Glenwood Springs’ Autumn Rivera National Teacher of the Year finalist |

Glenwood Springs’ Autumn Rivera National Teacher of the Year finalist

Glenwood Springs Middle School science teacher Autumn Rivera does an interactive lesson with students about the life cycle outside of the classroom in October.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Glenwood Springs Middle School’s Autumn Rivera was named one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award Wednesday.

Rivera, a sixth-grade science teacher, was named Colorado’s 2022 Teacher of the Year in October, advancing her into the national competition against 55 representatives from each state, Washington, D.C., and extra-state territories. Now, she has a chance to be Colorado’s first National Teacher of the Year since 1978.

“It’s such a huge honor to be just listed among these amazing educators,” Rivera said.

Rivera is recognized for her in-classroom approach plus her unrelenting commitment to extracurriculars and the professional development of her peers. She serves on the board of the Colorado Association of Science Teachers, Colorado Science Education Network Steering Committee, the Glenwood Springs Middle School Instructional Leadership Team, the Roaring Fork School District’s Interest-Based Bargaining Committee and is the middle school science content lead for the district. She also co-chaired the Yes on 5B group advocating for the passing of a mill levy override in the November election for the purpose of raising funds to increase salaries across the school district, and she coaches track.

Previously, Glenwood Springs Middle School Principal Joel Hathaway called Rivera’s ability to contribute in so many facets “crazy.”

“She’s just such a leader,” Hathaway said in October. “She’s a great teacher for kids, but she also just takes on so many things outside the classroom and does it really well. I think everything she does is in the spirit of advocating for what’s best for kids.”

Rivera has described her in-classroom approach as modern, utilizing games and getting her students outside when possible for hands-on learning. She uses social media platforms like TikTok to connect with them and drives involvement in the subject matter.

Her class played an instrumental role in the preservation of Sweetwater Lake’s wilderness, leading to the area becoming Colorado’s 43rd state park the same week she was named the state’s top educator.

“Ms. Rivera is an incredible asset to her students and her community, and we are fortunate to have her and so many other exceptional educators serving the students of Colorado,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a release from the Colorado Department of Education.

The other candidates are Whitney Aragaki from Hawaii, Kurt Russell from Ohio and Joseph Welch from Pennsylvania. The winner of the award will be announced in the spring.

Glenwood Springs Middle School teacher Autumn Rivera listens to speeches in a ceremony honoring her as the 2022 Colorado Teacher of the Year on Oct. 22.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

Colorado has not had a finalist since 1994 and a victor since Elaine Barbour of Montrose in 1978. Richard E. Klinck of Wheat Ridge also won, representing the Centennial State, in 1965.

The award, according to a Council of Chief State School Officers release, provides the educators with “one-of-a-kind professional development opportunities,” and “helps them amplify their voices and empowers them to take part in policy discussions at the state and national level.”

Rivera hopes to use the platform to promote the voices of rural educators.

“It’s such a great honor to be able to really have a voice and to be able to advocate on a bigger scale,” Rivera said. “People in rural Colorado and other places are just amazing at what they’re doing and bringing that idea of how we can really help support our students to go out into the world and not have to wait for the future to make a change.”

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or

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