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Challenges and Successes: A year in the life of Tambi Tyler, Head of The Colorado Springs School

By Libby Kinder
December 22, 2021
Cheyenne Edition of The Gazette

Tambi L. Tyler has faced down a global pandemic over the past 19 months in her role as the leader of the notable, Broadmoor-neighborhood landmark. She has overcome mind-boggling challenges and met success with flying colors at every turn.

“Nothing is the same anymore,” said Tyler, Head of School of The Colorado Springs School. She moved to Colorado Springs in April 2020, just as the pandemic was rearing its ugly head. She took over the reins of CSS two months later.

Tyler faced immediate challenges in her new leadership role in a new community. She had planned to reach out in person to staff, students, and families over the summer of 2020 to engage and connect with them before the school year began. Instead, she found herself mostly interacting virtually via online contact.

First graders at The Colorado Springs School throw leaves with Head of School Tambi Tyler on a gorgeous fall day.

Tyler sees her biggest success as executing a plan to safely return to in-person learning at CSS in the fall of 2020. Risk was mitigated through diligent troubleshooting, strict use of PPE (personal protective equipment), ongoing sanitization and adjustments for adequate social distancing. As a result, 85% of learning during the 2020-2021 school year was done face-to-face, with a minimum of virtual contact.

It is fortunate that CSS is housed in eight buildings over 20 acres on the grounds of the historic Baldwin estate, Claremont. The school, founded in 1962, serves prekindergarten through grade 12. The ornate and beautiful main building of CSS was built in 1907, and now houses classrooms, the library and administrative offices.

Compliance with federal, state and local regulations required constant monitoring due to frequent changes. Tyler realized every family unit associated with the school was managing an individual approach for safely maneuvering the many challenges presented by the pandemic.

Tambi Tyler hosted a fall leadership luncheon for Middle School Student Council members on the Trianon Terrace of The Colorado Springs School.

Since becoming Head of School at CSS, Tyler has found herself making tough decisions that significantly impacted the lives of people who did not know her and had not yet had an opportunity to develop a trust in her leadership. Tyler’s goal from day one was to foster positive relationships not only within the school but throughout the community.

With a focus not only on the experiential learning model that is instrumental in the curriculum of CSS, Tyler also managed ongoing physical and mental health challenges. She notes that the teachers were dealing with entering an uncertain environment, and the decisions she was faced with making resulted in many sleepless nights.

Experiential learning at CSS has continued despite pandemic limitations. Rather than via global expeditions as in past years, the Experience-Centered Seminars in March were limited to in-state or nearby destinations. With the hope of more travel accessibility by March 2022, future ECS offerings include: understanding local homelessness; witnessing how Puerto Ricans have reconstructed since Hurricane Maria; the art and math of spycraft (skills and techniques employed by spies); navigating a tall ship in the Caribbean; and studying how ecological data is collected and analyzed in Yellowstone.

The school’s ECS experiences uniquely require active participation and primary research in an environment outside the classroom.

Tyler emphasizes that the CSS brand is experiential, hands-on education, and there is no other program in Colorado Springs that is comparable. Students come from over 35 ZIPcodes, and six countries providing cultural, social and economic diversity within a unique bubble of opportunity.

One of Tyler’s mottos for success is: “Sit at the round table even when you disagree.” In this way, everyone can feel they are involved and are being heard despite possible conflict and opposition. Students are encouraged to take an active part in what is going on, be self-reflective and ponder results.

Tyler’s key to education is that all students are interconnected through their learning experience.

In 2022, CSS will celebrate its 60-year anniversary and Tyler sees herself as having a significant opportunity to ensure that the school will continue as a prime institution for at least another 60 years.

Of note is a welcome newcomer to the CSS campus, Tyler’s Maltese/Bichon puppy, Kodi. His name is a shortened version of the school mascot moniker, “Kodiaks.” The little guy accompanies Tyler to school on a daily basis and is beginning to fulfill a unique role as a service dog. Students are welcome to allay anxiety and stress via some cuddle-time with the rambunctious pup. He is definitely a kid-magnet and is the campus dog. Tyler has found that students tend to open up and feel more relaxed with Kodi snuggling in their arms.

Kodi, Tambi Tyler’s Maltese/Bichon puppy, is a favorite among students at The Colorado Springs School. He is a “people magnet!” Tyler says.