Steamboat Springs High School teacher Kelly Erickson talks with students in her freshman civics class Tuesday afternoon.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs High School teacher Kelly Erickson talks with students in her freshman civics class Tuesday afternoon.

Steamboat high school's Erickson named Teacher of the Year

Social studies instructor known for effectiveness

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Steamboat Springs High School social studies teacher Kelly Erickson

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

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Strawberry Park Elementary School third grade teacher Alohi Madrigal

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Soda Creek Elementary School music teacher Amy Larson

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Sixth grade teacher Heidi Chapman-Hoy

— 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

Teaches: Music

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.”

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