Reading, writing and giving back part of Steamboat middle school education |

Reading, writing and giving back part of Steamboat middle school education

Darby Martinez, right, and Saige Lottes drop off their Know the Code cards as part of the Steamboat Springs Middle School Community Cares program. The new program allows students to donate the Know the Code cards they get for displaying good and positive behavior to a local nonprofit. The cards are then matched with dollars.
Photo courtey of Julie Warnke

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On a normal day, Julie Warnke teaches the students in her middle school classes the difference between a masculine and feminine noun,  how to conjugate verbs and even a little about the culture of Spanish speaking countries.

But at the end of most days the middle school Spanish teacher is hoping that her lessons will go well beyond the basics of learning to speak a foreign language. She is hoping that her students learn lessons about what is means to be a good person, to show responsibility and the importance of  giving back to the community where they live.

That is why she is a part of the Steamboat Springs Middle School Positive Behavior Support Team, or PBiS, and one of the reasons she supports the group’s latest effort to implement the Steamboat Springs Middle School Community Cares program.

‘We are encouraging students to be involved in the community,” Warnke said, “We want them to have civic responsibility, so we have created a program just in time for the holidays to create a spirit of giving to nonprofit organizations.” 

The new program is an extension of a program that was started by the Positive Behavior Support Team more than a decade ago, The PBiS team includes administrators, teachers from each grade level, parents and students all working together to enhance and strengthen school spirit and a culture of safety and positivity.

One of the ways the team has done that in the past is through “Know the Code” cards. Students are given cards when they demonstrated positive behaviors in the school setting. Those cards can then be used to purchase items at the school book store, get pizza on special days or be a part of a raffle as a reward. Now the students can donate those cards to help nonprofits in the community.

“We just encourage positive and responsible behaviors in all school settings and one of the ways we do that, is we give the kids ‘Know The Code’ cards,” Warnke said. “That’s the way we recognize their positive behaviors.”

The Community Cares  program will take things one step further.

“Now what we will encourage is for the  kids to give back with those cards,” Warnke said. “They are going to be able to use those  cards to donate to different community organizations and then our PBiS team is going to match their cards in dollars. So, if they put 77 cards in the bin for Rocky Mountain Youth Corps we will donate $77 to Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. It’s one-to-one, one card to one dollar, and our team is supported by parent and business sponsorships”

She said the PBiS program has always been run through sponsorships, but now instead of using those dollars for the store or pizza, the students can make a difference in their community.

“The Positive Behavior Support Program has really improved our school culture and student  behavior,” Warnke said. “It has been amazing to watch the impact that it has had. I know how far we have come since the good old days of just kicking kids out in the hall. We have really focused on the positive and it has created a culture of safety and positive behavior and school spirit.”

The other part of the program  is to educate the students about nonprofits in the community in their core classes.

“We are teaching them about the organizations, their purposes, their missions and how to be engaged with them,” she said. “Then the kids, by grade level, voted on which organization they wanted to sponsor for this first semester, and then, what we are going to do is change the organizations for each semester, so that we are constantly giving back to different places,”

This semester organizations that will benefit are Rocky Mountain Youth Corps., The Routt County Humane Society and the Yampa Valley Autism Program. Warnke said the sixth grade promoted their organization just before Thanksgiving, and put 250 cards in the bin for the Yampa Valley Autism Program,

 “We are promoting a culture of giving,” she said. “We are shooting for a  school-community partnership.  We want the organizations to know that our kids know about them, and that we want to support them.”

Anyone wanting to support  the new SSMS Community Cares Program can email parent Cristina Magill, at cristinavicinelli@; teacher Chris Adams at or Julie Warnke at

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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