Steamboat Springs Ben Barbier didn't want to be a teacher when he grew up. It wasn't until he started coaching at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club that he developed a rapport with teenagers.
On Monday, 10 years after thinking he might want to be a doctor, Barbier was named the Steamboat Springs School District Teacher of the Year by the Steamboat Springs School Board.
Barbier, a math and science teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School, was selected from a field of four finalists - one from each district school.
The other finalists were Susanmarie Oddo, art teacher at Soda Creek Elementary School; Kristi Williams, third-grade teacher at Strawberry Park Elementary School; and Cindy Gay, a science teacher at Steamboat Springs High School.
Each nominated teacher will receive $1,000 for continuing education from the Lazof Family Foundation.
"I'm real interested in technology and getting training and credit in using technology for chemistry and physics," Barbier said.
The School Board interviewed each nominated teacher before making its selection, and each board member reiterated the quality of all four finalists.
"I think these people were excellent representatives of their schools, not just of themselves," board member John DeVincentis said. "They represented different areas of study in education, and all of them, if you looked at just their specific area, you could have named them Teacher of the Year."
Barbier is now in the running for Colorado Teacher of the Year.
"I can't say I'm working with anyone who is teaching for recognition," Barbier said. "It's such a hard thing to measure - what a teacher is."
This year, Barbier is teaching two classes of eighth-grade math and two classes of advanced eighth-grade math. He also has taught science, which is his passion, in previous years.
Before pursuing a degree in education, Barbier attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and studied molecular biology. Instead of enrolling in medical school, Barbier returned to Steamboat, where he grew up.
"I started coaching and working with kids 10 to 15 and decided that working with kids is fun - and I can still have fun with my love of science," Barbier said.
He moved back to Boulder to pursue a degree in education. He taught in the Front Range for two years before returning to Steamboat to teach. Barbier still coaches Nordic skiing with the Winter Sports Club.
"The big thing is earning trust of the people around me, whether it's coaches, parents, fellow staff and students, so they trust you are doing stuff in their best interest and helping them in the future by giving them skills, knowledge and wisdom," Barbier said. "That's why I enjoy teaching. I feel like I have those relationships with anyone around me."