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Colorado Teacher of the Year selected as finalist for national award

A teacher works with her students at a creek, with her children looking at something she is holding in a small container.

Autumn Rivera, wearing a cap, is Colorado’s 2022 Teacher of the Year was named one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year.

Courtesy of Autumn Rivera

Autumn Rivera, Colorado’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, is one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award, the Council of Chief State School Officers announced Wednesday

Rivera, a sixth-grade science teacher at Glenwood Springs Middle School in the Roaring Fork district, grew up in western Colorado and attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs. She told Chalkbeat last fall that she’d wanted to be a teacher since she was a kid organizing neighborhood games of kick the can and capture the flag.

A portrait of a young woman, wearing a white dress with long brown hair, set against golden brush and snowy mountains.

Courtesy of Autumn Rivera

In recent years, Rivera worked with students as part of a larger grassroots effort to save a mountain lake from development. The campaign worked and Gov. Jared Polis announced plans last fall to make Sweetwater Lake and the surrounding land Colorado’s newest state park.

In addition to Rivera, the finalists for the national award include Whitney Aragaki, a high school science teacher from Hawai’i; Kurt Russell, a high school history teacher from Ohio; and Joseph Welch, a middle school history teacher from Pennsylvania. All are 2022 teachers of the year in their respective states. They were selected as finalists from 56 applicants. 

The National Teacher of the Year will be announced this spring. 

The last time a Colorado Teacher of the Year was selected as a national Teacher of the Year finalist was in 1994, when Marjorie West, a teacher from Glennon Heights Elementary in the Jeffco district, was selected. The last Colorado teacher to be named National Teacher of the Year was Elaine Barbour, of Coal Creek Elementary in the Jeffco district, in 1978.

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