40 and counting
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series looking at a pair of teachers in the Re-1 school district. Today’s story is about a 36-year veteran of Re-1, while tomorrow’s story looks at a GSHS grad coming home to begin his teaching career.CARBONDALE – A coal miner’s daughter like Loretta Lynn, Bonnie Fischer makes her living teaching children, instead of singing.And she couldn’t be happier.The technology media specialist for Crystal River Elementary School (formerly Carbondale Elementary School) has been a teacher for 40 years – 36 of those in the Roaring Fork School District Re-1. Fischer said she isn’t planning to pack up her text books for another four or five years.”As long as I’m effective and I enjoy it, I’m not retiring,” said Fischer, a 1960 graduate of Glenwood Springs High School. “I like teaching children. Kids are my favorite part of teaching – just making a difference with the kids.”Born in 1942 in Utah and raised in a coal-mining family, Fischer remembered always wanting to teach children, even when she was young.
“My dad was a coal miner, and we lived in a coal-mining camp in Utah. One day, he brought me this little house to play in, and we made a schoolhouse out of it. I played school all the time,” said Fischer, who had three siblings. “I was the first female in my family to drive a car and go to college. My grandmother was just so proud of me.”Fischer and her family came to the Roaring Fork Valley during her junior year of high school, when the mines closed in Utah. Her father – Harold Mortensen, who just turned 90 years old – brought the family to Glenwood Springs, and he went to work for Mid-Continent Coal and Coke in the late 1950s. The mines were located outside of Redstone.”I knew I was going to be a teacher when I graduated,” she said.Teaching didn’t come quick. First came college – she received her associate’s degree from Mesa State College in ’62 and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado in ’64, the same year she married her high school sweetheart, Jack. After graduating, she taught one year in Grand Junction.Then came the real world. From 1966-70, she lived on Army bases in Alabama and Texas while Jack served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. She taught third grade to military kids.”My husband was in Vietnam when we had our first son in 1967. That was hard,” said Fischer, who earned a master’s degree from Lesley College in 1995.The couple came back to Colorado after the war, and have lived in Carbondale for the past 35 years. They adopted a son from Vietnam and a daughter from Korea, and now have four grandsons and another grandchild on the way.
Today, Fischer spends her school days teaching in a room that’s part computer lab, part library, bird and butterfly sanctuary, and American Girl doll display. The 1993 Colorado Technology Teacher of the Year said she likes to combine books and hands-on learning with computers to complete the education process.”I always start my lessons with a book. I integrate the computer into it, so it’s just not a computer I start the lesson with,” said Fischer, who taught second grade for 22 years before changing to technology media. “That’s when teaching can be powerful. I go all over the state showing teachers how to integrate computers with books. I just wish every child had a computer at home.”Fischer has embraced the incorporation of computers into schools, an aspect of education nonexistent when she began teaching 40 years ago.”I’m not afraid of change,” she said. “That’s just me, that’s why I’m probably still here.”Music teacher Amber Henke, who is in her second year at CRES, said Fischer was an educator when she attended the school.Now, Fischer is her mentor.”She’s just fabulous – she just took me in when I started last year,” Henke said. “She’s completely dedicated and always willing to help anyone. She’s very friendly and open.”
Fischer said she enjoys working with former students and teaching their children, especially when they stop in her room and ask if she remembers them.”They try to put me on the spot, but I always remember them,” she said. “I’ve been teaching longer than some of the teachers here have been alive, but I think they value me.”Standing outside her media room decorated with a Hawaiian luau theme Monday, Fischer was a long way from her play schoolhouse in Utah.The real world is more fun, anyway.Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.