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AHS teachers win big

Katie Clary

Special to the Times

Ten Aspen School District teachers will pocket $10,000 this week as winners of the annual Distinguished Teacher Awards. For some, this award equals a quarter of their yearly salary.

Three elated high school instructors and four from Aspen Middle School were honored in award ceremonies Thursday. Three recipients at Aspen Elementary School were to be announced this morning.

The award started in 2000 when Aspenite and former Aspen Club owner Dick Butera pledged $1 million to the school district to recognize outstanding educators over 10 years, but he prefers to keep a low profile, emphasizing that the occasion is about teachers.

“It’s a serious award,” said District Superintendent Diana Sirko. “It’s a wonderful way to say thank you.”

A committee comprised mostly of Aspen students, ranging from third- to 12th-grade, determines the award recipients. This year the 17-person committee had just four or five adults to help oversee the process.

Said Aspen Middle School Principal Phyllis Taylor: “These are like student-parent choice awards.”

The elementary school teachers sometimes struggle down the aisles between jumping student’s hugs as they are recognized at the ceremonies. One parent likened it to “gifts falling out of the sky.”

The criteria for a “distinguished” teacher include challenging students in and beyond the classroom while maintaining a positive attitude.

Or as Sirko simplified, those teachers that kids really remember and return to former classrooms to visit. She said during one meeting she joined, seniors in high school nominated teachers they had in fifth grade.

Distinguished Teacher Awards, 2003-04 school year

Aspen High School

– Dave Conarroe, business, Aspen teacher since 1976

– Sarah Benson, biology, Aspen teacher since 2002

– Karen Jaworski, science, IB biology, Aspen teacher since 1993

Aspen Middle School

– Kellie Schenk, fifth grade, Aspen teacher since 1993, second-time winner

– Mark Munger, sixth-grade math, science, Aspen teacher since 1993

– Sarah Beesley, seventh-grade math, science, Aspen teacher since 2001

– Peter Hanson, eighth-grade science, Aspen teacher since 2000

Aspen Elementary School

– To be announced today


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