Whirlwind spring for grateful teacher
Aspen, CO Colorado
On Thursday through Friday afternoon I distinctly remember some emotions that I would like to share with you.
This spring has been a bit of a whirlwind for me, and on Thursday afternoon the storm just continued to blow. Noelle Larson, Brian Hightower, Molly Kridel and I were taking a service-learning trip with our Base Camp groups. I remember feeling tired and reluctant to spend the night in the school district cabin at Ruedi. To be honest, a bit begrudgingly, we loaded up a minivan full of food, gear and tools, and two minibuses filled with fifth through eighth grade students. As we left, we made a quick detour to the hardware store for some needed supplies (the kids snuck in to get the free popcorn). Then they figured out the radio and began singing along to popular songs, and, by the time we had made the turn up the Fryingpan Valley, my somewhat sour outlook had begun to change. With the red rocks and springtime green of the valley, a great sense of gratitude, tradition and peace overwhelmed my previous feelings of ” just another thing to do.” I began to think about my year at the Aspen Middle School. We did some amazing things. Great memories flooded my thoughts as I drove ” thoughts of ghost stories and playing “Sardines” during our sixth-grade outdoor education trip to the Shrine Mountain huts, studying botany early in the fall at the same cabin we were now returning to work on and sharing the trail and meals with eightgraders that I’d taught last year and putting them out on “solo,” as I had been years before.
I remembered “democratic” class meetings aimed at creating team cohesiveness, as well as plans for our fundraisers to support our class trip to Mexico. Christmas- wreath sales, silent auctions, soccer- ball fundraisers, flower- bulb sales ” all these efforts made by our students and their parents culminated in an incredible cultural, philanthropic, unforgettable journey to Mexico. Finally, I remember the countless funny, frustrating and meaningful day- to- day moments with students in class.
As in all these experiences, as I drove up to the Ruedi cabin I thought, “I can’t believe we get to do this!” The Aspen School District is incredibly unique in what it not only allows teachers and students to do, but also what it encourages. Our mission in the Aspen Middle School is to create a developmentally responsive environment that nourishes the young adolescent’s mind, body and spirit. In my rather short tenure at the Aspen School District I’ve never heard of an instance where a teacher had an idea aimed at meeting this goal that was squashed by the administration. For goodness’ sakes, my teammate and mentor, Peter Westcott, built a cabin with a rag- tag bunch of eighth-graders in 1991 and developed a service-learning trip to Mexico for sixth-graders!
Finally, when we returned on Friday from another great trip, the entire middle school gathered in the gym to celebrate the Distinguished Teacher awards. My feelings of gratitude, beginning the previous afternoon, erupted. I felt so honored to be recognized with my teammate, Peter Westcott, and my other amazing colleagues. I’ve learned immeasurably from Peter all year. I’m so lucky to have been incorporated into programs that he has developed over an entire career and still be able to add my own ideas and flavor to such creative work. Peter is the epitome of the unique personality of the Aspen School District.
Your generosity is outlandish! In a profession that largely derives its purpose and value from relationships with students and a hope for their lives, a monetary gift from you feels extremely exciting and overwhelming, especially considering all of the amazing teachers in our district who also deserve the recognition.
Just as our school district is unique and supportive, your end-of-the-year gift is perhaps even more so. Mr. Butera, I can’t thank you enough! It feels so great to know that there are people like you in our community ” people to point to as examples of generosity and selflessness, people who put into action things that they care about. To me, the meaning of your incredible gift to teachers is fully communicated in complete integrity when juxtaposed to the quiet, humble and almost anonymous way that you take credit for it.
You have my utmost gratitude and respect.