Tambi Tyler recalls lining up her brother’s G.I. Joe dolls and her own dolls as a child and pretending to be a teacher.
“I remember playing with my dolls and my mom would ask, ‘Who are you talking to?’ I would say, ‘To my students,’” Tyler recalled. “I feel like I was born to be around and work with children.”
Tyler always believed she would be an educator. Today, she serves as Head of School for The Colorado Springs School, a college-preparatory, independent school that serves about 300 students from preschool through high school.
Education at The Colorado Springs School expands learning beyond traditional classroom walls, Tyler said. The campus curriculum encourages experiential learning that allows children to make discoveries, solve problems and think critically in real-world scenarios.
Tyler moved to Colorado Springs in April amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was her own life changing at the time, the educational landscape was too.
“I have learned to embrace all things change,” she said.
Tyler was born in Mississippi but was raised in both Mississippi and Iowa. She calls both states home. She attended public schools in Des Moines, Iowa, but spent summers in Mississippi.
After completing high school, she attended Grand View University in Des Moines, where she received her bachelor’s degree in education. She later obtained her master’s degree from Drake University in Des Moines.
Her educational career began in the early 2000s, when she worked in public schools as a special education and general education teacher. After five years of teaching, she moved into leadership roles in Des Moines, serving as dean of students and later moving into principal positions.
Most recently, she served for five years at Atlanta International School in Atlanta, Georgia, as deputy head of secondary education.
At The Colorado Springs School, Tyler said she has been focused on helping students think critically and solve problems while encouraging their creativity and ingenuity.
Tyler spoke with the Business Journal about The Colorado Springs School and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education.
Talk about The Colorado Springs School.
Our mission is wrapped around critical thinking, academics, experiential learning and how we can try to make real world experiences come to life to teach our students the typical or the practical aspects of leadership, problem-solving, ingenuity, creativity and integrity. Right now, we are grounding ourselves in our mission. We’re working hard at preparing our students to think independently and to meet the challenges of a dynamic world.
How has education changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Education is ever changing; it’s ever evolving. Right now, what we’re learning about education is to put the most important things first and to make sure that we are thinking about the health and well-being of others. Before, we may have been focused on getting things done or getting on to the next task. Now, we are more human-centric; we’re more health-centric; we’re more family-centric. We’re trying our best to think about mankind.
I had to think about our mission, mitigation and how to keep people safe, and then mankind. I call them the 3Ms. Those are the things I’m going to be talking about a lot this year — the mission, the mitigation, and mankind. So, I’m taking time to stop each person and look them in the eye and ask, ‘How you doing?’ and be OK if they say, ‘I’m not doing well right now.’ Life gets messy, and we are embracing all things messy right now.
In what ways has The Colorado Springs School adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We have really had to pivot on a dime and try to meet the same goals but do things differently. First, we started with our outdoor classrooms. We believe you don’t have to have four walls in order for learning to take place. We’ve been using our neighborhood pond on campus to teach. We’re using spaces under the trees to do demonstrations. We’re taking our physical education classes outside. While we can’t play instruments indoors and social distance, we have been telling our band to go outside and social distance and spread out across the campus. We have a beautiful 28-acre campus, so we’ve been letting our students spread out outdoors. In the midst of this, we’re also trying to make learning practical. We know that kids like routine. We realize that some of them crave routine, so we’re adapting but trying to be practical about it.
How are your students doing with the changing educational landscape?
You know, I don’t have a pulse on everyone from my pre-K students through high school students. But what I do know is that all of our students show up every day and they’re excited to be at school. We’ve been back for 30 days now. We’re really focused on their social, emotional well-being and happiness. It’s wonderful to be here and hear the kids on our grounds. They’re laughing, they’re running, they’re playing. I’m seeing it; I just don’t know how to measure it. We’re wearing masks from pre-K through 12th grade. Our babies are wearing them. They’re comfortable, they’re fashionable. It’s funny that we’ve made face masks a fashionable thing. For our school spirit week, we had a wear-a-crazy-face-mask day. Kids are enjoying those things. It’s all working right now.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of being an educator?
Being an educator right now during this time is just challenging because our teachers … their human capital is important. Their social, emotional well-being is just as important as everyone else’s. It’s hard because they have to get out their spray bottles, spray, wipe down desks. They’re wearing face masks. They have to figure out how to walk students from one room to the next and social distance. It is challenging to think of this new normal and how we deal with it. We’re constantly thinking about the change and the risk. Even with all we’re doing, we can’t protect someone 100 percent. As a leader, that keeps you up at night. You can’t always do it the way you want to but you’re trying. You’ve got those little minds and hearts looking to you to make decisions.
What are your favorite aspects of being an educator?
My favorite experiences are sitting on our campus’ green grass and having lunch with the kindergartners, or when we get a new student and I’m able to talk to them and get to know them. Starting at a new school is a transition, and I’m getting to know the parents, the students, the teachers. I’m hearing their stories and their experiences with COVID and how they’re processing it. Those interactions are my favorite moments.
Why is education important to you?
To me, personally, education is life. It’s my passion. I can get up every single morning and swing my feet around the side of the bed and know it’s going to be a good day because I love what I’m doing. I love impacting others for the good. I’m hoping the legacy I leave in life is just that — that wherever she went, she made lives better. That’s the most important thing to me.
Why should parents choose The Colorado Springs School for their children’s education?
I would honestly say that parents are in the market right now for a school where there are small class sizes. We have intentionally small classes and we are intentionally building relationships with children. We are intentionally serving students to help them get to college and the places where they want to go in life. We’re genuinely teaching them skills they will use. We’re teaching public speaking; we have a rock climbing wall. We’re letting you fail forward and encouraging you when things go well and giving critical feedback when things don’t go well.
The Colorado Springs School is the best kept secret in Colorado Springs. People ask where are you located. I want people to know, we don’t just service the Broadmoor area; we serve kids from all over. We have kids in over 35 different ZIP codes. We have a beautiful, eclectic, diverse population.
Also, I would say for the parent who is comparing campuses because we have a saturated market in the Springs… We have a beautiful campus that kids can remember for their lives. Some people may remember a classroom, but we have beautiful spaces on the campus that our kids remember. Our kids have a beautiful campus to embrace, and we’re helping them navigate the world in a different way.