Community Profile: ‘I was meant to be a teacher’ |

Community Profile: ‘I was meant to be a teacher’

Longtime kindergarten teacher Cathy Spence still gets butterflies come August

Glenwood Springs Elementary School kindergarten teacher Cathy Spence rearranges books on the book shelf in her classroom before the start of the new year.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Every summer after June and July fly by and the August heat hits, kids and parents start to feel the nervous jitters associated with the new school year quickly approaching.

They aren’t alone in this sentiment; teachers, even those who have taught for many years, still get anxious with the thought of meeting new faces and starting over with a brand new group of kids each year.

Longtime Glenwood Springs Elementary School kindergarten teacher Cathy Spence still gets butterflies in her stomach every August, even after close to 30 years as an educator.

“I enjoy my summer but boy, by the time August hits, I’m super excited to come back,” she said.

Love for littles

Originally from Pullman, Washington, Spence moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1993 and taught preschool in Basalt before transferring to GSES.

“I definitely like the littles,” Spence said. “I’ve never taught any other grade besides preschool and kindergarten; they’re my favorite.”

Spence loves the kindergarten age because it is so monumental to development and growth. She considers it a magical year.

“I’m sure all years see tons of growth, but in kindergarten the kids come in, and they’re so new to everything,” she said. “They leave kindergarten knowing how to read and write, add and subtract. It is truly unbelievable.”

Born a teacher

Spence believes most teachers know early on that they were born to be educators. Her mother was a teacher, and she credits having great teachers while she was growing up as being instrumental in her decision to follow that same path.

“I think sometimes you’re just born a teacher, and I think I was meant to be a teacher,” she said.

Throughout their youth, all three of Spence’s children spent time in her classroom each summer helping her prepare and get everything ready.

Spence recently embarked on a trip to Idaho to help her daughter Josie prepare for her first year as a first-grade teacher. 

“My mom was not only a teacher, but every year she would come and set up my classroom with me. She was always an amazing help, so it felt very satisfying to help Josie,” she said.

New year, new faces

Spence gets excited with the thought of greeting new faces and getting to know a new group of kids each year. 

“Teaching is just kind of special that way, because every year is a fresh new group, so you kind of get newly excited every year. You’ve never met these kids, and they’ve never been in this situation, especially with kindergarten,” she said.

After close to two decades at GSES, Spence is starting to see some of the kindergartners she once had in her classroom now bringing their own children to the school.

Glenwood Springs Elementary School kindergarten teacher Cathy Spence writes a welcome note on the whiteboard in preparation for the new school year.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“It’s pretty exciting actually to see that. It makes me feel old for sure, but I’ve been in the community for a long time, so it’s fun to see people in the grocery store or at graduations that I had when they were little. It’s really rewarding for sure,” she said.

Fellow GSES kindergarten teacher Linsey Short has worked alongside Spence for the last 11 years and considers her a mentor and leader in the school and community.

“She puts students first and creates a joy of learning in her classroom,” Short said. “I have three girls. … They all had Cathy as their kindergarten teacher. She created a love of learning for all of my girls in a fun, joyful educational environment.”

Spence has entertained the thought of looking into an administrative role in a school, but her heart is set on kindergarten.

“I really think that I’m better at being with kids, so I probably would never do that. There’s just something magical about kindergarten. I’m teaching them how to zip up their coats and stand in line, and by May they’re doing all of these amazing things,” Spence said. “I really don’t see myself changing.”

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