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A word with three longtime Aspen teachers

Staff report

Editor’s note: When Aspen Elementary School goes on summer break this week, four long-time teachers will retire. Below is a look back on their careers in education, in their own words.

Name: Lynn Eastley

Teaching experience: Preschool teacher and then Aspen Elementary School first-grade teacher and most recently reading specialist.

Family and other jobs/interests: My husband, Phil, introduced me to Aspen. We have three daughters: Alison, Kathryn and Elizabeth. All three were born in Aspen and attended the Aspen School District. In the summer of 1980, I began working for Aspen Skiing Co in the Marketing Department. After the birth of our daughters, I worked at the Wildwood School (more later on this). We raised our daughters to love skiing, hiking, biking and fishing the beautiful environs of Aspen. Our daughter Alison practices law at Holland and Hart in Aspen, Kathryn is in her third year of medical school at Drexel University, and Elizabeth is graduating from the University of Denver in accounting next weekend. They received a wonderful start in life being educated in Aspen.

Aspen Times: Why did you become a teacher?

Lynn Eastley: In 1988, I began working at Wildwood preschool as a teacher. It was my two years at Wildwood where I realized that teaching was my calling. Having my own children and working with the children at Wildwood ignited my interest in teaching and my commitment to being professionally involved in the educational system.

AT: What’s the single most important lesson you believe you’ve taught your students?

LE: My focus as both a first-grade teacher and as a reading specialist has been to teach my students how to read, comprehend and to enjoy literature. For a first-grader, acquiring reading skills forms the basis for future academic success. This is my passion!

AT: What has been the most rewarding part of the job and the most challenging?

LE: The most rewarding part of teaching is the relationship that is forged between the teacher and the students. In the nine months that we are together, we become a family — bound together by affection, trust and honesty. Our goal is to progress along the academic continuum. The most challenging part of teaching is the management of time. Keeping up with technology, more data collection, more testing.

AT: What is your hope for future educators and their students?

LE: I hope that future educators and their students have the same opportunities that I found at Aspen Elementary, the opportunity to work with talented, inspired and motivated teachers and administrators.

Name: Stacey Weiss

Teaching experience: Music teacher, Aspen Elementary School, 20 years; 33 years in education.

Family and other jobs/interest: I teach piano and voice lessons, and I sing with the Aspen Choral Society. When I’m not teaching or singing, you’ll find me skiing, hiking, running, reading or knitting. My husband, Cliff, is a ski instructor, and our daughter is a junior at the University of Denver.

Aspen Times: Why did you become a teacher?

Stacey Weiss: I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. Teaching music has allowed me to combine my two greatest passions — music and educating children.

AT: What’s the single most important lesson you believe you’ve taught your students?

SW: I believe I’ve taught my students that we are all musicians, each with our own unique song to sing.

AT: What has been the most rewarding part of the job and the most challenging?

SW: Guiding children to discover and develop their musical talents is very rewarding. The most challenging part of teaching music today is convincing politicians, voters and educational policymakers that the arts are an essential element of a child’s education and that arts programs should be supported through adequate funding and appropriate policies.

AT: What is your hope for future educators and their students?

SW: I hope that we, as a society, come to understand that while assessment and accountability are important in education, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” This quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, sums up my hope that music and all of the creative and performing arts will always be at the top of the list of our educational priorities.

Name: Susan Woolley

Teaching experience: I have been teaching English-language development in the Aspen School District for 20 years — initially teaching at all levels K-12 and later specializing in teaching English and early-literacy skills at the elementary level. To have worked with children from backgrounds and life experiences of such diversity, English learners, speakers of many languages from cultures (Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden, El Salvador, Nepal, Turkey, Poland, Mexico, China, Taiwan, Ethiopia, Haiti, France and Brazil) from all across the globe has been a gift. I am grateful.

Aspen Times: What’s the single most important lesson you believe you’ve taught your students?

Susan Woolley: I don’t really know what single most important lesson I may have taught my students. I certainly trust, however, it was less related to standardized testing and the core standards and more related to relationship-building skills like listening, critical thinking, kindness, patience, tolerance and mindfulness.

AT: What has been the most rewarding part of the job and the most challenging?

SW: One rewarding and sometimes challenging aspect of teaching, for me, has been in the developing of honest, caring and authentic relationships with the children — with their families and with colleagues. Perhaps the most significant teaching I, personally, have been charged to put into practice involves learning to listen, truly listen, and actually hear what others are trying to communicate; it involves reminding myself to notice — and put on pause — my own conditioned thinking and my own subtle expectations that can get in the way of my ability to truly be present and authentic with each child, with each parent, with each person, with each experience each new day.

Math specialist George Schermerhorn also is retiring after eight years with the Aspen School District but did not respond to an interview request.


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