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Denver teacher receives national recognition for helping students cope with pandemic school year

Justin Barney named Honored.org April honoree
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Posted at 9:19 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 23:19:14-04

DENVER — A Denver teacher has been recognized for keeping his students engaged and focusing on their emotional and mental well-being during a difficult school year.

The education nonprofit Honored selected Justin Barney as it’s April 2021 honoree. Barney is a 7th grade Spanish teacher at Denver Green School North.

“All of the nominations that came in for Justin were really talking about how he's really worked on building this relationship with his students,” said Brooklyn Batey, senior director of programs and partnerships at Honored.

Barney said while Denver Public Schools (DPS) was remote for the first half of the school year, he realized his priority had to be keeping kids showing up to class and checking on their well-being.

“I sort of pivoted away from Spanish, Spanish, Spanish, Spanish to mental health,” Barney said.

He even discussed serotonin and dopamine with his students.

The students appreciated his efforts. Four of them nominated Barney on the Honored website.

“It has certainly solidified my preexisting belief, which was that relationships are more important than academics,” Barney said.

As part of its mission to keep great teachers in classrooms, Honored selects a different teacher from around the country every month to feature. The winning teacher also receives a $5,000 cash prize and a $1,000 dollar gift card to DonorsChoose, a nonprofit that supports classrooms.

Honored also lists all nominated teachers in its “honor roll” to make sure they receive recognition.