came over the other day. Both boys have attended Pine Forest School since kindergarten and are about to enter their final year there, eighth grade. I asked my son’s friend if he’s ready to go back to school. He said, “I can’t wait to go back. I really like school.” In the presence of my son I asked him what he likes best about Pine Forest. They both looked at each other and laughed saying “No Homework!” This is a bit of a myth, because they definitely have some, but not enough to overwhelm.  The majority of the work happens during the school day. Prodding them a bit more about what they like they expressed the number of field trips, learning in the field is a big part of the curriculum. They have been to a number of places including Catalina Island Marine Institute, Chaco Canyon, Arches National Park, and the San Juan River, to name a few.  This year they may venture to Washington D.C. or Hawaii! 

As a parent, Pine Forest has given my son the ability to socially interact in a way many other schools do not. The work on cooperative communication is tremendous. Children are actively solving problems together. There is a genuine respect for one another and a lack of judgment for those who are “different”.  There is no teaching to the test, rather teaching to be successful in real life. There is a reverence for beauty instilled, beauty in the natural world. They get their hands dirty planting outside and building. There is a strong focus on the arts, singing, painting, and playing music. Probably the biggest myth of all about Pine Forest is that there is not enough focus on reading, writing, and math. This has been a false perception of many in the community. Academics are simply not the only focus. Whole human beings are being developed, something lacking in our society today. I am so grateful for this school and the person my son is turning out to be. 

To learn more about Pine Forest visit