What We Do

In order to achieve our mission of nurturing the inner lives of
students and teachers, the PassageWays Institute creates
and disseminates programs that:

  • Address the “inner life” of students, particularly their yearning for
    meaning, purpose, integrity, deep connection and creativity.
  • Provide PassageWays curricula for safely supporting students as
    they undergo the vulnerable and critical transitions from
    elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, and
    from high school into the larger world.
  • Cultivate, through the PassageWays Newcomers Program, a safe
    forum where recently immigrated students can explore the issues,
    feelings and challenges associated with coming into a new school and culture.
  • Provide workshops and courses in the principles, practices and
    theoretical foundations of the PassageWays model in Colorado and other locations.
  • Offer professional development and coaching to support and
    nurture educators in cultivating their own emotional intelligence
    and personal depth so they can be safe mentors to students and
    also sustain their own job satisfaction and commitment to teaching.
  • Publish written material and provide presentations for audiences of
    educators, youth development workers, policy makers, and parents.

Teachers who infuse the principles and practices of PassageWays into their classrooms:

  • Work collaboratively with students to build a safe and meaningful
  • Encourage reflection, questioning, deep listening, and authentic
  • Foster alertness and full engagement through practices both playful
    and serious.
  • Work with symbolic expression and the arts as a safe and accelerated way for young people to discover and express their depths.
  • Provide vehicles for students to discover and create meaning and
    connection between their personal lives and the academic material
    they are studying.

Below, you will find summaries of Passageways:

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Major Initiatives

The goal of these initiatives is to transform the culture of classrooms, and ultimately that of schools and districts, so that the inner life of students and teachers is safe, welcome and nurtured. Our model provides educators with strategies and understanding for building caring classroom communities and strengthening learning readiness and the development of authentic identity in students.

PassageWays-CoPER Demonstration & Research Project

A primary goal of the PassageWays Institute is to establish a demonstration and research site for the PassageWays model within a public school district. Beginning in Fall 2005 we will be implementing programs to nurture the inner lives of students and teachers in a large, diverse, public school district in Colorado. This three-year initiative begins in 2005-2006 when we will be training and then coaching 30 to 35 teachers in a high school Sophomore Advisory program and Newcomers Academy to implement PassageWays models. In all, over 700 students will be served the first year. During years two and three we will introduce the PassageWays model into Elementary and Middle Schools as well.

Our aims for this project are twofold:

  • To demonstrate the deep and extensive impact of the PassageWays model on students, teachers, and school systems, and
  • To gather the scientific data that is critical for an educational program to broadly enter public education.

Our partners in the project include:

  • Colorado Partnership for Educational Renewal (CoPER)
  • National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER)
  • Poudre School District, Ft. Collins, Colorado
  • Research and Development Center of Colorado State University
  • Teacher Licensure Departments at Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado

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Transitions Project

The Transitions project is made up of four distinct programs:

  • Completing Elementary School
  • Entering the Culture of Middle School
  • Entering the Culture of High School
  • The Newcomers Transition Program

We are also developing Transition Programs for:

  • Kindergarten
  • Completion of Middle School

These programs provide vital support to students as they undergo the vulnerable transitions from elementary to middle school, from middle to high school, and from a country of origin to the United States.

PassageWays Transitions Programs currently serve students, teachers and parents in a growing number of public and private schools. After bringing the PassageWays model into the classroom, many teachers report a renewed sense of joy, enthusiasm, and connection with their students and with their work.

This is reminding me of why I went into teaching in the first place – I feel like I am truly touching the hearts of my students. My students are responding so well, that they always ask, ‘When can we do this again?’.

-8th grade English teacher

There’s a whole different mood in our room on our PassageWays days.

-8th grade English Teacher

Our Transitions Programs include detailed curriculum manuals plus 10 coaching sessions. They are available to schools once the lead teacher has completed the PassageWays Foundation Course.


Newcomers Transition Program

The PassageWays Newcomers Transitions Program provides us the welcome opportunity to work with a growing and often overlooked population of students—those who have recently immigrated to the United States. This program provides a safe and supportive forum where new immigrants and refugees are provided the structured opportunity to honor the people, lands, cultures, and personal identities they have left behind, moving far beyond learning to "fit in" toward a place of empowerment.

The Newcomers Transitions Curriculum is designed to increase self-awareness, motivation, language acquisition, academic performance, and to engage a sense of hope. Participants in this program often develop a greater sense of self-worth and purpose and feel more motivated to make positive contributions in their schools, neighborhoods and cities. Teachers discover that students are more motivated to learn English and work towards academic goals when they feel seen and heard in their fullness. Results of the pilot project in Boulder, Colorado have been very powerful—the students report and demonstrate genuine change.

Many students arrive in the Newcomers program resistant to learning English. We need to honor the passage these students are making so that they can be more open to learning. In the PassageWays classes, students are able to let down their academic guard and assume their authentic personalities. With Transitions Programs in place, students are more likely to embrace learning and language acquisition for themselves.

-Newcomers Coordinator

Students commented on what they liked and how they changed as a result of the program:

They asked us questions that I had never asked myself and I got to know myself better and I am more ready for what is to come.

Yes, I changed because now I feel more confident to try to do what I want in the future.


Training Institute

The Training Institute is preparing a core team of specially chosen professionals, already experienced in the PassageWays model, to become PassageWays Faculty. They will lead Foundation Courses and other PassageWays Programs and Trainings in schools and in the broader field of youth development. Training Institute participants hail from the East Coast, West Coast, and central regions of the country, and specialize in education at every level, in youth development, and in parent education.

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Programs and Offerings


The Foundation Course Workshop:
Welcoming the Inner Life to School

  • What does a classroom look like when soul is present?
  • How is nourishing the inner life vital for academic success?
  • How do educators address "soul" in education without violating the separation of church and state or the deeply held beliefs of families and students?
  • How can we prepare ourselves and our students to safely invite heart, spirit and community into the classroom?

This two and one-half day workshop introduces participants to the
principles and methods for nurturing soul at school and in other group
settings. It also provides teachers an understanding of key
concepts and strategies behind social and emotional learning and how to
apply them in the classroom.

Participants learn ways to help students

  • Focus, listen and increase their motivation to learn.
  • Create caring in the classroom.
  • Express feelings and develop empathy.
  • Prevent self destructive and violent behaviors.

Counselors and youth development professionals find a rich variety of
tools to add both depth and playfulness to their work with adolescents.

Features of this workshop include

Theoretical frameworks:

  • Social and emotional learning
  • Applications of brain research to emotions and learning
  • Gateways to the souls of students
  • Stages of group development
  • Understanding the elements that make up "emotional literacy"

Strategies for incorporating caring and empathy in the classroom.

Experiential exercises designed to help teachers reflect on their
“teaching presence”.

Suggestions for using play, art, and stillness in the school setting.

Please note: Methods learned in this workshop can be integrated into any classroom, any subject, and any grade level. These principles and practices do not represent "something else" to teach, but a heartfelt way to breathe new life into what you are already doing. Professionals will find a rich variety of tools to add both depth and playfulness to their work with children and adolescents.

Having gone through the first training…I must say that Rachael is not only a genius at visioning a way of bringing soul as well as mind and heart into the classroom, but she has a knack for finding kindred spirits who are equally dedicated and competent to bringing the vision to fruition… I would suggest that what Rachael is proposing is not only a good thing for the profession and this country, but may be part of a growing movement to radically transform the practice and training of teachers… Whatever support can be give to the PassageWays Institute at this time will hopefully provide a transformative vision to the world.

Training Institute Participant


See Upcoming Events for dates of upcoming Foundation Courses.

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The principles and practices introduced in the Foundation Course are at the heart of PassageWays Curricula.

Only educators who have completed the Foundation Course may purchase a PassageWays Curriculum Package, which includes a detailed curriculum manual and 10 coaching sessions with PassageWays coaches.

The following curricula are currently available:

  • Completing the Culture of Elementary School
  • Entering the Culture of Middle School
  • Entering the Culture of High School
  • The Senior Passages Course
  • Newcomer Transitions Course (Completion date summer 2005)

Now that I've been doing this for a few years, I can't tell where PassageWays ends and the regular curriculum begins. Everything I teach touches on the social and emotional well being of my students. The integration has become automatic. If teachers could only understand how this opens an entire world with students, I think they'd be flocking to try what you teach.

Colleen Conrad, 8th grade English teacher

I think that Passages is really great for our health. We get to talk about scary, fun, sad, and helpful stuff that I think changed my life this year.

Sophia, 6th grade student

Its better than recess!

5th grade student

Lectures & Keynotes: offered by Rachael Kessler

The Soul of Education: A Keynote Address
(A one to three hour presentation)
This presentation addresses the following questions:

  • What is "soul" anyway? Whose definition are we using?
  • Why should schools consider addressing the inner life?
  • Doesn't the separation of church and state mean leaving all of this alone?
  • How do we safely nourish spiritual development in school?

The presentation includes a lecture with rich visuals as well as brief experiential audience participation. Kessler provides a theoretical framework illustrated through the powerful stories and questions of young people themselves. She emphasizes the essential role of welcoming the inner life in ensuring academic excellence, safe schools, and character development. This keynote is appropriate for educators, kindergarten through higher education, counselors, parents, and others committed to working with youth.

Soul of Students, Soul of Teachers:
Cultivating the Teaching Presence

(Available as a keynote address, or a one-day workshop)

How do we nurture the souls of teachers? Teachers and school leaders are asking this question because:

  • Teachers can more safely and effectively invite the inner life of students when they are nourished themselves.
  • Teachers are burning out and dropping out in record numbers today—school leaders are seeking to provide renewal and ways to reconnect teachers to their passion for their calling.

Based on the framework of The Soul of Education, this keynote address offers educators an opportunity to reflect on their own relationship to experiences which nurture the souls of students: deep connection, silence and solitude, meaning and purpose, joy and delight, creativity, transcendence, and initiation.

Also included in this presentation is an exploration of "the teaching presence”: qualities essential to becoming a skillful and inspiring teacher. Strategies are introduced for cultivating the art of respectful discipline, presence, and an open heart.

Infusing Soul and Authentic Community into Leadership

This workshop is designed for professionals in mental health, social service, organizational development, community organization, clergy, education, and mediation. This half or one day workshop introduces participants to the principles and strategies for fostering safe and authentic communities, for developing Goleman’s five dimensions of emotional literacy, and cultivating presence in group leaders.

For information on how to book Ms. Kessler for keynote speeches, other lectures, or one day workshops, contact her directly at 303.581.0331.

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Upcoming PassageWays Events

Foundation Course: Welcoming the Inner Life to School

Fall 2005, October 21st - 23rd

Winter 2006, February 24th - 26th

Where: Boulder, Colorado, exact location TBA

Faculty: TBA

Cost: $450.00 USD – early registration $400.00

To Register contact the PassageWays office at 303-247-0156


Keynote by Rachael Kessler: "Looking to the Future"

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Where: San Jose, Costa Rica
Annual Educators Conference for the Association of American Schools of Central America, Coumbia, Central America, and Mexico.

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© Copyright 2001-2005 PassageWays Institute, Inc.
2355 Canyon Blvd. Suite 104, Boulder, CO  80302, Telephone 303.247.0156
Email info@passageways.org Website Transformative Designs