Teacher, outdoorsman dead at 59 | AspenTimes.com

Teacher, outdoorsman dead at 59

Charles Agar
Teacher and outdoor education pioneer Scott Edmondson, with wife Lizze Talenfeld, died in his sleep of cancer Wednesday. (Contributed photo)

Scott Edmondson, a vital force in founding the Aspen School District’s outdoor education program, died in his sleep of cancer on Wednesday. He was 59.Edmondson was known for his love of adventure and everything about the outdoors, passions he imparted to a generation of Aspen students and friends.Born in Long Beach, Calif., in 1946, Edmondson grew up surfing and skiing. He completed his teacher training at the University of Southern California before moving to Colorado to pursue a life in the mountains.”Scott had an infectious personality,” said Boots Ferguson, an Aspen lawyer and longtime skiing, climbing and mountaineering friend. “I met a lot of wonderful people through him. He was kind of a hub into a lot of spokes into different parts of our community.”Edmondson joined the Aspen School District in the mid-1970s, which friend and co-worker Willard Clapper described as “a wonderful time to be a teacher in Aspen.” The crop of new teachers was young and idealistic, and gave Aspen schools a strong focus on outdoor education, Clapper said. “And Scott was a big part of that.”

“Scott was a firm believer in the value and education kids received from being outdoors,” Ferguson said. “He was really dedicated to it.”The handsome, dark-haired Californian was laid-back but “athletic and fiercely competitive,” Clapper said.”Scott was a superb teacher,” he added. “And he was a really a ‘cool’ person in the way kids use the word. Kids respected him.”Edmondson taught the “ungraded” curriculum at Aspen Middle School, which combined fifth- and sixth-grade students from different levels into one core class. The program stressed cooperative learning and hands-on experience over grades and more rote styles of education.Kamala Marsh, who now teaches French and Spanish at Aspen Middle School, was a sixth-grade student of Edmondson’s ungraded years and remembers a classroom without desks – students instead in a circle on the floor – and lots of outdoor adventures.

“He was an awesome teacher,” she said, “very outdoorsy, kind, thoughtful. He always made you feel smart and like what you had to offer was important.” Marsh said she uses a lot of what Edmondson taught her in her life and as a teacher today.”The middle school is the way it is because of him,” said Judy Stacey, who team-taught with Edmondson for eight years. “He was instrumental in starting a lot of programs that still exist. He left his mark, and he’s going to be missed.””Scott was a jack-of-all-trades,” said friend and colleague Mike Flynn. “He taught just about everything. He was a guy with a lot of energy, and a humorous disciplinarian.”In fact, many of Edmondson’s colleagues talked of his fairness with students and his ability to command respect through example.”He was a mentor to us all,” said colleague Jude Procheska.

Edmondson also was a true adventurer with a long list of feats. He climbed throughout the U.S. and Canada – as far north as Alaska – and throughout Europe. He topped the highest peaks in Bolivia and Ecuador, and once took a sabbatical to climb and tour Chamonix, France.Edmondson was the brain behind America’s Uphill, a race to the top of Aspen Mountain by skis or snowshoes. He was a nationally ranked masters cyclist and an early member of the Aspen Cycling Club as well as the San Primo Turtles, a loose organization of like-minded skiers and friends (and one of the first such clubs that included women). He was also an early pioneer of mountain biking in Aspen, and in recent years trained English setters for hunting.”Whatever sports he did, he excelled in,” his friend Lance Luckett said.”He enjoyed being in the mountains more than just a hard route or gaining altitude,” said Bob Wade, owner of the Ute Mountaineer in Aspen, and a longtime friend and climbing partner. “He was an old-school mountaineer, and he had a good, positive effect on all of us.”Survivors include Edmondson’s wife, Lizzie Talenfeld, and her two children, Haley and Jesse Hoffman, and brothers Bobbie and Mark in Long Beach. The announcement of services is pending.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com