Six months after being named Steamboat Springs School District teacher of the year, Celia Dunham has been named a finalist for the 2005 Colorado Teacher of the Year Award.
Dunham, a first-grade teacher at Strawberry Park Elementary School, is one of four teachers from across the state who will be honored at a Nov. 17 dinner in Denver. One of them will be named teacher of the year and will be nominated as the state's entry for the national teacher of the year competition.
"I'm certainly honored," Dunham said Thursday. "I find it a really humbling experience to represent all the district teachers -- let alone all the teachers in the state, who I have great admiration for."
Dunham was encouraged to apply for the state award after the Steamboat Springs School Board named her the district's teacher of the year in May. The application process included an in-person interview with a six-member judging committee and a site visit and observation period by two committee members. That October site visit also included interviews with some of Dunham's colleagues, former students, parents of students and school principal John DeVincentis.
The veteran teacher said the application process hasn't been easy.
"It's a little difficult for me because I think, 'Why me?'" Dunham said.
Dunham began working with the district in 1977 as a substitute teacher. She became a full-time teacher at Soda Creek Elementary School the next year and transferred to Strawberry Park about 12 years ago.
In addition to her work in the classroom, Dunham has been instrumental in numerous school and district committees and groups, including the Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay committee, the Collaborative Bargaining Team, the ethics committee, technology committee and the Steamboat Springs Education Association.
But nothing makes her happier than spending time with her students.
"I love my job, and after 30 years, I can say I still come to work and get so much out of working with kids each day," she said.