Photo by Scott Franz
Susanmarie Oddo goes over back to school paperwork with eighth grade student John Zalesky on Wednesday during the first day of school at Steamboat Springs Middle School. Oddo has been named a semifinalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year award.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Steamboat Springs Susanmarie Oddo started teaching much earlier than many of her peers. When the Steamboat Springs Middle School fine arts teacher was 12, she started a school in her backyard in Queens, N.Y.
“I invited kids from my block to be students, and I recruited teachers,” she said, adding that she taught a half dozen kids how to take pictures and process 35-millimeter film in her darkroom. “My parents told me I had a passion for teaching.”
Oddo, who was named the Steamboat Springs School District teacher of the year for 2010-11, will interview Sept. 8 in Denver with the Colorado Department of Education as a semifinalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year award. The honor would allow her to meet President Barack Obama and stand with 49 other teachers of the year from across the nation next year in Washington, D.C.
“I feel like I’m bringing the whole staff and the whole district with me to that interview,” she said. “I didn’t apply for this for me. I did it for our district.”
Formerly a photojournalist working at newspapers in New York, Oddo has taught art classes at Steamboat Springs Middle School for four years and at Soda Creek for five before that. She is one of five Colorado teachers who were selected Monday as semifinalists for the state Teacher of the Year honor.
To be eligible for the title, teachers had to fill out an 18-page application and submit three letters of recommendation, a process Oddo said was thorough and rigorous.
“Some people don’t fill it out because it’s so daunting,” she said. “But the process of applying for Teacher of the Year is one of the most reflective experiences I’ve had. I learned so much about myself and who I am as a teacher.”
As she walked out of Oddo’s class in the middle of his first day of school Wednesday, Shannon Ragan said she wasn’t surprised Oddo was named as a semifinalist for such an honor. Ragan is starting her second year of classes with Oddo, and said her art teacher has helped her shade pictures to make them more realistic, among other things.
“She just has a great personality,” Ragan said. “You never get bored when you listen to her.”
Eighth-grader Connor Frasier, who has had Oddo as a teacher for three years now, agreed.
“She’ll always let you voice your own opinion,” he said. “She’s really creative, and she works really well with kids.”
Oddo spent her first day of classes with her students introducing them to her art room and going over rules and procedures for the school year ahead.
“I’m very excited,” Oddo said. “I’m glad the kids are back.”
Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop said Oddo’s enthusiasm in the classroom is contagious, and he credits her with getting her students’ artwork displayed prominently in the community.
“She really does a nice job of connecting our school with the art community of Steamboat Springs,” Bishop said. “Our kids are so proud to see their work hanging at places like the (Depot Art Center) and on the Art Walk.”
Two or three finalists for the Colorado Teacher of the Year award will be determined after next month’s interviews, and the winner will be announced in November.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email ScottFranz@SteamboatToday.com