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Briefs: Colorado Teacher of the Year finalists

Teachers from the Adams 12, Aurora, Boulder and Summit school districts are finalists for Colorado’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.

Finalists were selected based on a written application, letters of recommendation, classroom video clips, endorsements from the teacher’s district and personal interviews, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Education.

The finalists – text and photos from CDE webpage, which contains more information:

Hollyanna Bates
Teacher, Literacy Intervention, Grade 1, Dillon Valley Elementary School
Summit School District

Bates has been teaching for 16 years and received National Board Certification in 2011. Bates models community service, volunteerism and has started the district’s first Green Team. She believes it is the responsibility of teachers to help cultivate the desire for knowledge and understanding by developing creativity, problem-solving, and compassion in students.


Theresa Collins
Teacher, Language Arts, Grades 9-12, Centaurus High School
Boulder Valley School District

Collins has been a language arts teacher at Centaurus High School for 25 of her 27 years in education. She serves on the Boulder Valley Language Arts Curriculum Council, writing curriculum which aligns district stands with new state standards. She believes teachers must know their subjects and know them well, and keep learning and growing right along with their students.


Karen Johnson
Teacher, Science and Engineering, Grade 6, STEM Magnet Lab School
Adams 12 School District

Johnson has been in elementary and middle school math and science education for the past 22 years in Adams 12 Schools. In 2004, she completed a PhD in Educational Leadership and Innovation, focusing on scientific inquiry, teacher backgrounds, beliefs and practice. She incorporates technology and understanding 21st Century Skills in her classroom daily.


Amanda Westenberg
Teacher, Social Studies, Grades 10-12, Rangeview High School
Aurora School District

Westenberg has been in education for the past 8 years and serves as the social studies department chair. She has developed Advanced Placement curriculum that is interactive. She feels her mission is to enable students to become literate thinkers with the skills to succeed in their post-secondary pursuits. Westenberg believes education must be rigorous and relevant.


The winner of the Colorado Teacher of the Year title will be announced next week.

→ The citizens advocacy group A+ Denver has released its final report and recommendations on arts education in Denver Public Schools.

“The report points to unacceptable disparities in arts education between schools and calls for high quality programs throughout the city,” the group says. “It also recommends that we take advantage of the rich cultural and artistic institutions in the region, local artists and creative professionals.”

Read the full report, Arts Education in Denver Schools: Envisioning Excellence.

The taskforce behind the report recommends nine key strategies:

1. Create a multi-year strategic plan
2. Assess student performance
3. Extend learning opportunities
4. Increase and expand strategic partnerships
5. Focus on depth instead of breadth
6. Call on schools to define clear approach to the arts
7. Improve communication about school programs
8. Increase accountability for arts dollars
9. Increase funding and resources

“Given the upcoming bond election that could potentially put $11 million additional dollars into school art programs, we wanted to take a hard look at what those funds could accomplish,” Van Schoales, CEO of A+ Denver, said in a press release. “This report is really just the beginning of a process to build an arts education vision for Denver.”

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