Whirlwind spring for grateful teacher | AspenTimes.com

Whirlwind spring for grateful teacher

Matt Fields
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.