DENVER – Seven Colorado educators have been named as finalists for Colorado Teacher of the Year. The teachers represent the best of every part of the state and ever level of K-12 education.
Each year, the Colorado Teacher of the Year Program honors an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled K-12 classroom teacher to represent the entire profession in the state. The selected teacher automatically becomes Colorado’s nominee for the National Teacher of the Year competition.
This year’s Colorado Teacher of the Year will be named in October and will be one of the following seven finalists:
Cactus Valley Elementary School, Garfield Re-2
Justin Bankey is a general music teacher in Silt, Colo., where he directs exemplary musicals, orchestrates an award-winning choir and has taught band as well as academic classes. He believes in learning all you can, sharing all you know and that our kids are worth whatever it takes. Justin has created a district-level arts calendar that organizes performances across the district’s schools. He recently created a website that includes the new Colorado music standards, learning progressions and lesson plan sharing for all grades. Mr. Bankey has also been a driving force in revamping the school district’s mentoring program, helping to acquire a Retaining Teachers Grant and assisted in developing a district level program of training for mentors.
Shelledy Elementary School, Mesa Valley School District No. 51
Richard Green is a kindergarten teacher in Fruita, Colo., who has been in education for 39 years with the majority of his time spent teaching kindergarten. He is an active member in the school district and has served twice on legislative committees examining full-day kindergarten and helped form a state kindergarten association. Mr. Green loves working with children in many different roles, including volunteering as a community Santa Claus since 1993. Full-day kindergarten for Colorado has been Mr. Green’s biggest passion so far, and he was actively involved in Colorado’s passing of full-day kindergarten in 2019. He is now working towards making kindergarten developmentally appropriate.
McMeen Elementary School, Denver Public Schools
Claudia Ladd is a first-grade teacher in Denver, Colo. She is a National Board certified teacher with experience in leadership, curriculum development, instructional coaching, standards alignment and 16 years of classroom teaching experience. Ms. Ladd firmly believes that early literacy is the gateway to education and that classrooms must be the front line of equitable opportunity. Ladd feels her professional purpose is to advocate for systemic change in education so that all children, regardless of zip code, can receive an equitable, joyful and rigorous education that inspires intellectual curiosity.
Franklin Middle School, Greeley-Evans School District 6
Machin Norris is an eighth grade Integrated Science and STEM Teacher in Greeley, Colo. Prior to pursuing education, Norris was an Emergency Medical Technician and field trainer. Educating others in EMS led her to further her career in public education. During Norris’ nine-year teaching career, she has actively promoted STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education while capitalizing on the rich opportunities within the aerospace industry. Ms. Norris has a strong drive to develop global learners who will become better world citizens. She is an advocate for building and incorporating specific instruction to encourage students’ global awareness. Ms. Norris encourages students to reach high; she consistently projects the philosophy that you can accomplish meaningful goals—even dreams -- as long as you are willing to sacrifice and work hard.
Sand Creek High School, School District 49
Erika Siemieniec a business teacher in Colorado Springs, Colo. Ms. Siemieniec has been teaching at Sand Creek since 2011, when she started as an International Baccalaureate (IB) mathematics teacher who later transitioned to teaching business. Ms. Siemieniec often incorporates the community into her classroom through professional interviews, visiting local entrepreneurship pitch events, as well as hosting an advisory board at Sand Creek of teachers, students, parents and community members. She is an adviser to a competitively successful Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) organization and was head dance coach at Sand Creek High School. Ms. Siemieniec demonstrates outstanding development of the business pathway, and excitement and passion for the success of her students.
Mountain Range High School, Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Hilary Wimmer began teaching business in 2004 and was part of the inaugural staff at Mountain Range High School in Westminster, Colo., in 2006. She serves as the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department chair and high school of business program coordinator. Wimmer leads the largest DECA program in Colorado and was recognized as the Colorado DECA Advisor of the Year in 2016. Wimmer heads the districtwide CTE professional learning teams in curriculum development and is building a common business curriculum for students in Colorado. She was named by the national Next Gen Personal Finance Organization to be one of the Next Gen Change Makers with the goal of ensuring all students leave high school financially literate.
Horizon Middle School, School District 49
William Yerger is a middle school enrichment teacher in Colorado Springs, Colo. He teaches seventh grade forensics and eighth grade health science. He holds a license as a registered nurse in Colorado, Career Technical Education certification in health science and is an instructor for the American Heart Association. At Horizon Middle School, William has worked to establish a partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for students and the school community to provide sponsorships for children participating in the program. Mr. Yerger believes the goal of teaching is to provide students the knowledge and skills necessary to become contributing members of society. By using project based learning, he helps to make those real-world connections and valuable learning experiences for students.