- Story and Photos by: Eunice Peinado
Our Schools are full of outstanding educators. Let’s meet four of St. Vrain’s finest...
What distinguishes an outstanding teacher? Is it their love for learning, their diligence or knowledge, creativity or charisma? Or all of the above? These four outstanding teachers demonstrate hard work, dedication, encouragement, and compassion. Through their love of teaching, they encourage their students to pursue their passions and guide them along the path to build a strong future.
Hillary Simonson, IB Coordinator, Central Elementary School
I teach because… “I like being able to meet students where they’re at, and help each and every one of them grow.”
Ever since she was in high school, Hillary Simonson had always known that she would like to work with kids. “I worked in daycares throughout high school. I liked being able to support their growth.” Hillary started student teaching at Central Elementary School in 2003, and has spent the last 16 years supporting students in the classroom, as a second grade and kindergarten teacher and as the IB coordinator.
Now as the IB coordinator, Hillary gets to work closely with teachers, at all grade levels. “We meet weekly to look at the curriculum, the standards, student data, and the IB program itself. I enjoy collaborating with teachers to build relationships with students, create a transdisciplinary learning environment, and develop the whole child.”
“I never thought about being a middle school or high school teacher,” Hillary recalls. “My calling was always with the younger kids, I felt a connection with them.” As she walks through the halls, you can hear little voices calling her name, “hi Mrs. Simonson,” and waving at her. Those are the connections Hillary has created during her time at Central. “The amount those kids can grow in a year is amazing, seeing them become little people in school is truly rewarding.”
Whether it is producing a yearbook or reproducing a chemical reaction in the lab, Hopp is of one mind when it comes to her approach in the classroom: “Learn by doing. I try very, very hard to make sure my kids are ‘doing,’ because that’s what science is.”
David Glover, Language Arts, Olde Columbine High School
I teach because… “I like to help people. No matter what I’ve done in one capacity or another, it’s always been to help others.”
David Glover grew up in Lyons and considers himself a product of St. Vrain Valley Schools. He initially moved to Thailand after the Tsunami of 2004 to volunteer and help rebuild homes, but after “missing my ticket back home, I ended up staying for three years, and that’s when I got into teaching.” David recalls the many opportunities he had to know what it felt like to be in a classroom. Upon his return from Thailand, David began school at the University of Colorado Boulder to get his teaching license and the rest is history.
Now in his fifth year at Olde Columbine High School, when asked what his favorite subject is to teach, David doesn’t hesitate, “by far it’s English – I like how deeply we can explore the subjects, how there is always reading and writing skills, and literature to be discovered…there’s a lot of freedom to do really cool projects, freedom to work within the standards, and design a curriculum that is really exciting and engaging that allows kids to take risks.” David’s hope for his students is for them to love learning. “A lot of my students don’t have an identity as a writer, a reader, or a learner, but I want them to embrace that identity and realize that they have so much to offer.” David teaches project-based learning, which “allows students to take risks, practice real-world skills, and take on new roles – I like them to have fun and enjoy coming to class. That’s why I love coming to work every day, it’s really rewarding.”
“This job challenges me on a daily basis – there are always new ways to learn and grow that can advance your classroom and help your students go further.” Watching David interact with his students, you can see the relationships he’s built with them and his passion for teaching. There are those moments when he receives messages from former students that are so rewarding. “I received a message from a student that is now in college, she thanked me for helping her get her life back on track.” David remembers his father’s words to him, “if you help other people, then life will be taken care of… it’s something I always carry with me.” Being part of the community he teaches in is something he values. “I love seeing my students in the community, I love to feel that I am part of the community I teach in. That is very important to me, it’s home.”
Kimberly Milbrath, Second Grade, Timberline PK-8
I teach because… “I love the ‘aha’ moments with my students.”
After 20 years of teaching and 12 years in St. Vrain, Kim reflects on the people that have had the biggest influence on her and the reasons why she pursued this path. “I knew at a young age that I always wanted to be a teacher,” shared Milbrath.
“I remember turning our dining room into a classroom and begging my three younger brothers to be my students.” School always had a special meaning for Kim and she always looked up to her teachers, especially her fifth grade teacher. “I remember Mr. Albright being very funny and he taught in a way that made sense.”
To date, her love for teaching continues to grow, not only because she gets to follow her passion, but also learn from her students. “I believe every child can be successful. It’s our job to help them carve the path to success.” Walking through her classroom and listening to her read Charlotte’s Web, you can’t help but feel a sense of calm, and her desire to want every child to become successful. “Every student’s path is going to look different and they will hit bumps in the road in different places.”
Building relationships with her students is something very important to Kimberly. It started 16 years ago when she was a fourth grade teacher. “I ran into a former student of mine in the library.” Although she doesn’t recall the whole conversation, she does remember telling him, “I know you are going to graduate one day, and when you do, I want you to call me.” Six years later, her former student found her, “he called to tell me that he was graduating high school and that he would be attending college in the fall.” Through tears, Kim explains how in that exact moment, “I could not imagine doing anything else as a career.” That was her “aha” moment.
Beau Townsend, Art, Erie Middle School
I teach because... “I love the energy that exists in a school. I like being around people and seeing the accomplishments at the end of the day.”
At the age of four, art was already becoming an important part of Beau Townsend’s world. “The neighbor down the street had her own art studio in her garage. I remember sitting and watching her paint, and eventually she would let me paint with her.” Early on, he knew he would like to teach art. “I always loved school. Throughout college, I considered myself a non-traditional student, but I was always interested in school.” When he started his first teaching job at Hygiene Elementary, he knew he had made the right career choice.
Now, 21 years later, as Beau looks back at his career, “It’s all been a dream, it’s almost surreal how fun it has been.” He often tells his students, “I’m not a natural artist, but I love it.’’ The exciting part for Beau is being able to see the students who normally are not interested in art, become engaged.
When you walk into his classroom, not only do you see the students’ artwork throughout the space, but you get a glimpse of art history. Beau understands the importance of incorporating the history of art in his teaching – as a brief art history warm-up is a daily classroom priority. Years down the road, his students might not remember what they created, but “I tell them my hope is that you’ll travel to places like Europe, Chicago, or New York and visit museums, or perhaps you’ll want to hang great things on your own walls. Art is part of our culture, it’s part of our world – I want them to have an appreciation for that world.”
When his fifth grade teacher visited him in class after 38 years, Beau couldn’t help but share the love he has for school, and teaching. “I feel a sense of accomplishment. The choice I’ve made for a career is very rewarding. I look back and think I have been very fortunate to be doing something that I love.”
Thank you for shaping my life
We had graduating seniors write letters of appreciation to a teacher who made the greatest impact on them.
By the Numbers: Educators in St. Vrain
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