Alumni shaping culture of two Colorado high schools

Coming from two different eras at Hastings College, Eric Johnson ’97 and Cora Lanter 05’ share something in common: they both aim to continuously build and shape the culture at neighboring Colorado high schools where they serve as assistant principals and athletic directors.

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Eric Johnson ’97

Johnson, who works at Windsor High School, developed a passion for leading as he graduated from Hastings College with a science and biology education degree. He wanted to mentor and coach in some way and was offered a position to teach and coach at Buena Vista High School in Buena Vista Colorado, where he spent two years mentoring students and athletes.

“I believe every good coach is a teacher, so it was important and exciting to be able to provide that mentorship and leadership to them, both in and out of the classroom; on and off the field,” Johnson said.

Johnson then spent seven years at Windsor Middle School before he transitioned to high school.

His goals for Windsor High School all center around a main theme: creating an involved and supportive school culture. The idea came to him while in administration at the middle school, and the concept of mentorship had stemmed before he began teaching. Playing baseball for the Broncos, he saw the coaching and dedication that was part of the team’s leadership. It made such an impression that it stuck with him all these years later.

“The goal was to help the middle school students reignite their excitement to learn again. In today’s era, there isn’t a fire to learn and create, there’s a lack of support for the kids to be curious about their education. So I wanted to continue re-sparking that same feeling for the high school students,” he said.

By focusing on the care and concern protocol enforced by the school’s acronym STAR (Strength, Trust, Accountability, and Respect), Johnson and other staff can gauge whether students’ engagement and response to faulty learning styles are adequate.

On the athletics side, Johnson has been preparing both coaches and athletes as they began this year in a new, bigger class division, meaning they’ll compete against larger schools of a higher caliber.

Johnson said he’s been working with coaches to strengthen team culture and community involvement by starting the Captains Club.

“Captains Club has regular meetings with team captains to get a sense of what’s going on with each team dynamic and if there’s conflict and how to overcome that together as a student athletic body,” he said.

Different schools, same vision

Lanter, who works at Severance High School, graduated from Hastings with a bachelor’s degree in studio art and art education. She found her first opportunity in her hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming, where she taught for eight years, then spent a brief year teaching in Texas before moving closer to home.

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Cora Lanter ’05

After returning home, Lanter found a position with Windsor High School. This best suited her needs being the location and her desire to teach art and coach softball and track. She worked at Windsor High School for the next eight years as an art teacher and coach and was heavily encouraged by supportive Windsor colleagues to pursue her master’s in administration.

Later, she applied for and was offered the assistant principal and athletic director position at Severance. This is Lanter’s second year working in administration at Severance.

Although no longer at Windsor, Lanter still has strong connections to Windsor High School. She partners with Eric Johnson or as she calls him, “EJ,” in helping her balance the life of athletic director and assistant principal. She refers to Johnson as her “district counterpart” who keeps her from losing her head amidst the chaos the job throws at her.

Attending most student events is Lanter’s’ key to a collective and supportive student body.

“Senior nights, homecoming games, late night basketball games or cross country meets, I do my best to attend every event, but I also have a supportive administrative team that steps up when I need support to be with my family. We want to show not only the students, but the families, that the administration and the staff are always rooting for them,” Lanter said.

Lanter herself was an athlete during her time at Hastings College, primarily as a softball and volleyball player, so she knew what it meant to athletes that have a supportive community rooting and cheering you on. After she tore her ACL her freshman year while playing softball, and undergoing a second minor surgery with copious amounts of physical therapy her direction changed — sacrificing volleyball to play softball and focusing more on her degree in art education.

Severance High School is still relatively new — it opened in 2019.  Lanter said she’s made it a goal to put the school on the community’s radar.

“Since the school is so new it has endured many turnovers in leadership and staff, it’s up to us to model expectations we have for Severance and hold parents, students and staff accountable for their own involvement with the school. We also want to assure the community that we are here to stay and we are here for the success of everyone here at Severance High School,” Lanter said.

By promoting more athletic recognition amongst students, launching new mural projects to liven up the halls of the school, and continually strengthening the brand identity of the school, Lanter said she plans to continue getting the school’s name out into the community.

The time spent by both Johnson and Lanter at Hastings College, both academically and as student-athletes played a crucial role in shaping their understanding of the significance of community and what it means to foster a positive culture. These experiences now guide them in their roles as leaders and mentors, contributing to creating more cohesive and interconnected communities within their respective schools.

By Cecilia Velarde, a junior marketing and communication studies double major from Loveland, Colorado

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