Coal Ridge’s Camilla Bates earns L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year |

Coal Ridge’s Camilla Bates earns L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year

Theresa Hamilton
Special to the Citizen Telegram
Garfield Re-2 Superintendent Brent Curtice and Coal Ridge High School Principal Dr. Jackie Davis present Camilla Bates with teacher of the year plaque alongside LS Wood Charitable Trust Administrator Don Parkison.

Think back to 1988.

Ronald Reagan was President. The average price for a gallon of gasoline was 91 cents. “Big,” “Die Hard” and “Rain Man” were tops at the movie theatre … and 6-year-old first grader Camilla Bates decided to be a teacher.

In 2019, a gallon of gasoline costs $2.50 or more. Movies are available on demand, The Avengers tops the box office, and Camilla Bates has not only become a teacher, but her dedication, skill and passion have put her at the top of the profession earning her the 2019 L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year.

“It’s really awesome to be recognized,” Bates said as she wiped away tears of joy after learning she earned the award during National Teacher Appreciation Week.

“I love walking into her classroom to see the joy of learning. You see all of the students engaged ,and you can see they love learning.”­ Jackie Davis, Coal Ridge High School principal

“We put in so many hours and so much work, getting something like this is such a big thank you,” she said. “It’s a perfect way to end Teacher Appreciation Week”

The L.S. Wood Charitable Trust was created through the will of Mr. Leighton S. Wood, who died in 1965, leaving most of his fortune in trust primarily for educational purposes.

At the time of his death, Mr. Wood was president of the Mid-Continent Coal and Coke Co. that had operations in Carbondale.

Don Parkison is the L.S. Wood Charitable Trust administrator. He said that honoring teachers is exactly the legacy Leighton Wood wanted to leave.

“The primary characteristic we are looking for comes from Mr. Wood,” Parkison said. “He thought it would be nice that the kids of miners would not fail to go to college due to a lack of funding, and to reward teachers that inspire the love of learning.”

Coal Ridge High School Principal Jackie Davis said that Bates is the epitome of the inspirational teacher.

“I love walking into her classroom to see the joy of learning. You see all of the students engaged ,and you can see they love learning,” said Davis at a presentation before the Garfield Re-2 School Board. “If you were to look up the definition of the master teacher, her picture would be right there.”

Bates has been teaching Spanish at Coal Ridge for 13 years and, over time, her teaching strategies have evolved. She only speaks Spanish to her students and recently began writing books to engage them. That is where she sees the passion for Spanish erupt in her class.

“They want more,” she explained. “They began reading the books and immediately wanted to know when the next chapters will be available. Then they began making suggestions, and I would include those suggestions into the next chapters. They would be so excited to see their ideas included. That process has brought a lot of kids to life.”

Those engagement strategies foster a love for learning in her students.

“When you have students that say they wish they could have your class all day long, it warms your heart,” she continued. “It lets you know that they feel welcome, and I want every kid to feel welcome in my room.”

Also nominated: Daryl Gingrich, Rifle High School

Daryl Gingrich has been the choral music teacher at Rifle High School for 14 years. He currently teaches men’s choir, ladies choir, advanced women’s choir, advanced mixed choir, music theory and IB music.

He has shepherded the RHS choral program from 85 students in a school of 925 to current participation of 160 in a school of 720. This year, Gingrich led the Rifle High School Bel Canto and Varsity choirs to the outstanding women’s 4A choir and the Outstanding Mixed choir for 4A at Colorado West Invitational Music Performance Festival — the first time the RHS choir programs have received both the 4A outstanding choir awards.

“His relationships with students are what inspire me the most,” wrote Rifle High School principal John Arledge in his nomination letter. “He takes the time to get to know each of his students and helps them in all aspects of his career at RHS.”

“Mr. Gingrich has a gift for inspiring all students to do their best,” wrote former student Sarah McCutchen in her letter of support. “Additionally, Mr. Gingrich creates a safe space for every student to feel welcome. If you have ever been in the choir room during the lunch period, you would know how comfortable students feel there.”

The L. S. Wood Teacher of the Year award rotates between grade levels. This year was high school teachers. Last year’s recipient was Rifle Middle School’s John Wisniewski. The last high school award winner was Rifle High School’s Kyle Mickelson.

Next year’s recipient will be an elementary teacher. The last elementary school winner was Kathryn Senor Elementary’s Allison Rickert.

Theresa Hamilton is communications director for the Garfield School District Re-2, which includes public schools in Rifle, Silt and New Castle.

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