Basalt High School’s Ingram is Colorado teacher of the year | PostIndependent.com

Basalt High School’s Ingram is Colorado teacher of the year

Will Grandbois
will@postindependent.com

The night before the Colorado Department of Education announced its 2016 teacher of the year, Basalt High School English language development teacher Leticia Ingram dreamed one of the other finalists got the prize.

She also dreamed that zombies took over the school. Neither dream came true.

On Monday morning, state Education Commissioner Elliot Asp bestowed the title upon Ingram at an all-school assembly.

"She's a great representative of the incredible teachers we have across the state," Asp said.

The honor makes her Colorado's nominee for national teacher of the year, and she will serve as a teaching ambassador to communities and organizations around the state and nation. The national teacher of the year is announced in April.

It is the first time a Roaring Fork School District teacher has received the state award. The other finalists were Jose Martinez III of Bear Creek High School in Jefferson County and Colby Ricci of Breckenridge Elementary School in Summit County.

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Ingram, 49, grew up in southwest Texas and was immersed in the Latino culture, but didn't become fluent in Spanish until later in life. She cites her mother's struggle to learn English and go to the same school as her friends, as well as her own challenges learning Spanish, as part of the inspiration for her work.

Ingram received an undergraduate education degree and master's of science, religion and cross-cultural communication from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas; and a master's of arts focused on high school English as a second language from Adams State University in Alamosa.

As part of Monday's ceremony, Adams State presented her with a $1,000 scholarship to bestow on the student of her choice.

After college, Ingram worked in the Philippines for a while before landing an ELD position at Basalt Elementary. She later moved up to the high school, where she has a reputation for leading by example and bears the nickname "Crazy Legs" because of her enthusiastic dancing.

She was nominated for the award by former Basalt High Principal David Schmid.

"She's a very talented teacher, but also so much more than that," Schmid said. "She connects with the kids, their parents and the community. She believes in them, and that's contagious."

It certainly made a difference for junior Edwin Sanchez, who spoke at the assembly.

"She was always beside me when I was starting to learn English and didn't have friends," he told the crowd. "She's the best."

Other students echoed the sentiments.

"She's not just a teacher," senior Karla Ruiz said. "She acts as a friend and a role model."

That's not just for the ELD students. Basalt adopts a co-teaching approach that allows for a cross-language classroom.

"She's an important link," said senior and co-head student Megan Sherry. "She does a great job of making sure everyone's included."

Ingram was among the last to learn that she'd won the award. She had an inkling, though, when arrived at the assembly to see among those in the audience her family and Schmid, who retired after last school year.

Her daughter, senior Savannah Cheatham, had the pleasure of telling the family and keeping it a secret over the weekend.

"I'm really proud of her," she said. "I think what she's doing is really important, and I'm glad she got recognized for it."

In her own tearful speech, Ingram remained humble.

"All I did was tell your stories to them. It really wasn't me. This award goes to Basalt High School," she told the assembly.

The best reward, she said later, was hearing her students talk about how she's influenced them.

"What teachers do really matters," she said. "I think we forget."