For Aspen School District, ‘the awards continue’ |

For Aspen School District, ‘the awards continue’

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen, Co Colorado

ASPEN – An anonymous donor has stepped in where philanthropist Dick Butera left off, offering to fund the Aspen School District’s teacher and staff awards for the next three years.

School officials on Monday announced that the district will give 15 awards for $5,000 each to selected teachers and staff members at the end of the school year.

“The awards continue the great tradition of the Distinguished Teacher Awards that were sponsored by Dick Butera for many years,” Aspen schools Superintendent Diana Sirko wrote in an e-mail message to district parents. “The spirit of the award remains the same with the goal to recognize and reinforce excellence.

“They are a wonderful opportunity to thank those people who consistently go the extra mile for our students.”

Butera, the former owner of the Hotel Jerome and The Aspen Club, founded the Distinguished Teacher Awards 10 years ago, launching an astoundingly generous program that distributed $10,000 awards to at least 10 teachers annually. A combination of students, parents and teachers participated in the nomination and selection of winners, which grew to include Aspen School District support staff and Aspen Community School teachers. Sirko estimated the awards have totaled some $1.2 million since the program’s inception.

The program was to expire with the awards handed out in spring 2009.

“It seems like yesterday and all of a sudden this year, the 10-year pledge was up,” Butera said at an August assembly honoring his contributions over the years.

“I didn’t know 10 years ago that I was going to have a conflict of interest,” Butera confessed, holding up a photograph of his 4-year-old son. “He’ll be coming here.”

The deadline for submitting nominations for this year’s awards is May 20 at 4 p.m.