Steamboat high school’s Erickson named Teacher of the Year
Social studies instructor known for effectiveness
May 26, 2010
District award winners
2010 Kelly Erickson
2009 Laura LeBrun
2008 Matt Tredway
2007 Ben Barbier
2006 Ginny Osbourn
2005 Margi Briggs-Casson
2004 Celia Dunham
2003 Pam Walter
2002 Brad Kindred
2001 Lucianne Myhre
2000 Martin Lamansky
1999 Kerry Kerrigan
1998 George Weber
1997 Nanette Waneka
1996 Celia Dunham
1995 Jayne Hill
1994 Tanna Brock
1993 Rosemary Pearson
1992 Kay Wagner
1991 Allyson Spear
1990 George “Bud” Romberg
1989 Ken Janson
1988 Winston Walker
1987 Sher Scheiwe
1986 Martin Lamansky
1985 Marcia Martin
Steamboat Springs — Kelly Erickson loves her students. They're the reason she's a teacher.
"They're hilarious. They're fun," said Erickson, a social studies teacher at Steamboat Springs High School. "Every day is different. I laugh really hard every day."
Erickson was honored at Monday's Steamboat Springs School Board meeting as the 2009-10 district Teacher of the Year.
Some of Erickson's students said that laugh is well known in the halls of the high school for its frequency and volume. But it's not the reason they suspect Erickson was recognized this year as the Teacher of the Year.
"She's probably one of the best teachers I've ever had," freshman Joash Rayfield said. "She's just a really effective teacher. I think she's really good at it."
Erickson, 32, grew up in Plymouth, Minn. She interned with a middle school social studies teacher in high school. It was then Erickson knew she wanted to be a teacher.
After graduating from Colorado College in Colorado Springs with a degree in history and a minor in education, Erickson moved to Steamboat to ski. She substitute taught for the first three years before becoming a full-time teacher at the high school.
But last year, Erickson said, she needed to evaluate her life and decide whether Steamboat was the place she wanted to stay. In that time, Erickson said she gained a new appreciation for her job.
When introducing her Monday as Teacher of the Year, high school Principal Kevin Taulman described Erickson as an excellent role model for the female students. He said there was a "big void" when Erickson wasn't there.
Her students also are glad she's back.
Erickson, a dancer since childhood, resumed her role this year as the faculty sponsor of the high school's annual dance showcase. She also produces Steamboat Dance Theatre.
Senior Lexi Pappas, Erickson's student aide for her freshman civics class, has never taken one of her classes. Pappas met Erickson through the dance showcase four years ago, and the two have since danced together in community productions.
Pappas said Erickson is more of a friend to her than a teacher.
"She's the one person in the whole school I come to if I need help, always," Pappas said. "She's just someone I can talk to. I can talk to her as a friend, and she won't judge me. I can talk to her about any aspect of my life. I respect her. She always knows the right thing to do."
Students said dialogue is a key part of Erickson's classes. Erickson said she tries to make her classroom a safe and comfortable place for students to step outside of their comfort zones, freely express their beliefs and challenge one another. She said discussions and debate are common because many of the questions she poses to students don't have just one answer.
"It keeps it interesting for me. Therefore, it's interesting for them," Erickson said. "I like what I do and hope I can make it fun for them to be here."
Junior Erik Owen, who has Erickson this year for the second time, said the style of her classes always keeps him interested, focused and curious.
"She likes to ask questions that are open-ended that we can interpret," he said. "It lets us learn for ourselves. Every day is productive."
In a letter recommending Erickson for the honor, high school English teacher Lisa Ruff wrote that Erickson cares about her students but doesn't let them off the hook. Ruff said Erickson approaches every day determined to make a difference in her students' lives.
"In my 25 years of teaching, I have rarely met a more dedicated, conscientious teacher," Ruff wrote. "She has challenged me to be a better teacher and to see my students and my curriculum through a critical lens that has broadened my perspective and improved my teaching. I feel fortunate to have worked with her."
Each of the district's four schools annually selects a Teacher of the Year, and all are then up for the district honor. A committee of four parents, four teachers and administrators and School Board member Laura Anderson interviewed each nominee last week.
In addition to Erickson, this year's winners are Amy Larson, music teacher at Soda Creek Elementary School; Alohi Madrigal, third-grade teacher at Strawberry Park Elementary School; and Heidi Chapman-Hoy, sixth-grade language arts and world geography teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School.
The teachers each will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship for continuing education from the Lazof Family Foundation. And Erickson now is eligible for Colorado Teacher of the Year, which is chosen by the State Board of Education.
Each teacher was introduced by her principal Monday and then presented a plaque by Anderson, who also said a few words about each nominee. Anderson said choosing the district Teacher of the Year was a difficult decision for the committee.
"I think every one of us left the building feeling very honored to be in the presence of the employees we have in this district," Anderson said.
2009-10 Teach of the Year award winners
■ Alohi Madrigal
School: Strawberry Park Elementary
Teaches: Third grade
Years with school: Three years after one year as a student teacher and two years as a paraprofessional at the middle school, a 1996 graduate of the high school
What others said: "She goes above and beyond to make sure our students' needs are met," Strawberry Park Co-Principal Celia Dunham said. "Her positive attitude is more than anything what we love."
■ Amy Larson
School: Soda Creek Elementary
Years with school: Nine
What others said: "Amy is a dedicated teacher who exemplifies all of the qualities of an outstanding teacher," Principal Judy Harris wrote in a letter nominating Larson.
■ Heidi Chapman-Hoy
School: Steamboat Springs Middle
Teaches: Sixth-grade language arts and world geography
Years with district: 10
What others said: "She's more than a teacher leader," middle school Assistant Principal Jerry Buelter said. "She's the leader of our school."