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Prairie Heights Middle School Recognized for Supporting Educators and Building a Positive School Culture to Accelerate Student Learning

Please read the following Press Release from the Chan Zuckerberg Institute regarding a visit to Prairie Heights Middle School on March 30, 2023, and a recognition of the school's work to turn around student achievement with excellent instruction and by building strong relationships with students. Greeley-Evans School District 6 is honored to host this visit and we appreciate the recognition of this outstanding school.

Head of Ed Sandra Liu Huang from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative speaking with student

Prairie Heights Middle School Recognized for Supporting Educators and Building a Positive School Culture to Accelerate Student Learning

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Gradient Learning, and Search Institute Representatives visit Prairie Heights Middle to meet with educators and students


Representatives from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), Gradient Learning, and the Search Institute visited Prairie Heights Middle School in Evans, Colorado, to celebrate the school’s progress. Under the leadership of Principal Stephanie Knox, Prairie Heights prioritized one-on-one mentoring with students and expanded professional learning opportunities for teachers. These initiatives fostered a positive school climate and culture and teacher collaboration, helping Prairie Heights achieve the highest rating on the Colorado Department of Education’s school performance framework. 

“Prairie Heights Middle School exemplifies what is possible when schools combine a focus on supporting the whole child with a commitment to continuous improvement,” said Sandra Liu Huang, head of education at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “I want to recognize the teachers and school leadership team for their dedication to continued growth.“ 

Principal Stephanie Knox talking with students

During a tour of the school, participants observed a mentoring meeting between a student and a teacher. Every student at Prairie Heights meets weekly with a mentor to discuss their progress at school and reflect on personalized goals for their learning. These sessions help 

educators form deeper connections with their students, contributing to a positive school culture. Mentoring is a core pillar of Summit Learning, a comprehensive approach designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student-teacher relationships. Prairie Heights joined the Summit Learning program — which is supported by Gradient Learning and CZI — in the 2017-18 school year. 

The visit included a roundtable discussion with Principal Knox and her teacher leadership team about their focus on coaching and professional learning opportunities for teachers. Teachers at Prairie Heights participate in ongoing professional learning communities where they regularly review student performance and co-create interventions to meet the specific needs of every student. Teachers also attend a summer training institute hosted by Summit Learning. 

“Relationships are at the center of everything we do as educators,” said Knox. “When our students feel connected to their teachers, they are more motivated and engaged. The same is true for our educators. That’s why we have worked to build a culture of improvement through ongoing coaching and professional learning opportunities for teachers to learn with their peers.” 

Identified as a “turnaround” school a decade ago, Prairie Heights has since made dramatic progress on the Colorado Department of Education’s performance ratings. In 2018, 2019, and 2022, the school received a “performance” rating, the highest category in the state’s performance framework. In 2020, Prairie Heights was one of two schools to receive the inaugural Summit Learning Rise Award, which honors high-quality implementation of the Summit Learning approach and a commitment to continuous improvement. 

“Developmental relationships play an essential role in helping young people learn and grow,” said Benjamin Houltberg, Ph.D., president and CEO of Search Institute, a nonprofit that promotes positive youth development and advances equity through research and practical solutions. “When schools like Prairie Heights take an intentional approach to building connections between students and caring adults, it pays off in increased academic achievement and well-being.” 

Prairie Heights teacher smiling 2023

"It is an honor to celebrate Stephanie Knox and the Prairie Heights teacher team with today's visit," said Katie Chambers, Director of Innovation at Gradient Learning."Prairie Heights has spent years focusing on teaching the whole student in an effort to ensure they are giving every learner what they need to flourish, both in school and life. The State's recognition of the school's sustained improvement is a testament to this amazing work." 

Standing with a growing community of partners, CZI is working to equip teachers with the research, tools, and partners they need to center students’ well-being in support of academic achievement and success. CZI has recognized schools across the country for their commitment to expanding the definition of student success and embracing the developmental needs of the whole child. For more information about how CZI and our grant partners are supporting student and teacher well-being, visit


About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative 

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education to addressing the needs of our local communities. Our mission is to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit