Educator garners award

Celia Dunham named Colorado's teacher of the year

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— A Steamboat teacher won an award sponsored by the Miss America Organization, but she didn't have to wear a bathing suit to get it.

Colorado's teacher of the year for 2001, sponsored by Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and the

Miss America Organization, is from Steamboat Springs.

Celia Dunham, a first-grade teacher at Strawberry Park Elementary, will have $2,500 presented in her name to Strawberry Park. Dunham is now eligible for the national award, which will be presented in the fall during the 2002 Miss America competition and is worth $5,000 to the winner's school.

Dunham was named a finalist for the state teacher of the year award sponsored by the Colorado Department of Education a few years ago but was surprised to hear of this latest award. She said she was excited about the grant given to the school, which can be spent by Strawberry Park as it sees fit.

Dunham, who began teaching full time in the Steamboat School District in 1978, said she loves teaching because "it's what keeps me young."

Dunham said that she has learned an incredible amount from her kids and more about Pokemon, the cartoon phenomenon, than most adults should be allowed to know.

"Their energy goes into me," she said.

Wal-Mart sponsors the contest at its stores in every state, encouraging customers to write-in the teacher of their choice when they shop at Wal-Mart. Dunham won the local competition, which meant she received $500 to use in her own classroom and was ushered into the state competition. A panel of educational experts chosen by the Miss America Organization then evaluated Colorado's 53 candidates (from the 53 areas that have a Wal-Mart) and made its choice.

The judges looked at attributes such as the teacher's rapport with students, student performance and teaching standards in making its decision, said Rob Phillips, a spokesman for Wal-Mart. Last year Wal-Mart gave more than $10 million to schools through the teacher of the year program, scholarships and local grants, Phillips noted.

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