Two popular Basalt Elementary teachers retiring after dedicating decades to midvalley kids |

Two popular Basalt Elementary teachers retiring after dedicating decades to midvalley kids

Carol King (left) will retire Friday after 20 years as the physical education teacher at Basalt Elementary School. Colleague Rae Christian will retire after 28 years of teaching every grade but kindergarten.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

Carol King and Rae Christian each knew from an early age they wanted to be teachers. Now — with nearly 50 years of teaching experience between them at Basalt Elementary School — they know it is time to retire.

King will step down on the last day of the school year Friday after 20 years primarily as a physical education teacher at Basalt Elementary.

Christian will step down after 28 years of teaching every elementary school grade except kindergarten.

Both popular teachers had prior experience elsewhere but spent the bulk of their careers in Basalt.

“I say things like ‘my kids’ because they truly were all my kids.” — Rae Christian

“I knew at the age of 12 I wanted to be a PE teacher,” King said. “It was the best class ever.”

She wasn’t disappointed with her decision.

“They pay me to play games with kids all day,” she said with a smile that exuded true joy.

King’s philosophy was to de-emphasize competition and find a way to make physical activity fun for all kids, “not just the jocks.”

Christian said she witnessed kids coming back to her classrooms over the years saying that they loved the exercise and activities that King taught them.

Christian has focused on second grade since 2006, but at one time taught a multi-grade class. She enjoyed that because she could see them progress and tailor their education.

“You can target what kids need,” she said.

Teaching a child to read is one of the special gifts of teaching in elementary school, she said, because it’s helping a person learn an essential skill they will use for life.

“I love teaching writing, too,” she said. “It’s probably my favorite subject to teach.”

Both teachers gave accolades to the team — teachers, administrators and parents for collaborating to improve Basalt education.

“‘It takes a village’ is very true,” Christian said.

Christian, who also was known to prior generations of school kids as Mrs. Zuena when she was married, knew since she was in ninth-grade she wanted to be a teacher. She received her master’s degree in art education and tries to incorporate art into her classroom work.

Both women have played an important role in hundreds of kids’ lives. King said every class is roughly 100 children. She’s taught roughly 2,000 kids over the course of 20 years.

Christian has taught a classroom of 20 kids every year for 28 years, or roughly 560 kids. However, she also has taught summer school for 12 years, the past six years with the Summer Advantage program, so that expanded her contact with kids.

“It’s really my way of giving back to the second language-learner population,” she said. Christian plans to continue teaching in that program for the foreseeable future.

Deb Morrison, owner of the Camp Chip-a-Tooth after-school and summer care, said the women are special teachers who deserve credit for dedicating so many years of their lives to kids.

Having taught so many kids over the years ingrains the teachers in the community. Christian said she is teaching the children of parents who also were her students. Both women said they constantly run into students and former students of all ages when they are out and about.

“We’re rock stars when we run into people at the grocery store,” King said.

Christian said she deeply loved working with the students.

“I say things like ‘my kids’ because they truly were all my kids,” she said.

Leaving full-time teaching, she said, is bittersweet because she enjoys it so much.

“I would like to stay but it’s the time for me,” Christian said. “I feel like I did my best the whole time I was here.”

King said she won’t have any trouble filling her days with activities such as skiing, cycling and hiking.

Her husband, Peter, also retired this year after a long career with Aspen Skiing Co., most recently as Aspen Mountain manager.

“We live in paradise,” she said.