When the faculty and staff gathered in person for the annual Faculty Awards Ceremony on May 21, Colorado Academy Head of School Dr. Mike Davis wanted to focus on the positives of the past year.
“You have strengthened our students’ resilience, you have guided Middle and Upper School teams to state finals, you encouraged creativity and playfulness while new Lower Schoolplaygrounds were designed and built,” Davis said.
“You held visual and performing arts performances in new and captivating ways, and you advanced CA’s DEI efforts by leaning into the work,” he added. “We have much to celebrate, and that includes some incredible teachers and teams.”
Each year, their colleagues nominate deserving teachers for three different awards that recognize excellence in classroom teaching.
Connie Adcock Award for Inspirational Teaching
The Connie Adcock Award for Inspirational Teaching, endowed by an anonymous family in 2011, was named for a faculty member who taught Kindergarten and First Grade at CA for 21 years. It recognizes a teacher who ignites in students a lifelong love of learning and creative expression through the use of innovative teaching methods.
The 2021 Connie Adcock Award was presented to Physical Education teacher and Soccer coach Sean Stedeford. “He enjoys the connections with students inside and outside of the classroom, and encourages their overall development as individuals—physically, socially, and emotionally,” Davis said. “He is continuously seeking new ideas to enhance the experience for students at every grade level.”
Frances Newton Outstanding Faculty Award
This award honors faculty who model teaching excellence, render exemplary service on behalf of students and colleagues, and who, in their teaching practice, provide examples of the multiple talents and values that are mirrored in the school’s mission. In 2021, there were two faculty members who earned this award: Middle School Core and English teacher Matt Olmstead and Upper School English teacher and Sophomore Class Dean Emily Perez.
“Teaching is unquestionably an art, and this teacher weaves the best of what technology offers with an ‘old school’ belief in teaching the value and virtue of self-discipline and old-fashioned personal responsibility,” Middle School Principal Bill Wolf-Tinsman said, describing Olmstead. “A man of integrity, his work with students begins and ends with helping each become a better person, a kinder communicator, a more thoughtful friend, brother, sister, son, or daughter.”
“Emily Perez teaches popular electives in poetry writing and gender studies. She is an outstanding writing instructor who helps students grow as writers,” said Upper School Principal Jon Vogels. “She is an incredibly well-organized and responsive Dean for the Tenth Grade. She is always ready to support her colleagues, and she has a passionate commitment to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Yoeman Fisher Award for Teaching Excellence
Finally, CA honors a faculty member each year with the Yoeman Fisher Award for Teaching Excellence, an accolade that was instituted in 1980 to honor a beloved retiring teacher. It was established to recognize a teaching career that has been punctuated by creative, inventive, and inspiring teaching, and, after faculty nominations, it is bestowed by vote of previous recipients of the award. Stephanie Stone is the 2021 honoree of this award.
“What really sets Steph apart is her rapport with everyone,” said First Grade teacher Diana Giarusso, in presenting the award. “She builds a class community with her students based on mutual understanding and empathy. Kids absolutely adore her and want to work hard to meet her high, but reasonable, expectations. Communication is easy with Steph. Honest and approachable, she is someone her colleagues rely on for information and feedback, and parents also seek her wisdom and advice. Her calming presence is always welcome.”
Head of School Award for Distinguished Service
The Head of School Award for Distinguished Service recognizes extraordinary service to the school. “This year, I am feeling particularly grateful to some key Colorado Academy staff,” said Davis as he announced these recognitions.
The first Head of School Award was given to the CA Health Team, including Mandy Batliner, Jean Lyons, and Holly Clapp, all of whom took on many new responsibilities during the past year.
“CA’s health team defined excellence during a pandemic,” said Davis. “They led our school through this most challenging time and ensured we had all the resources to keep our students on campus, learning in person as much as possible.”
The second Head of School Award was given to Julie Fordyce, Human Resources & Payroll Manager. “Throughout the year, Julie was there for our faculty and staff, as we needed her extra care and support this past year,” said Davis. “So many responsibilities were put on the back burner and taken care of after hours, so Julie could address the ever-changing employment conditions created by the pandemic. Her calm and reassuring way gave each of us the confidence we needed to get through another day. Without her attention to detail and ability to see the big picture, we would not have gotten through the school year.”
The final Head of School Award went to Renée Rockford, Assistant Head of School & COVID Communications Coordinator, who is leaving CA to become the Chief Advancement Officer at JEWISHcolorado.
“Renee taught me so much about maintaining poise and professionalism during uncertain situations,” Davis said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, she remained cautious and truthful during even the most formidable days. We always found comfort and encouragement from her advice.”
The CA Parent Association also thanked Rockford for her years of service at CA with a painting by Senior Brooke Taylor and a special message:
You brought the glue—you knew the value of community and how to nurture ours; You brought the grease—you helped us solve our problems and get things done; You brought the guts—you modeled selfless commitment and grit as our COVID Czar and navigated us through the pandemic.
Thank you for all your years of service and for all the different ways you served us. We treasure you and will miss you!
Davis also paid special tribute to Dr. Jon Vogels, who is stepping down as Upper School Principal to return to fulltime teaching and serving as advisor to the Speech and Debate program.
“In his 18 years as principal, Jon has been a tireless advocate for our students,” Davis said. “Everything he does is student-centered. He has been a tireless advocate for the arts. He has created amazing new courses throughout his time here. Jon is a consensus builder. He seeks others’ opinions to try to make the best decisions. He lifts others up by his unwavering commitment to bring out the best in everybody, while never seeking the spotlight. He is a servant leader at his finest.”
Davis recognized members of the CA Faculty and Staff who are departing.
Maria Chavez, Lower School Reading Support Coordinator
David Frankel, Upper School Science
Sean Gallop, Upper School Computer Science & Robotics
Daniel Lopez, US Spanish & Director of Global Travel & Exchange
Danielle Lundeen, Grade Two
Jim Murrow, Campus Security Officer
Natalie Ralston, Director of the CA Fund & Associate Director of Advancement
Dawn Robinson, Grade Two
Caren Salzer, Director, Lower School Admission & Financial Aid
Ben Simmons, Middle School Core & Civics
Davis also acknowledged members of the faculty and staff who retired.
Fran Clark, Middle School Administrative Assistant
Suzanne Kolsun Jackson, Grade Four
Joyce Li, Piano Instructor
Lyric McKnight, Lower School Administrative Assistant
Bill Witt, Lower School Technology Coordinator
Dr. Davis commended eight faculty members who took part in a rigorous process of study and evaluation through the school’s professional development program that provides three levels of advancement, including Senior Instructor, Preceptor, and Master Teacher. Those faculty who achieved a new level of advancement include:
Brigitte Debord: Upper School French – Master Teacher
Sean Gallop: Upper School Computer Science & Robotics – Senior Instructor
Ali Kittle: Upper School English – Senior Instructor
Sean Stedeford: Director, Physical Education Program – Senior Instructor
Stashia Taylor: Upper School Studio & Digital Art – Senior Instructor
Sara Wachtel : Grade Five – Senior Instructor
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