Aspen High’s Green earns History Teacher of the Year distinction |

Aspen High’s Green earns History Teacher of the Year distinction

Aspen High School history teacher Karen Green holds her freshly acquired award Wednesday afternoon June 2, 2004. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

Aspen High School history teacher Karen Green beat out every other nominated educator in Colorado to win the Preserve America History Teacher of the Year Award.

This is the national award program’s first year. It was created by first lady Laura Bush and is co-sponsored by two history foundations, Preserve America and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Teachers were nominated in the 50 states and the U.S. territories. Also included were instructors with the U.S. Department of Defense.

Green won $1,000 and a certificate of recognition. In addition, 20 history books, multimedia and copies of primary documents, meaning works of literature and philosophy in their original form, were donated to the high school’s library in her name.

“Karen was by far the leader,” said Mary Anne Hoffman, awards coordinator for the Colorado Department of Education. She worked with four social studies scholars who selected Green.

The historians looked for “someone very dedicated to teaching American history and preserving our heritage,” she said.

Hoffman drove from Denver yesterday to present the certificate to Green in a brief ceremony attended by AHS faculty and representatives of the Aspen Historical Society and The Aspen Institute.

Ironically, Green noted Mrs. Bush’s signature on the framed award with a slight frown. She said other teachers ribbed her, knowing her political preferences. Although Green teaches three 11th-grade American history classes and a freshman world geography class, she maintains a healthy interest in political science.

Green said she was “floored and very honored” to receive the award. She thanked her students, whose work she submitted as a part of her portfolio.

“You really are standing on the shoulders of your students, their work,” she said, specifically thanking junior Naomi Jones, president of Aspen High’s newly created History Club and junior Tyler Baker, secretary of the club. “They’ve been the torchbearers all year long.”

She added that she considers herself beholden to Aspen High School, where the veteran teacher recently started.

“I feel like I’ve had to bump up my teaching,” she said. “There are phenomenal teachers here.”

Green moved upvalley to AHS from Basalt High School, where she taught from 1993-2003, lured by the International Baccalaureate program, a comprehensive set of advanced classes, and better pay.

“I didn’t think I’d leave Basalt,” she said, but she took the opportunity when the school offered her the opening.

An educator for 22 years, Green has also taught in Glenwood Springs and Cherry Creek, a highly respected school district in Denver.

This isn’t the first time the innovative history teacher has received honors: Last year she won the Most Inspirational Teacher Award from the Basalt community along with a $10,000 prize from local businessman Dick Butera.

Green said working with primary documents, such as Plato’s “Republic” or Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” is the trick to engaging her students. Rather than depending on textbooks, Green prefers to draw her kids back to the original texts, including a love letter from Alexander Hamilton to his fiancee. She provides guidance but can then free her students to meet the material at their own level, she explained.

“No textbook can hold a candle to primary documents,” Green said.

May was an eventful month for Green. In addition to the Preserve America award, she also qualified for a weeklong seminar at Stanford University with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Kennedy. She is one of only 30 teachers invited. Again hosted by the New York-based Gilder Lehrman Institute, the summer seminar is part of a national series for educators.

Green remains particularly excited by the new collection that bears her name in the library.

“I’ve never seen this,” exclaimed the history junkie, picking up a copy of an unpublished letter from Frederick Douglass to his former slave master. “I thought I’d seen all of Frederick Douglass’ work.”

Green said the books are “phenomenal.”

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