On April 13, we held the annual Faculty and Staff Appreciation Reception, a time when we come together to honor the great work and dedication of our colleagues. No matter our specific jobs, we are all educators, Admission and Advancement officers, and protectors of our students and campus. That hard work and commitment to the Colorado Academy mission are essential to the success of our students.
Teaching is a challenging profession, but CA’s faculty and staff do it with such passion and enthusiasm—always willing to go the extra mile for our students. It shows in their success and their confidence. This has been an even harder year in some ways; there is so much going on in our community and our nation. But our faculty and staff come in every day ready to do good work and serve our families.
Here are just a few examples of their great work and dedication:
- Creating a positive, safe, and supportive learning environment for our students.
- Setting high expectations for students, and helping them reach their full potential.
- Supporting students both inside and outside of the classroom.
- Bringing innovation and creativity to their work.
- Being willing to collaborate with other teachers and staff members.
I so appreciate the growth mindset of this faculty and staff—they truly pull together to take on any challenge. I am so grateful.
Join me in recognizing this year’s award recipients, and in thanking the many donors whose support of endowments have established a perpetual way for us to recognize our colleagues.
Benson Summer Fellowship Grant
The Benson Summer Fellowship was established just last year to support opportunities for Upper School faculty. Through an annual competitive process of proposals, two Upper School faculty members receive grants up to $10,000 to cover professional development and engagement related to their field. Faculty are encouraged to seek out creative and innovative opportunities and are required to share their experience with other faculty and/or students through a post-fellowship presentation. The recipients of the 2023 Benson Summer Fellowship award are Upper School English teacher Ali Kittle and Upper School Chinese teacher Julie Wei.
Frances Newton Outstanding Faculty Award
Named in the spring of 2003 and endowed by an anonymous donor, this award recognizes those who have modeled teaching excellence, who 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.
The 2023 Frances Newton Outstanding Faculty Award goes to Peggy Butler, Sixth Grade Core and Seventh Grade English teacher. Peggy has an uncanny way of seeing into the soul of a young person and helping them unlock potential they did not know they possessed. She intuitively helps students see over the horizon and know that they will not just be okay, but that they have talents to contribute to the world. And, through her generosity, Peggy also quietly and consistently helps new teachers find their sea legs, encouraging the Sixth Grade team to come together in support of each other and learning year after year.
Connie Adcock Award for Inspirational Teaching
The Connie Adcock Award for Inspirational Teaching was created in 2011 to honor a teacher who ignites in students a lifelong love of learning and creative expression through the use of innovative teaching methods, who ensures a nurturing classroom environment that encourages risk-taking and appreciates individual style, and who plants within children that seed of confidence that hard work and perseverance will take them far in life, and that their successes are worthy of celebration!
The 2023 Connie Adcock Award for Inspirational Teaching goes to Megan Ollett, First Grade teacher, and Liz Sarles, Upper School social studies teacher.
Students make amazing gains as thinkers, readers, writers, and mathematicians in Megan’s class. Holding high expectations for each one of her students, she inspires them to be creative and explore their wildest ideas. As a colleague, Megan is the consummate cheerleader who truly loves a celebration.
Liz is another inspirational CA teacher who advocates for all of her students and shows tremendous empathy and concern for them. And this year, she helped the Upper School Social Studies Department to develop a series of Advanced Studies and Research courses that will be transformative for our school and deepen students’ learning.
Yoeman Fisher Teaching Excellence Award
Instituted in 1980 in memory of a beloved retiring Lower School teacher, this award was established to recognize a long, outstanding teaching career at CA. The criteria to receive this award include being recognized as a creative, inventive, inspiring, and knowledgeable teacher; being seen as a role model who displays in their own life the qualities of invention, curiosity, and intellectual discipline which we seek to instill in students; and being seen as a source of sound advice and an intelligent critic of teaching strategy.
The 2023 Yoeman Fisher Award goes to two recipients: Lisa Todd, Upper School Spanish teacher, and Eric Augustin, Middle School English and civics teacher.
Lisa has contributed so much to the CA community in her 17 years here—as a Spanish teacher, an advisor, World Language Department Chair, Interim and Global Travel leader, yearbook sponsor, and many, many other things. She has brought the Spanish language to life for hundreds of students, by whom she is beloved. As a leader, she has navigated a myriad of challenges with grace, compassion, and a deeply rooted commitment to what is in the best interest of our students and our school.
Eric arrives early, stays late, and can be seen on the sidelines of a variety of Middle and Upper School sports in the evening. He inspires his faculty colleagues with creativity and his knowledge of the latest research. Supportive of everyone he encounters and willing to do whatever it takes for the division and our school, Eric cares deeply about CA.
Head of School Award for Distinguished Service
This year I want to recognize two of our colleagues who play unique and vital roles in the well-being and education of our entire CA community: Jerel Dalrymple, Head Custodial Supervisor, and Nelly Fernandez, Assistant Head Custodian.
Throughout the CA community, Jerel is known by faculty, staff, students, and colleagues as a kind and compassionate person, always eager to help in any way he can, be it professionally or personally. He is a skilled leader, teacher, and learner, continually striving to improve the processes that keep our facilities clean, orderly, and healthy, and he ensures that his colleagues have what they need to accomplish their jobs with confidence and safety.
Nelly has been with CA for 15 years, not only as a member of the custodial team, but also as a parent. She has four children, one a CA graduate, and another a current Tenth Grader. Her contributions to the school extend far beyond her job, as she is also a sitting board member for Horizons Colorado. Her dedication to her work is just as strong as her dedication to her family and community.
CA applauds those teachers who take extra courses and work to become a Senior Instructor, Preceptor, or Master Teacher. This pursuit of excellence means students get the very best from those who strive to bring new approaches to their classrooms and to their colleagues.
Those advancing this year include:
● Jeff Brown, Fourth Grade – Senior Instructor
● Erin Carlson, Middle School French and Spanish – Preceptor
● Elliot Chase, Upper School English and math – Preceptor
● Wes Kirk, Director of Sports Performance – Senior Instructor
● Lindsey Owens, Kindergarten – Senior Instructor
● Margit Patterson, Kindergarten – Preceptor
● Venetia Sampson, Upper School math – Senior Instructor
● Liz Sarles, Upper School social studies – Senior Instructor
● Kathy Zolla, Middle School math – Preceptor
● Amanda Zranchev, Upper School science & REDI Lab – Senior Instructor
You can see a list of all Faculty Award recipients on the CA webpage here. Those recognized through the Faculty Advancement Program are listed here.
Bob Ulrich, Lower & Middle School P.E. and Coach – 34 years
Once upon a time, there were teachers who could teach everything. In today’s world of intense specialization, those teachers do indeed seem like something out of a fairy tale. But I can assure you that Bob is 100% real, 100% authentic, and has given CA 100% for 34 years. He has truly invested his life in our community, and we’ll always think about how great his contributions have been. How many of us work with Pre-K through Twelfth Grade students? How many have coached tennis, volleyball, basketball, and baseball? Bob is willing to do whatever it takes for every one of us to be successful.
Sue Burleigh, Alumni Director – 21 years
It’s hard to know where to begin when trying to capture the massive contributions of Sue to Colorado Academy. She has one of the longest-standing connections to CA—not only as a parent, but also as our Alumni Director. In that role, she has held our CA community close. Sue has been incredibly helpful to me, introducing me to alumni and recounting details of specific students and former faculty members. Her work takes incredible patience and empathy, and that dedication has played a critical role in helping shape and sustain what makes our school so special.
Elissa Wolf-Tinsman, Upper School social studies – 21 years
Elissa has been the intellectual pioneer of the Upper School, designing our American Studies Program and then teaching CA’s first-ever ASR course. She encourages her students and her fellow teachers alike with a combination of tough love, hard truths, reassurance, and affection. Walks around campus with Elissa turn into profound and unexpected life lessons. According to Second Grade teacher Lizzie Rockmore ’90, who has known Elissa since she was a Junior in Elissa’s classroom, she brought an energy to CA that was “essential in keeping the school progressing and thriving.”
Dr. Brigitte Debord, Upper School French – 17 years
Brigitte embodies the concept of a lifelong learner, always willing to try anything once. She works to continually improve her teaching, and her students appreciate her encouraging them to embrace challenges. Brigitte helps students learn from their mistakes, and her calm presence impacts all of us.
Bill Wolf-Tinsman, Middle School Principal – 16 years
Bill has long established himself as someone with great compassion, empathy, high expectations, and exceptional moral character. Indeed, Bill has modeled so many aspects of the CA mission. He always puts kids first, and I have seen him demonstrate graciousness and love when a family is in crisis. He rallies behind faculty, and is constantly learning and thinking about his work. In my early years, Bill was essential in pushing this institution onto a path that embraced innovative, student-centered learning. Managing change at that level is not easy, but Bill inspired so many to take on new challenges. Above all, Bill has always reminded us that our approach must be human centered. As the world inside and outside our campus bubble becomes increasingly complicated, he encourages us to approach our students, our colleagues, and ourselves with grace and generosity of spirit.
All of these faculty and staff members reflect the heart of CA. They are what makes us one of the most admired independent schools in the country. I could not be more impressed by this year’s award winners and advancing faculty.