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St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

  • 2023 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Karen Carr
    Health Sciences
    Career Elevation and Technology Center

    One nominated from a student said, “She is a fantastic teacher because she makes her lessons very effective and also cares a lot for the well-being of her students. She goes above and beyond making her lessons engaging with mini groups and individual projects and games to test our knowledge. She also established a good relationship with all of her students by taking the time to learn how they would like to be addressed, answering any questions and being very welcoming and kind.” A parent wrote, “My son is a senior and since kindergarten he has wanted to be done with school. Until he had Miss Karen. She has found a way to befriend and gain respect from her students even with high school boredom and hormonal imbalances. She is someone who sees my son, praises his work, inspires him to learn more and to do better. She is passionate about teaching and loves her job, and has earned my son’s respect. I am forever grateful to her.”

    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation Congratulates Teacher of the Year Finalist Karen Carr!

    Julie Lyddan
    Coal Ridge Middle

    A nomination from a peer wrote, she is innovative in her methodologies, is always current on her research about what helps students learn and is making minute by minute adjustments to the learning when she is assisting students in their learning. She provides exposure to real world situations by setting up a career fair every year where businesses come in from the area to speak with our 8th grade students. She also goes as Martha Washington for Halloween. The students feel her love from American history and everyone knows about George Washington in particular. My favorite thing about her is that the students understand her tough, no nonsense, yet loving approach. She has that magic that it takes to make students want to do well and not disappoint her. She is always creating and practicing best teaching techniques and helping new and veteran teachers as a valuable mentor and asset to the community.

    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation Congratulates Teacher of the Year Finalist Julie Lyddan!

    Kenneth Howe
    Vocal Music
    Skyline High

    A student shared that he is such a positive motivator! Not only does he motivate you to keep trying and keep singing, but he motivates you to keep going in school, to keep trying to fix situations you are in. He is also really good at music! He is in his own choir and doesn’t give up on it. He knows exactly what he is talking about, and is able to teach it in many different ways. He is also someone that is always there for his students. Always. If you are having a rough time, he is a safe person to go to. A peer wrote about this teacher, he is one of the best teachers that I know. I have learned to be a better educator, musician, and person because of his teaching and life practices. The relationships he forms with students and the comfortable, safe, and welcoming environment that he creates in his classroom is truly admirable. Students want to be there and want to learn from him, and they leave his class as a better musician and better people. The positive impact that he has on Skyline, on his students, on his colleagues, and on his friends is outstanding. Thank you, Kenneth, for being a wonderful educator and even better person.

    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation Congratulates Teacher of the Year Finalist Kenneth Howe!

    Sandra Rethage
    Longs Peak Middle

    A community member stated, she embodies all the best qualities of an excellent teacher, both as she employs the best practices of managing a classroom, and as a mathematician who knows her content explicitly. She has a way of convincing students that math is beautiful, fun, and fascinating. Her understanding, compassion, and high expectations are equal for all students. She is empathetic and supportive of parents and families, often reaching out to educate and support students in their lives outside of the school day. A peer wrote, she is a phenomenal teacher who works tirelessly each day to support students in math. She is not only an expert in math, but is also willing to innovate and adapt lessons to meet our current students’ needs. Students at all levels are challenged and pushed in their mathematical thinking, and she describes math to students as a language. She is a master teacher who remains flexible without compromising high standards for all students. She is a rock and a constant source of strength in our school community.

    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation Congratulates Teacher of the Year Finalist Sandra Rethage!

  • 2022 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Sean Flaherty
    5th Grade
    Soaring Heights PK-8

    One of the nominations received eloquently stated about this incredible teacher, “All I can say is WOW! We are extremely grateful our daughter was under the guidance of Mr. Flaherty.  We watched our daughter grow personally and as a student. This teacher finds a way to connect with each and every student in each subject he teaches.” Another parent states, “Sean Flaherty knows each student individually and encourages them in a unique way. His positivity is critical in engaging the students and he does it effortlessly and continuously.  My son has ADD, ASD Level 1 and is GT for reading and math. Sean has a way to bring my son out of being stuck and helps him feel confident and excited about learning. He has made a huge difference in my son’s life!

    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation Congratulates Teacher of the Year Finalist Sean Flaherty!

    Jessica Moore
    4th Grade
    Hygiene Elementary

    Jessica Moore was nominated by a parent who wrote, “I’m a single mom and my 4th grade son has dyslexia which presents a fair set of challenges going into each year. Learning the teacher, and the expectations can be challenging for my son. Some years it takes months before we have a rhythm, and an open line of communication….not this year! Ms. Moore has blown me away this school year! She sets clear expectations and demonstrates true leadership, true vision, and passion.” My son said it best, “She isn’t the easiest teacher I have ever had, but she cares the most.” Jessica deserves to be recognized. She is a bright star and has truly changed our lives. My son has improved more this year than any year prior.  She is an instrumental part of our success and laid a foundation that will truly change the learning trajectory for my son and ultimately influencing his learning habits and confidence for the rest of his life.” Another parent wrote: “Ms. Moore is a master teacher and honestly embodies ALL the award criteria. She has done a lot of research on the science of learning and regularly uses strategies like retrieval practice, interleaving, metacognition and elaboration to not only help students learn, but motivate them and empower them to take ownership of their own learning. Ms. Moore is an expert literacy teacher and I am so grateful my son is in her class.”

    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation Congratulates Teacher of the Year Finalist Jessica Moore!

    Stacy Orozco
    Language Arts
    Thunder Valley K-8

    Nominated by a fellow teacher, who states, “Stacy Orozco is the best educator I have ever worked with, and I don’t say that lightly. Stacy is one of the biggest reasons that I enjoy coming to work and I know that her class is what our students look forward to every day.”  Here are examples of why she is was nominated for teacher of the year.  As an innovator Stacy integrates fresh perspectives into each lesson. She brings in new materials for her students including books, busy bands for all of her desks, SEL fidgets, and craft supplies via Donors Choose. She is constantly going out of her way to bring new things into the classroom. She innovates and creates project‐based learning such as hosting actual “trials” in her classroom for “The Outsiders” and “The Tell‐Tale Heart.” Stacy displays the artwork they make (such as the “draw yourself in Johnny’s shoes” from The Outsiders) in the hallway and students are so proud of what they’ve created. She makes learning fun.”  Another peer submitted a nomination and wrote, “Stacy is a marigold in our building.  If you’re not familiar with that term, it means the sort of educator that you want to be “planted” near because they make everything better and grow well around them. Her energy is infectious! She’s served as a part of our school’s equity committee, as well as headed-up (and restarted) our building’s student council. She has deep and lasting relationships with her students and they know she cares for them and their success.”

    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation Congratulates Teacher of the Year Finalist Stacy Orozco!

    Josh Walker
    Trail Ridge Middle

    A student nomination stated, “I’m nominating Mr. Walker for a lot of reasons, he’s nice, he’s funny, he’s a GREAT teacher. His 6th graders love and adore him. He makes his classes so much fun and enjoyable. Mr. Walker is also the girls and boys basketball coach, girls volleyball coach, and track coach. He makes practice fun and competitive, and even if you lose a game he always finds a way for you to feel like you won even though you didn’t. Even listening to his classes makes you smile. He’s constantly talking to his students and asking about their family or how their weekend was. He truly cares about us.”  A teacher who also submitted a nomination wrote, “Josh is an amazing teacher and motivator for students. His relationship building skills are as natural as any, and he develops a strong rapport with all of the students he comes in contact with. Though Josh is a master at the relationship piece, he is extremely intentional in his instructional approach. He will meet with students one on one or in small groups right in class to provide the proper support for their understanding.  He always finds ways to properly model key concepts. Students love his class! Josh is a game changer in education and I am confident his name will be associated with the nomination process for Teacher of the Year for years to come!”

    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation Congratulates Teacher of the Year Finalist Josh Walker!

  • 2021 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Nathan Wilcox
    STEM and Robotics
    Thunder Valley K-8

    Those who nominated Mr. Wilcox share that he is innovative in teaching and builds innovators.  When students walk into his classroom they immediately feel his energy and passion for teaching and learning.  He makes everyone feel like a million dollars.
    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation congratulates Nathan Wilcox from Thunder Valley K-8 on being a St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalist for 2021!



    Jim Dornan
    AP US History, Philosophy, Debate
    Longmont High

    A parent who nominated Mr. Dornan shares that he pushes his students and makes it clear that he has high expectations for them, which they in turn want to fulfill to make him proud.  A student shared that Mr. Dornan is an incredibly dedicated teacher and he encourages students to understand the topics he is teaching with real world applications and open discussions.
    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation congratulates Jim Dornan from Longmont High on being a St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalist for 2021!



    Krystyna Farquhar
    Special Education
    Longmont Estates Elementary

    Those who nominated Ms. Farquhar share that she is doing some remarkable things in her classroom.  She is an expert at helping students with autism be successful.  She is one of those extra special teachers that can make an impact on the climate and culture of her entire school.  Her belief in the ability of students with disabilities has helped other see those students with new eyes.
    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation congratulates Krystyna Farquhar from Longmont Estates Elementary on being a St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalist for 2021!



    Leigh Anne Emberg
    Mead High

    As a life connector, Ms. Emberg has assigned projects for students to demonstrate their understanding of mathematic function by using real life models.  Students’ success in her class is partially due to the strong relationships she builds with them.  She helps students recognize their own strengths, wants all of her students to be successful and gives all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
    St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation congratulates Leigh Anne Emberg from Mead High on being a St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalist for 2021!
  • 2020 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Monica Smiley, Coal Ridge Middle School

    Megan Schlagel, Niwot High School

    Joe Rovere, Trail Ridge Middle School

    Larrissa Mangione, Soaring Heights PK-8

  • 2019 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Pictured left to right:
    Elizabeth Nicholson, Stacy Trembly, Educator of the Year – Christopher Barnes,
    Kelly Shipley, Nicky Willis

    Elizabeth Nicholson, Westview Middle School

    This Education Foundation Teacher of the Year Finalist teaches 12 different art classes, and sponsors after-school art club that runs 15 weeks and averages nearly 40 students!

    A student who nominated Elizabeth said, “I have looked forward to going to her class every day, which is something very rare for me. She has also helped me so much when it comes to art and life in general. I confide in this teacher. She has made me look forward to coming to school and inspired me to pursue my creative passion.”

    Several students had their work selected by Arts Longmont to be displayed at local businesses. A parent explained about Elizabeth, “After a semester in her class, my son’s interest in art has turned into a passion and he is still creating artwork even though he is no longer is in an art class. Elizabeth focuses on the pursuit of growth and knowledge for her students by traveling around the world, going to museums and locations that are rich in art and culture. When you walk into her classroom you see a lively and colorful room centered around student learning. Students are actively engaged with hands-on activities, creating digital art projects, and working in cooperative groups.”

    The Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley congratulates Elizabeth Nicholson from Westview Middle School as a Teacher of the Year Finalist for 2019!

    Stacy Trembly, Fall River Elementary School

    This Education Foundation Teacher of the Year Finalist received a nomination by a parent, who states, “This teacher stepped up big time by taking over our robotics program and took it to a whole new level! She has worked very hard, leading the robotics teams to numerous awards and now the US Open!” Another parent wrote, “My son has had some problems socially this year and she brought them to our attention before he did. She helped him navigate what to do with his friends so he didn’t have to feel upset without causing any additional problems between them. The tools and words she gave him have had such an impact on him. I LOVE that my son is learning from her!”

    The Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley congratulates 3rd-grade Teacher Stacy Trembly from Fall River Elementary as a Teacher of the Year Finalist for 2019!

    Kelly Shipley, Erie High School

    This Education Foundation Teacher of the Year Finalist was nominated by a parent who wrote, “She is one of the most energetic, enthusiastic, and inspiring teachers I have ever met! My daughter is currently in her honors chemistry class, and before this, she never loved science until now. She loves chemistry!” Another parent wrote, “Not only is she an amazing teacher, but she’s also an amazing swim coach. My daughter’s outlook has changed simply because her coach believed in her, pushed her, and cheered for her.” This science teacher and coach helped start a new girls swim program at Erie High School that attracted 74 athletes in its first year of existence! A true testament to its head coach!

    The Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley congratulates Kelly Shipley, science teacher and swim coach from Erie High School!

    Nicky Willis, Spark! Discovery Preschool

    This Education Foundation Teacher of the Year Finalist received a nomination from a parent, who states “This teacher is simply one of the best. She takes the time and the effort needed for every student to make sure the students are not left behind. She is extremely great with students and I hear nothing but positive comments from my child.”

    A fellow teacher wrote, “Nicky is creative in all her lesson planning from the small group activities to the creative dramatic play centers. She gives our students real-world experiences such as walking field trips to the local post office, gymnastics center, to our neighborhood K-8 to experience their music program. Simply put, she is the best.” Lastly, a nominator eloquently stated, “She deserves to get this award because she goes above and beyond for her students and I am very grateful that she is my daughter’s teacher!

    The Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley congratulates Nicky Willis, Pre-school Teacher at Spark! Discovery Preschool!

  • 2018 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Pictured left to right:
    Dr. Karen Gregg, Janay Bird, Kelly Bernhardt, Educator of the Year – Mike Newell,
    Jay Clanin, Monica Moreno-Martinez, Amy Erdman

    Kelly Bernhardt ~ 1st grade teacher, Niwot Elementary

    Kelly was nominated by a parent and fellow teacher. The parent wrote, “Towards the end of kindergarten, our sweet and shy son become anxious and sad, with meltdowns the moment he stepped off the school bus and sometimes didn’t end until the next morning. These meltdowns continued throughout summer until we has diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. Our doctors implored us to speak with his school to find the best possible teacher for him in the upcoming year. They gave us a gift! The first time I met her she was articulate, passionate, enthusiastic. She spoke of her hopes for our children, projects she wanted to try, new ideas she had. She spoke of her love for teaching with tears in her eyes and suddenly I had tears in my eyes. I immediately, thought, SHE’S AMAZING! My son jumped off the bus those first weeks, excited, chatty. “I had a good day!” he’d tell me. She’s taught, cared for, helped MY son. Just one of twenty-four students. She gives the same amount of devotion to each and every one of her students. When she felt like she wasn’t making enough of an emotional connection, my son being painfully shy and quiet, she found out what he loved most was Minecraft, and bought it for her computer and asked him to teach her how to play. Each Tuesday, he stays in from recess to teach her Minecraft, and Tuesday is now his favorite day of the week.”

    Janay Bird ~ Choir teacher, Erie High School

    Janay was nominated by one of her students and wrote, “She has helped me grow musically beyond what is measurable, but more than that, she has helped me to grow as a person. Her first priority is teaching us to love, showing us compassion, and encouraging us to spread kindness to every person we encounter. To most students, the choir room is a safe haven. When we walk through those doors, we get to leave all the problems that we are facing at the door to come and make art. Being in her choir class has taught me more about being an adult than any other class ever has. She takes the time to discuss meaning in every piece of music that we get and encourages us to portray that meaning to the audience. She always tells us, “It isn’t the notes and rhythms that will touch a person in the crowd, it is the feeling that they get when they hear the music.” She embodies what every teacher should be and not only teaches choir, but teaches students how to live and how to love.”

    Jay Clanin ~ Band teacher, Trail Ridge Middle School

    Jay was nominated by a parent, who states, “He is a great teacher. He is a role model for students because, for my daughter, he is always keeping kids motivated whether that is playing music or just simple advice. He uses humor as a way to keep students engaged on the certain topic or hooks it with a topic that they are learning in school. During concerts, he engages parents by telling stories that happened during rehearsals (and they are always funny!). He is a very hard working person and puts all of his efforts into music education for his students. I have had the opportunity to see him in many concerts and everytime he blows me away on how he relaxes the students, be confident and enthusiastic for teaching music to his teachers! Another parent writes, “He has taught and mentored both my daughter and son as their band teacher. They both adore him and would often refer to him as their favorite teacher. He is a master of two crafts – music and the ability to teach it to others. He presents an opportunity for students to connect with their creative side through guidance, enthusiasm, embracing a passion for music, and motivation to set and meet goals. My daughter came home from jazz band one day and showed me a piece of music she was intimidated by, but one that her teacher knew she could master. He kept on encouraging her and allowed her, with other students, to come into his band room after school to ask questions and seek additional practice. He maps out a strategy for the student and does so with encouragement, humor, and consistent guidance.

    Amy Erdman ~ 5th grade teacher , Hygiene Elementary

    Amy was nominated by a student, a parent and a fellow teacher. Her fellow teacher states “This teacher stands out from the rest by how far she will go to help students. Our school has a new student who has faced many challenges in her young life and was diagnosed with PTSD. Her regular teacher was going out of town for a week and there was to be a substitute for the class. The student exhibited very concerning behaviors with a substitute teacher in the class and was out of her seat moving around, making noise, yelling and leaving the classroom. This teacher volunteered to take the student into her class for the week. Due to her kindness and steadiness the student stayed in class all week without incident. The student’s demeanor changed immediately as she was in a safe and stable classroom. The negative behaviors were gone and she did as she was directed all week”. The parent of this student wrote that her child was doing better and was telling people she had been moved to the “Smart Class”. The fellow teacher added that in all her years of teaching she had not seen a teacher step up and make an offer like this. It was truly necessary, and I do not think this student would have been able to successfully attend school that week. Her student nominator said that “This teacher always tries her hardest to make me understand things better, like when I was really confused she helped me and explained it. I also see more growth in me because of her. I’m so glad I’m in her class because I understand things better. She is a teacher with a great personality and she is funny”.

    Dr. Karen Gregg ~ Music & Fine Arts teacher, Lyons Middle Senior High School

    Karen is described by a parent as amazingly enthusiastic and energetic. The parent goes on to say, “She impressed me right from the start of my daughter’s 6th grade beginning band class with her insightful approach to introducing kids to new instruments and music. She is a teacher who exemplifies leading by example, playing many instruments herself. She teaches step by step, note by note, and shows students how to take difficult things in stride, even when it is hard, and especially when it seems impossible. She brings her love of music to her students and her classroom, sharing examples from her own life to help make learning personal, as well as being a consummate professional. Our school has seen a 300% growth in the band program since her appointment and now includes over 30% of the school population. She is without a doubt, and amazing person, more deserving of this award! She brings the true meaning of the word Teacher!

    Another parent writes, “Her work in the classroom is amazing, and her talent has rubbed off on our kids and the music the band produces is amazing! It’s the work she does OUTSIDE of the school that I want to recognize. She oversees the volunteers for Planet Bluegrass, Pep-rally’s, international trips, local trips, volunteers for snack bar at home games, served on the All-State Band Steering Committee, the CHSAA Music Advisory Board and is the current small school representative for the Colorado Bandmasters Association, among others. We are truly fortunate to have such a great teacher influencing the kids in the town of Lyons.

    Monica Moreno-Martinez ~ Spanish/ Computer Science/STEM teacher, Westview Middle School

    Monica was nominated by two fellow teachers. They state that there are a number of qualities that she possesses that make her a master educator. The most impressive of these qualities being her commitment, mastery of content, and the ability to connect with students. They share, “In the years we have worked together we marvel at her dedication to teaching. She has developed an exemplary middle school program where students willingly participate and parents support her efforts. As a result students experience great success. She is also very gifted and proficient at introducing culture into her classroom, which in turn begins to resemble a foreign country. Her classroom in splashed with color and imagery, that welcomes students and builds self esteem, as most of the items were created by the students themselves through activities that this teacher devised. This teacher shows her passion for education by teaching subjects close to her heart. She is a very thorough and creative teacher. She spends a lot of time preparing thoughtful and engaging lessons that are authentic and relevant to her students lives. She has established positive rapport with her students, and her students know that she cares deeply about them. Students recognize that this teacher is trustworthy and insightful and come to her to discuss a myriad of topics. This teacher is not only a Spanish and technology teacher, she is also a STEM teacher, MESA advisor, and a Latina group leader. She meets with these students weekly during her plan period. She makes it a priority to reach underrepresented youth. We often walk past her room and see students assembling in her classroom. She serves as a role model both inside and outside the classroom. This is especially true with the young ladies here at our school who obviously admire and look up to her”.

  • 2017 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    From left to right: Shelly Stephens, Coal Ridge Middle ~ Amy Marcellus, Prairie Ridge Elementary ~ Spencer Prestwich, Mountain View Elementary ~ Charlie Garcia, Erie Elementary ~ Breanna Jaworski, Rocky Mountain Elementary ~ Marie Kaufman, Skyline High School ~ Mary Calhoun, Career Development Center

    Shelly Stephens, 7th Grade Language Arts, Coal Ridge Middle

    A parent nominator begins her nomination of Shelly by noting, “Ever since I have known this teacher I have been impressed with her teaching style. She maintains great classroom management by keeping a quiet voice and a calm environment. She respects her students and in turn they also respect her. If there is any person who is truly meant to be a teacher, it is this teacher.” Colleague nominators describe Shelly as having always been the go to person for creativity, inspiration, and expertise in her field. Placing student need and academic rigor at the forefront of her teaching, this teacher involves her students in everything associated with the classroom. From the moment they enter, each student has a role to fulfill and as a result each one feels needed.

    Shelly is driven to incorporate her own growth as an educator in how she teaches, even if it requires a mid-year change. A colleague nominator notes that this teacher instituted a role reversal program which frees the teacher to spend more time with students individually. Students are meeting and exceeding standards through individual choice driven assignments. Another colleague describes the shift this way. “She artfully uses formative data on a daily basis to inform her practice and instruction. She is masterful at providing a lot of choice and autonomy for students, but also specifically targeting individual standards. Consequently, her students LOVE being in her class and she consistently has the highest growth and performance scores on standardized tests of any teacher in our building.” This colleague adds, “This year, Shelly has used technology to completely redefine the way students are learning into a collaborative workshop model. The change in her students has been so inspiring that three others of us at the school are following this new model. She is totally selfless in sharing her expertise and learning with the rest of us.” Shelley is described as a calm, rational, creative thinker who never has an unkind word for even the most challenging students. Consummately empathetic, she is endlessly compassionate toward all her students.

    Her principle describes her as in the top 1% of all teachers with whom this principle has worked. With passion for her work, Shelly has a work ethic that is second to none as she is always working to be better at her craft.

    Amy Marcellus, Special Education, Prairie Ridge Elementary

    A parent  nominator writes of Amy, “The first word that comes to mind when I think of this teacher is the word humble. She is 100% there for all of her students and never seeks any recognition for all of her hard work in caring for some of the most challenging students within the school.” These parents wondered if the school would be able to meet their daughter’s extensive needs. Experts at Children’s Hospital knew of their daughter’s severe anxiety and challenges and expressed concern for her ability to be successful at school. The parent writes that they worried about their daughter wanting to stay at school. Then the parents discovered that this teacher, who had taught an older sibling with autism, would be one of their daughter’s main contact persons. He writes, “We knew at that moment that our daughter would be in the best of hands. We could immediately see the anxiety reduce and our daughter began to look forward to going to school as opposed to not wanting to return. Children feel safe with this teacher, and respond to her patience, gentleness, her practice of mindfulness and staying in the moment with each student she serves.”  The nominator adds, “Any student who has had the opportunity to receive support from this teacher leaves her classroom a better person, more confident and ready for the next chapter in life.”

    Amy’s principle calls her an outstanding educator who will do anything she can to ensure the success and well-being of her students.  Through the years this teacher has attended students’ birthday parties, special events, and always wants to take on the students who have the toughest challenges.  Never one to complain about case or workload, Amy’s classroom is always a welcoming place for students who need a safe place to calm down.  Amy serves as an educator, a counselor, a mentor and a confidante.  In conferences with parents, this teacher is a wealth of knowledge, always ready with additional tactics and ideas to help with the students at home. Amy’s demeanor toward students is one of empathy and grace. Never raising her voice, she is fair in her dealings with all students. Working with children with special needs has been her lifelong passion.

    Spencer Prestwich, Special Education, Mountain View Elementary School

    Spencer is described as a person of dignity, respect, a family advocate, and a collaborative colleague who is relentless in his pursuit of student growth. Known as the “Gentle Giant,” this teacher strives for high impact student support and facilitates honest, supportive conversations with families and colleagues who work to help each of his students succeed. He builds respectful, collaborative teams of students, families and staff to reinforce student learning and promote academic, behavior and emotional growth. One student says of this teacher, “I like that he lets me have short breaks. He helps me calm down when I am angry so that I can get back to learning.” Another states, “It feels awesome reading with this teacher. I like that he teaches me how to learn to read, how to do math. He makes me feel safe and he makes learning fun!” These children continue to desire to come to school and push themselves to grow because of his encouragement.

    One colleague noted that it is truly a pleasure working with Spencer.  She writes, “I admire his passion for working with students and his continued commitment to helping them to be their best, both inside the classroom and out. When having difficult conversations with families, this teacher does so in a way that helps them grow and feel that they have the tools to help their child succeed. A careful strategist, he approaches each student’s individual academic and behavior goals with a game plan that would make the Denver Broncos proud. Consistent accountability propels his work with his students. An amazing teacher he is viewed as a friend to all.” Spencer’s principle describes him as a natural leader, possessing every characteristic you would desire in an exceptional teacher with incredible integrity. His students consistently surpass their goals and see significant gains as measured by the iReady assessments. He expects a lot from his students and even more from himself.

    Breanna Jaworski, 3rd Grade, Rocky Mountain Elementary

    Breanna was nominated by a number of her students. They portray a teacher who everyday makes learning fun, whether it is STEM or reading. This teacher pours herself into helping students grow in self-respect and respect for others. She encourages her students to focus on attempting new things like learning to write in cursive, figuring out new problems using technology, incorporating math games, and featuring a variety of rocks on the science table, and a host of other strategies in her efforts to make learning fun. This teacher takes learning outside of the classrooms as she uses field trips to connect classroom teaching and learning to life beyond school. These students absolutely love her way of doing field trips!

    These students know that she cares for them by the way she supports their learning. Fear of failure is overcome by her enthusiasm for the efforts put forth. Not getting something perfect the first time becomes an opportunity for learning and helping one another get to the correct answers or to solve the problems as her students participate in collaborative learning. Technology and her STEM table help facilitate students’ learning.

    Breanna’s principle highlights her dedication to her students and to the success of education in this school. Her principle points to her leadership roles among her peers and colleagues. This teacher embraces educating and supporting the whole child. She incorporates mindfulness of self and others, uses meditation and a calm down corner to help her students grow. A new mother herself, she seems indefatigable as she pursues her craft and her calling

    Mary Calhoun, Medical Career Preparation, Career Development Center

    Mary is described by a student nominator as the best teacher she ever had over multiple years. She describes her exposure to an amazing amount of content in a variety of settings that combined both in classroom and possible workplace settings. This combination results in a significant amount of science taught and retained. Her classroom creates an environment that welcomes all students and makes learning easy and fun. Each student is challenged with reachable goals and life-long learning experiences. Another student writes that this teacher’s dedication to her students and career instills in others the desire to be as passionate and as dedicated in their careers.

    Giving students the best learning experience possible drives Mary’s commitment to her role and craft. She provides students with opportunities that are characterized as being beyond their greatest dreams. These guide and drive her students to succeed over any of the myriad challenges that they may face.

    Helping her students complete the coursework is just part of her calling. She then stays after school to help them prepare for their post coursework exams that determine their certification. Outside of class she volunteers with a student club designed specifically for her students. These students competed and twice won state competitions and then participated in national competitions on the East and West Coasts. Such efforts with students outside of the classroom has resulted in hundreds of hours of work beyond the normal school day.

    One student writes, “Ms. Calhoun has helped me love school more, succeed in class and want to become a healthcare professional. I received unexpected opportunities. I grew as a person and a student because of her passion for teaching and the care she shows for each of her students.” A colleague notes, “She is super dedicated to her field and her students, is always a team player and always seeks new ways to connect with and support her students.”

    Marie Kaufman, Language Arts and Teacher Librarian, Skyline High School

    Marie is described by a colleague as a teacher with incredible passion for her craft and her unwavering belief that all students can learn and learn at a high level. Her students feel empowered, learn to believe in themselves and their ability to succeed in mastering the content she teaches. She differentiates her content to meet the needs of her students. Marie is driven to meet students’ needs so they can grow and learn. Another colleague says that this teacher’s mission in life seems to be to give the voiceless a voice and to help guide students on ways to problem solve when in the face of adversity. When socio-economic and racial inequalities surface at school, she uses the issues as an opportunity to spark dialogue, get students to share their stories and learn from one another. She makes a difference and serves as an inspiration to colleagues and students to also make a difference at school, in the community and in education.

    Marie embraces challenges that move her out of her comfort zone, from technology to tackling parent engagement at school and developing ways to help meet students’ needs. Last year, the Education Foundation and the Innovation Center partnered together to present the district’s first Design Challenge. This teacher led the school’s Design Challenge team to use the Design Process as a problem solving tool focused on developing a strategy to increase parent engagement. Among the strategies developed were providing questions parents might want to ask during parent teacher conferences in both English and Spanish, created a parent lab on the school’s website, and coordinated Coffee with the Principal as a means for reaching parents.

    Working with the Diverse Student organization, she helped develop a special closet for students and family members in need of clothing, personal hygiene items, food etc. This too sparked a Design Process Challenge idea for this year which led to this school to winning the Design Challenge for the second year in a row. Another winning school at this year’s challenge was so moved by this project that they donated their cash award to this school.

    A Language Arts Teacher at heart, she became the Teacher Librarian at Skyline High School.  In this role, she led Professional Development for all of the teachers around SAT and reading complex texts, incorporated student voices and input in redesigning the library and brought back the student newspaper.  The library is becoming the hub of student engagement, a place that students can come to read, to create, to explore problems and prototype solutions, and to collaborate with peers. The response to her tireless efforts include students inviting her to speak at graduation later this month as a true testament to her commitment to Skyline High School.

  • 2016 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Robert Stahly, Longmont High ~ Katie Strock, Skyline ~ Adam Wellington, Coal Ridge ~ Betsey Beamer, Erie Elementary ~ Deanna Doughty, Prairie Ridge ~ Amy Jennett, Burlington ~ L to R

    Betsey Beamer, 1st Grade

    Betsey Beamer, Erie Elementary

    One of the nominators for Betsey writes that every day is an adventure in this elementary teacher’s class. She finds something to celebrate with every child. The class is always moving and learning. She instills personal ownership in each child. They work together and independently, forming teams and helping each other. She challenges them and asks, “how can we make this better?” The energy level is always high. To make learning important to the students and to see that they are successful, this teacher focuses on each student individually, going so far as to make 24 different spelling lists, 24 pretests, and 24 individual spelling tests. She has a classroom website and dojo site. She is the teacher one always wanted to have as a student. She makes learning fun and most of the time the students do not even realize how much they are learning. She is a driving force for community involvement and is a warm and inviting person, always ready to listen, no matter who you are, student, former student, sibling of a student, parent or colleague. She makes you feel important in a way few people can.

    Another parent writes, her patience is so admirable. She knows how to communicate complex, abstract information to children in a way that seems easy and understandable. When I volunteer in her class, I learn something new. She encourages students to think through the subjects and express their answers and viewpoints. She communicates to parents through multiple channels and encourages parent involvement in all the lessons. This parent continues, I’ve watched her give children with special needs in her classroom the support and additional attention they needed without neglecting the needs of other students. She did it by instilling in her classroom an understanding that they were a family. They help each other, care for each other, accept each other and have fun with each other. And it works, it really does. This parent adds, my son has special needs and was anxious about moving to 1st grade from this teacher’s kindergarten class. When I told him that his kindergarten teacher was going to be his 1st grade teacher, he totally relaxed and has been happy to be at school. His skills and abilities have flourished this year. His social skills and interactions with others have greatly improved. He’s made such tremendous progress and this progress must be credited to this teacher and to the wonderful turn of events that allowed him to have her as his teacher for two years…..she has changed his future.

    Congratulations to Betsey Beamer, 1st grade!

    Deanna Doughty, 4th Grade

    Deanna Doughty, Prairie Ridge Elementary

    Deanna is nominated by a parent volunteer who writes I love walking into this teacher’s classroom. The environment is sunny and inviting and there’s a rhythm in her classroom. She creates an environment that allows students to resolve their challenges, teaching self-reliance, and yet lends assistance when needed. Because the students feel comfortable, they are also engaged, excited and ready for the day of new discoveries. The parent writes that her family has a history of moving frequently for work that has impacted her children. When the family moved to the area in February 2013, her children had been in a different school each of the previous 5 years. Since preschool, her son had acute anxiety when transitioning to a new school. In about a week’s time after joining this teacher’s classroom, this parent states, “the anxiety attacks stopped and suddenly we had a child begging to go to school and begging to go to bed early so school would come sooner!”

    This parent has been a parent volunteer with this teacher as both of her children have been in this teacher’s 2nd grade class and then also in her 4th grade class when the teacher changed grade levels. She speaks to how both of her children have flourished in this teacher’s class because of the adjustments she makes to meet each child’s needs. She writes, “At the beginning of the 2015 school year, my husband got a new job in Atlanta, GA. Each time before, when he has had to move for work, we have moved with him. Difficult as it has been, we couldn’t pass up giving our daughter one more year with (this teacher). She is truly the top reason the kids and I have stayed while he went ahead with the job. Our school is an exemplary school, run better than any other school we’ve ever been a part of. It is a school community you couldn’t fake and I know it is due to the high quality staff. However, it is because of this teacher we stayed. We felt it more necessary for our daughter to have one more year with this exceptional teacher, than having the family move together.

    She is that kind of teacher for both of my children and many more I’m sure. The one they will remember and talk about the rest of their lives. She is the one who changed the entire projection of their lives, for the better. She taught them success, she taught them to fail, and then to stand up and brush yourself off and try again. She gave them a love of learning, not through words, but with every fiber of her being that stands up in front and shows them. She is doing exactly what she should be doing in life, by choice. As a parent, I am so grateful to her for choosing such a difficult path. I’ve never met her equal.”

    Congratulations Deanna Doughty, 4th grade!

    Amy Jennet, Physical Education

    Amy Jennett, Burlington Elementary

    Amy shows her passion for teaching by offering rich experiences for a subject she loves and wants her students to love as well. She is described by a former teacher who volunteers at this school as an extraordinary teacher who provides a classroom that honors and engages all students. She greets the students with calm, quiet dignity and is an excellent role model for setting the tone for the class. Her enthusiasm and knowledge are evident in that all materials and equipment are laid out and ready the minute children enter. Classes begin with a daily warm-up, exercise and stretching. When students act out, she seeks to know the child better and makes accommodations or a plan for engagement so each student experiences success. Throughout the school one hears that students want to go to P.E.

    This teacher is known among the students to be a good teacher and fair. She makes learning exciting, meaningful and relevant. She puts in countless hours setting up magnificent experiences, wanting the students to experience what she too loves. She does such things as constructing an obstacle course to demonstrate the working of the heart. This reinforces what is taught in the upper grade classrooms and exposes younger students to the topic while all the students exert the energy to go through the course and they get to use a pulse ox monitor to check their heart rate. Another unit offers a jungle gym, climbing nets and ropes, a climbing and traverse wall, complete with learning opportunities and safety instructions that carry over into life as well. The scooters unit is one the students love, this volunteer writes. A new set of muscles and movements are required to move on the scooters. The unit also deals with money, skeletons and bones, taking turns, maneuvering and being respectful. Faces beam as they scoot around.

    The teacher invites parents to observe and volunteer. She lets parents know with her own notes when a special unit like using yo-yos is scheduled. Using iPads, the students access an app that coaches correctly done skills. Try a skill, then check with the iPad app to see if you are doing it correctly. Innovation is at the heart of each magnificent unit. The nomination continues, this teacher sees what she does as that which any one would do in her position. In fact, what she does is totally exceptional. She creates in students confidence as well as a love for exercise and sports. They see themselves as capable and they want to participate

    After 22 years of teaching, some teachers are tempted to get complacent. Not Amy Jennett, she continues to way beyond the ordinary.

    Congratulations Amy Jennett, Physical Education!

    Robert Stahly, Music Teacher and Orchestra Director

    Robert Stahly, Longmont High

    A parent nominator begins her nomination of Robert by noting, “The moment you enter this teacher’s room, you know you are going to have a wonderful experience. Orchestra begins with the lights dimmed, soft music playing in the background as the teacher leads the orchestra in relaxed stretching, calming their minds, changing their focus and physically preparing them to play their instruments. Sometimes a student will share a recent musical discovery. Sometimes they watch a lecture comparing how music sounds different as the skill of the performer increase. Once this teacher took our Oreos and vanilla cookies, and used them to teach how musical triads work.

    When it is time to practice, they practice hard. He chooses hard pieces that will challenge his students. Why so hard? Because these pieces not only allow the students to score well in Colorado High School Activities Association competition and festivals. He chooses difficult pieces to teach his students new skills and makes them proud of their accomplishments. He does so to demonstrate the beautiful music his students are able to produce. The Chamber Orchestra went to CHSAA one year and performed an entire Shostakovich string quartet, challenging for most college level players and received the highest score possible with one of the judges saying over and over during their performance, “Wow! This is so great!”

    The Chamber Orchestra performed so well they were selected to perform at the Colorado Music Educators Association Clinic and Conference this past January. To prepare, this teacher held Saturday orchestra camps working on an original score this teacher commissioned for this opportunity. Rhythmically complex music, the teacher held these orchestra camps Saturday after Saturday to teach the music, putting it together section by section. The resulting performance was stunning.

    This teacher attends to his own growth as a musician and teacher. He performs with the Longmont Symphony Orchestra and occasionally a marching band that once performed at a band festival in Taipei, Taiwan. Over the last winter break, this teacher attended the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. As a result of his personal commitment to growth and excellence, his teaching style has become more innovative and effective and his orchestra better and better.

    He communicates well with parents, uses a Facebook page to post news, photos of performances and brags about students who get into District Honor Orchestra. He live streams all concerts so that family members who can’t attend or live out of state can enjoy the concert. Later, video recordings are made available. This teacher has conducted a Halloween Concert dressed as Jack the Pumpkin and once conducted a portion of the Nutcracker Suite in costume.

    Congratulations Robert Stahly, Music & Orchestra Director!

    Katie Strock, AP Government, US History and Government. Pictured with her two boys.

    Katherine Strock, Skyline High

    Katie, loves her work, her subject matter, her colleagues and students. When you walk into her classroom she immediately greets every student or colleague, asking about their weekend, their games or concerts. Her passion for teaching is obvious as soon as you enter her room and she is always positive and encouraging.

    Another colleague and nominator, writes, “Love is the word that best describes the feeling and atmosphere in this teacher’s room – love of content, love for the job and the love of her students. Love of content is demonstrated by her enthusiasm and ability to take essential learnings from her content and individualize a lesson so each student can take these concepts and apply them to their lives. She had students attend the recent Democratic and Republican caucuses because they wanted the experience. No extra credit, no grade offered for such attendance. Simply, they wanted a first-hand experience. She instills in her students that having knowledge is empowering.

    Students report that you want to learn what she is teaching, you want to come to class so that you don’t miss out on what is going on. Students enjoy her class and being with her and one another. They exclaim, I LOVE HISTORY! This teacher holds voluntary study sessions after school and on Saturdays, which are always well attended.

    The nomination continues. I love my job is how this teacher chooses to express her devotion and passion towards teaching and education. Teaching for this individual is more than making sure the students understand the content, more than memorization of facts and events. Teaching is learning how to gain knowledge and apply that information, the ability to think critically and problem solve. This teacher often will have students dress-up for formal presentations and mock trials. Such experiences create life long memories for both the students and this teacher as the students demonstrate the knowledge acquired and the application of that knowledge. She makes learning fun.

    For this teacher, love of students is more than saying you think all students can learn, more than simply believing in students when they don’t believe in themselves. Love of students for this teacher is setting high expectations for her students, helping them develop a solid work ethic, giving them responsibilities and working with them to help them meet their goals. This teacher often engages her students in conversation and her secret is that she pays very close attention to the details and the small stuff. And she remembers and her students love her for it. And they return to visit with her, even when they are no longer in her classes, even after graduation. A strong believer in educating the whole person, she sponsors the Senior Class, supports the Dance team, Big Sisters program and Student Government. She is a great mentor and friend to her colleagues and more than deserving of this Spotlight Award.

    Congratulations Katie Strock, AP Government, US History and Government!

    Adam Wellington, Social Studies

    Adam Wellington, Coal Ridge Middle

    Adam is described by his colleague as a teacher who cares about students, their futures, their families. He deeply cares about content, wants his students to succeed at learning and then does everything he possibly can to make sure it happens. Students know and recognize this and respond so positively to him. His classroom is a joyful center of learning, vivid, bright, full of laughter, discussion and questioning. While always changing the way in which students are finding information and showing what they know, his expectations for each student are constant, consistent and rigorous. This teacher’s love for history can be found in his personal family research, his daily “this day in history” quotes and facts and his unique abilities to tie current events to his daily learning activities. Students are encouraged to do their own research into their family histories and bring their discoveries to class. This teacher was as excited as his student when that student discovered that his 9th Great Grandfather served in the Pennsylvania Militia during the American Revolution.

    This teacher employs technology in creative ways that feed his students desire to learn -videos, comics, audio pods, designating an hour a week for “Genius” hour where the student can choose what he or she wants to work on, with an approved plan complete with benchmarks. He gets as excited as the students about their projects! He meets with his students individually to measure their progress, assist where needed, celebrate their success, set goals that are standards based, and helps his student meet these goals. Parents are kept informed through IC and email and his students are empowered.

    This teacher’s other passion is working with students on the school yearbook. Giving up his planning time at school, he loves working with his yearbook students because they challenge, inspire and motivate him. His mentorship of these students lasts well into their college years and beyond. He is a school leader and serves on district committees.

    His incorporation of technology in teaching and learning he shares with staff and is a ready resource to his colleagues. Always wanting to help make the school the best it can be, he is constantly thinking, questioning, exploring ways to do things better. As helpful as he is to students and colleagues alike, it is his genuineness that makes the greatest impact. Families want each of their children to have this teacher because they know that he truly cares for students. His ability to get students to care about themselves, to care about school, to care about US History and their future is inspiring.

    Congratulations Adam Wellington, Social Studies!

  • 2015 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Karen Mancusi, Misti Snow, Michael Aragon, Louise March & Jill Fadenrecht, L to R

    Michael Aragon, Skyline High School

    Michael expects excellence from all his students, meets them at their individual ability level and provides the necessary support and feedback to keep his students engaged and motivated. Outside of the classroom, he volunteers his time at athletic events, on game nights, sponsoring the Magic Club and the Sci-Fi Club. He is Skyline’s Gifted and Talented Coordinator and also works with the Jump Start Program, the STEM program at Timberline and the Science Olympians during the summer. His nominator wrote, “When you combine his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm of his subject area with his ability to motivate and connect with students, it is evident that he is all about student success!”

    Congratulations to Michael Aragon, Science teacher at Skyline High!

    Jill Fadenrecht, Black Rock Elementary School

    Jill goes above and beyond to not just teach her students but to motivate and inspire them. She “walks the walk” and never sits on the sidelines; she leads by example and encourages others do the same. A big part of her focus is on character development. One of her favorite quotes is “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” She often takes difficult situations and turns them into positive learning opportunities, filled with kindness and support. Her nominators describe Jill as … engaging … motivating … passionate … the epitome of a good teacher … one of the most influential teachers the school has ever had.

    Congratulations to Black Rock Elementary’s P.E. teacher, Jill Fadenrecht!

    Karen Mancusi, Longs Peak Middle School

    Karen supports her students in language acquisition as well as content understanding and never gives up until they are “making the grade”. She is a fierce defender of her students’ right to education and routinely advocates for students who don’t always have a voice. When not supporting her students in the classroom she can be found cheering them on at their games or donating resources for students that can’t afford participation fees. The colleagues who nominated Karen rave that … “She helps make our school an amazing place. We’re lucky to have her.”

    Congratulation to Karen Mancusi, ELL teacher at Longs Peak Middle School!

    Louise March, Timberline PK-8

    Louise helps students become more aware of their opinions and more vested in their own education on a daily basis. She guides her current students to understand who they are by using personality theory, how they can persevere through essay writing, and the importance of education through self-advocacy … all powerful skills valuable throughout one’s lifetime. For past students, she holds study sessions, sets goals, provides career counseling and helps them apply for scholarships to ensure their success beyond high school. She is a significant role model for her students and her unyielding belief in their futures helps them become confident, self-aware young adults.

    Congratulations to Louise March, Counselor at Timberline PK-8!

    Misti Snow, Hygiene Elementary School

    When you step into Misti’s classroom the first thing that strikes you is how colorful it is, being covered wall-to-wall with the work of her students and, most importantly, you get the sense that learning is taking place in every corner. She creates a climate where students believe in their capabilities and work well independently to achieve their goals. She is also keenly aware that a student’s learning is a partnership between the student, the parents and herself. And as a teacher in Regis University’s Masters of Education program, she keeps up on research and best practices to help take her students to the next level of success.

    Congratulations to Misti Snow, 5th grade teacher at Hygiene Elementary!

  • 2014 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Carrie Mitchell, Loretta Harvey, Stephanie Busby & Chris Chou, L to R

    Stephanie Busby, Lyons Middle/Senior

    A parent wrote of Stephanie Busby at Lyons Middle/Senior, “I am constantly amazed at the quality of the artwork that covers the walls of our school. This teacher picks projects that allow the student to be honest, passionate and unique in portraying themselves through visual art. Her instruction is superb; you can see it in the detail and thoroughness of the student artwork.” A student proclaims, “Mrs. Busby taught me so many practical lessons that most classes don’t teach. I feel like I am ready to take on my next chapter in life with thanks to her.”

    Congratulations to Lyons Middle Senior High’s Art teacher, Stephanie Busby!

    Chris Chou, Longmont High School

    A community member nominated Chris Chou of Longmont High School, saying “Not only does she have an amazing grasp of the medical and biosciences curriculum, but she has a way of communicating that information to the students that inspires them to want to learn more. She knows her students well enough to engage them personally in the content and see how it applies to their own lives.” A parent added, “What sets her apart from other teachers is not just her intelligence but her gentle humor, her genuine love for each student no matter their background. Her enthusiasm is contagious to a fault!”

    Congratulations to Chris Chou, AP Biology teacher and Medical & BioScience Academy coordinator at Longmont High School!

    Loretta Harvey, Black Rock Elementary

    A parent’s nomination of Loretta Harvey, Black Rock Elementary, asks, “Who would have ever thought our 4th grade daughter would be performing opera to an audience of 200 patrons and a live pit orchestra? Never in our wildest dreams did we think that would happen! This teacher has made many, many dreams come true.” Another parent wrote, “She has inspired a love of music in all four of my children. She inspires kids to do their best and to work as a group. The music concerts I have attended under this teacher’s direction have been amazing!”

    Congratulations to Black Rock Elementary’s Music teacher, Loretta Harvey!

    Carrie Mitchell, Erie High School

    A retired principal nominated Carrie Mitchell of Erie High School, saying “In the classroom, she is simply amazing. Her students spend each day with a highly prepared, challenging, academic, caring, and FUNNY teacher. Students sign up for her classes in droves. Outside of the classroom, she is the Varsity Tennis Coach and her team has annually been the largest in the area, with over 50 girls. She is also one of the most giving people in memory. She began a program consisting of staff members who meet monthly and find ways to assist wayward families and students of the school, and the community.”

    Congratulations to Carrie Mitchell, English teacher at Erie High School!

    Teachers and Staff, Lyons Elementary and Middle Senior High School

    When the extent of damage done by the September floods became known, district administrators quickly decided to relocate Lyons Elementary and Lyons Middle Senior High to the Main Street School building in Longmont. Teachers and staff worked long hours to reestablish classrooms in Longmont that had previously been in Lyons just days before. Lyons personnel went above and beyond during and after this natural disaster.  They provided strength, consistency and caring to the children, many of whom had been traumatized.  They did the best they could to ensure their students didn’t skip a beat with their studies.

    Congratulations to Lyons Elementary and Middle Senior High School teachers and staff!

  • 2013 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Congratulations to the outstanding recipients of the 2013 Spotlight Awards! These five teachers, Kenneth Benson, Kate Goss, Kathleen Jakobsen, Kyle Sumnicht and Myron Whisman, received this prestigious recognition for their excellence in teaching and demonstrated ability to make a significant difference in the success of students in their classroom on a daily basis.

    Ken Benson, Niwot High School

    Nominated by one of his students, Ken Benson, Niwot High School “teaches how critical it is to understand that there is a relationship between our course material and the outside world.” This student echoes what everyone at Niwot High knows about Ken, “It is apparent when you walk into his classroom that there is nothing this teacher loves more than teaching.” He is a modest person who deserves appreciation for the consideration he gives his work and the passion he instill in his students.

    Congratulations to Niwot High’s Social Studies teacher, Ken Benson!

    Kate Goss, St. Vrain Community Montessori

    Kate Goss, St. Vrain Community Montessori, “lives for teaching. She makes all of her own materials and is at school pretty much 24/7 preparing, arranging and experimenting. She is a great scientist, able to teach adult subjects to children and tweens in a manner they can understand. She is always there to answer questions, even nights and weekends. She takes her students on adventurous trips to learn about nature and their environment. She is so enthusiastic with everything she does that it’s contagious.”

    Congratulations to Kate Goss, 4th and 5th Grade teacher at St. Vrain Community Montessori!

    Kathleen Jakobsen, Altona Middle School

    Nominated by a parent, Kathleen Jakobsen, Altona Middle School, “makes tremendous efforts for her students to learn.” She secures guest speakers, including meteorologists and aerospace engineers, to “find a way to teach outside the textbook to engage students … it’s a powerful teaching technique. I will be forever indebted to her for my son’s true love of science. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that some of her students return as space engineers and meteorologists as a result of her excellence in the classroom.”

    Congratulations to Altona Middle School’s 6th Grade Science teacher, Kathleen Jakobsen!

    Kyle Sumnicht, Flagstaff Academy

    Kyle Sumnicht, Flagstaff Academy, “has an approach that is nothing less than thrilling. He keeps material relevant and exciting for the students. The classroom’s museum exhibit captivate the students, especially when a new exhibit is being erected. They get to see the countless hours he puts in. Kyle relates the discoveries in the exhibits to modern day life. It helps explain how our civilization and culture came to be. This is so important for children to learn how technology has evolved over many thousands of years.”

    Congratulations Flagstaff Academy’s Elementary Social Studies teacher, Kyle Sumnicht!

    Myron Whisman, Sunset Middle School

    A former student nominated Myron Whisman, Sunset Middle School saying, “I knew from my older sister’s stories that band was THE place to be at this school. I played the drums. At first I have a really tough time, but Mr. Whisman was always encouraging. He always kept things fun. I recall him saying to me that he would take some drum lessons himself if he knew he could be that good that fast. This just about made my year! I still keep in touch with my favorite teacher and he is helping to guide me in my future career options.”

    Congratulations Myron Whisman, Band teacher at Sunset Middle School!

  • 2012 – St. Vrain Valley Schools Teacher of the Year Finalists

    Congratulations to our three Spotlight Award recipients selected for 2012! Recognized as exceptional educators at the fifth annual Tribute to Teachers were Kristi Ekern, Linda Mutz, and Diane Ruby. These teachers routinely encourage their students in ways that are “above and beyond” while instructing and preparing them for success in the 21st century.

    Fall River Elementary fifth grade teacher Kristi Ekern shows examples of display boards in her classroom Wednesday May 02, 2012. (Lewis Geyer/Times-Call)

    Kristi Ekern, Fall River Elementary

    Kristi Ekern, Fall River Elementary, was nominated by a highly impressed classroom volunteer who wrote that she “displays genuine passion for her chosen occupation as a teacher. When asked what motivates her to keep coming to work every day, Kristi replied, “Something different happens every day. There are no ruts, and there are many new things which create excitement for me.” This special teacher, with 22 years of experience, arranges for University of Colorado graduate students to come to her classroom to assist in teaching science topics, and has an “Adopt a Pilot” program in which a Southwest Airlines pilot comes and talks about science and engineering, and the importance of goal setting. She also partners with IBM to expose her students to the scientists working in the field. Connecting student learning to real life experiences makes this teacher deserve to be in the Spotlight.

    Congratulations to Fall River Elementary’s Kristi Ekern!

    Erie Elementary first grade teacher Linda Mutz helps Francess Crawley, left, and Mackenna Pierson with tie-dying t-shirts Wednesday May 02, 2012. (Lewis Geyer/Times-Call)

    Linda Mutz, Erie Elementary

    Linda Mutz, Erie Elementary, is a teacher who, after 29 years, is still extremely passionate about teaching! The parent nominator says this teacher “is one of the most enthusiastic, passionate, organized, dedicated, and motivating teachers I have ever encountered. She has created a classroom that allows all of her students to grow, develop, and thrive academically. Knowing that not all students learn at the same speed or in the same manner, she has implemented a differentiated learning structure that allows her to focus on smaller groups of children, giving them the specialized attention unique to their skill level.” The nominator went on to say that Linda “is not afraid to think outside the box when it comes to teaching. She has integrated the use of computer games that allows each student to practice math at their own level. She uses a document camera that provides for interactive learning.” Her conservation efforts are recognized, as her room is referred to as “the green room” and she teaches the children the importance of being “green” by incorporating activities such as the recycling of soda cans into their math unit. This teacher’s commitment to technology and a focus on dealing with real world issues makes her a great candidate for this year’s Spotlight Award.

    Congratulations to Erie Elementary’s Linda Mutz!

    Longmont High School physical education teacher Diane Ruby teaches a climbing wall class Wednesday May 02, 2012. (Lewis Geyer/Times-Call)

    Diane Ruby, Longmont High School

    Diane Ruby, Longmont High School, is referred to as “an educator, mentor, advisor, friend, cheerleader, tutor, confidant, community supporter, morale booster, pseudo-parent, leader, and above all, champion of our students.” A parent of two students says, Diane “has guided many an athlete and taught them life lessons, not just winning. She introduced me to the phrase ‘moral compass’ and guides children always to remember first and foremost to ‘do the right thing’. She is a champion of the underdog, and has enabled countless students to conquer not only their fear of the climbing wall, but to use that wall as a metaphor for life’s obstacles.” One of the nominators was in tears when told the story of how this teacher helped a young lady, who was not physically fit, to conquer the climbing wall using the teacher’s “step by step” approach. It was easy for the nominator to “imagine her quiet, steady, gentle encouragement as this young lady liberated a new confident self along that wall”. The nomination goes on to say, “Her enthusiasm for the kids is overwhelming while she herself is very humble. Diane is always ready to deflect credit back to the kids when we know it is her gentle guidance that has kept many kids on track. Her long-time support for students and her relentless quest for helping them build their confidence to be successful makes her a great Spotlight recipient.

    Congratulations to Longmont High School’s Diane Ruby!