KSE teacher named L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year | PostIndependent.com

KSE teacher named L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year

Theresa Hamilton
Director of District-Wide Services
Kathryn Senor Elementary teacher Allison Rickert was named the L.S. Wood Charitable Trust Teacher of the Year for the Garfield Re-2 School District.
Provided |

At 7:46 a.m., Kathryn Senor Elementary teacher Allison Rickert checked her FitBit Blaze watch. She wanted to be sure that her activity/heart rate tracker didn’t begin to signal that her heart rate was too high.

She was feeling flushed, excited, and a bit shaky.

Moments before, Allison Rickert was named the L.S. Wood Charitable Trust Teacher of the Year.

“I know my heart rate went up,” she laughed, holding back tears of joy.

Rickert, in her 12th year at Kathryn Senor Elementary, refused to take all the credit.

“I have really great people that support me,” she said. “I don’t work by myself. I work at an amazing school. We are in it together.”

To her students, she is the inspiration for inquiry.

“Mrs. Rickert has inspired my love of learning through her adaptability as a teacher to help kids that are struggling to learn and help challenge the lids that learn easily,” wrote Jacob Morgan in his letter of support.

Morgan is a former fourth-grade student of Rickert’s, about to graduate as Coal Ridge High School’s (CRHS) Valedictorian. He was named Coal Ridge’s first Boettcher scholarship winner last month.

Not only is she loved and respected by students, but serves as an inspiration to other teachers.

“I was lucky enough to have been partnered with Allison Rickert, an amazing teacher, wife and mother,” added CRHS instructor MIke Mikalakis. “With her plate already extremely full, she took me, a fledgling teacher, under her wing and taught me how to be an effective educator and person through the way she conducts herself on a professional and personal level.”

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.

“My Dad had a clock similar to this from the coal mine,” she said looking at the ceremonial clock awarded to all L.S. Wood Teachers of the Year. “Now I can say I have a clock, too.”

2017 Garfield Re-2 L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year nominees

Cactus Valley Elementary – Jenny Zetah

Jenny Zetah is the daughter of a nurse and a teacher.

“. . .both humanitarians who taught their four children that serving others was the most important calling in life,” wrote Zetah in her L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year biography. “. . .I live each day with gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given to make a difference in the lives of my students and in this world.”

Her students call her a hero.

“I just want you to know that Ms. Zetah is a very kind, inspiring and helpful teacher. She is a very important person at our school. In fact, she is a hero for big and small people. It is an honor to have a kind, helpful and a hero in our school,” wrote Maribel Leon.

“Jenny Zetah reflects the epitome of the word teacher: compassionate, creative, dedicated, engaged, generous, a passionate leader and mentor,” added Sheryl Howley Johnson.

Wamsley Elementary – Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson knows the struggles children can experience while trying to learn.

“As a student with a severe speech impediment and undiagnosed dyslexia, I didn’t learn to read until the summer between third and fourth grades,” wrote Johnson in her L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year biography. “Those early, formative years taught me what it feels like to be considered a ‘low performer.’ “

She has channeled those early experiences into an education career that earned her an L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year nomination. Johnson lives by the philosophy of “Live your most extraordinary life, while you play the heck out of the cards you’ve been dealt.” She has made the most of her time at Wamsley Elementary.

“Ms. Johnson is an amazing teacher in many ways,” wrote WES student Madison Wright. “Ms. Johnson is always helping us to get better. Ms. Johnson challenges us, but in a good way.”

Graham Mesa Elementary – Lauren Sanders

Lauren Sanders has children yearning to go to school.

“I have known Mrs. Sanders for six years,” wrote Graham Mesa Elementary third grader Jaiden Goemmer, who would have barely been old enough to remember Mrs. Sanders when they met. “I first met her when she was my brother’s kindergarten teacher, and (I) could not wait to go to school to be in her class. . .Mrs. Sanders is one of the best teachers in the entire school.”

Sanders moved from Kindergarten to first grade where she says she has found her calling. Her principal agrees.

“Watching Lauren inspire a classroom has been quite a special experience over the past six years. In both her Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms, it is evident that she loves kids. She has masterfully set up an environment where a community of curiosity and love thrive,” wrote GME Principal Heather Grumley in her letter of support.

“Her ability to reach children where they are at in their learning is remarkable,” added GME parent and Garfield Re-2 School Board Member Jacquelyn Johnson.

Highland Elementary – Kaitlyn Snead

Kaitlyn Snead knew she wanted to be a teacher from an early age.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher the first time I helped teach a dance class, and then volunteered in elementary classrooms when I attended Rifle High,” wrote Snead in her L. S. Wood Teacher of the Year biography.

The Garfield Re-2, Rifle native then attended Mesa State College, “with the sole purpose of becoming an elementary teacher.. . This profession is about helping students figure out what they can do; which is a lot! Every year is new and exciting with its own challenges.”

Her students feel her love of teaching.

“I think Mrs. Snead is a really good writing teacher because she helps and encourages us understand what we are writing and learning about,” wrote Ian Lopez Jimenez.

“Our educators are drawn to Katie because of the positive demeanor she brings to her position each and every day,” wrote Highland Elementary Principal Rich Hills. “She is a driven professional who takes initiative and makes those around her better.”

Elk Creek Elementary – Sheryl Larsen

Sheryl Larsen knows she is making a difference.

“My goal is to help develop my students’ character as well as their academic abilities,” wrote Larsen in in her L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year biography. “One of the most important areas I focus on in my classroom is a caring and accepting environment. I expect my students to treat themselves and each other with kindness, respect and forgiveness.”

Her philosophy is reflected every day at Elk Creek Elementary.

“Mrs. Larsen’s reflective style allows her to make educational gains for all students with whom she works. She is dedicated to improving education for all students academically, socially and emotionally. She is a data driven master of instruction and her depth of knowledge extends across subjects and grades,” wrote ECE Principal Lisa Pierce.

The L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year award is in its 32nd year and provides a $4,000 grant for one teacher from Garfield Re-2. All nominated teachers receive $500.

Selections rotate each year from elementary to middle to high school teachers. This year’s award is designated for Elementary school teachers. Diane Cotner from Wamsley Elementary was the previous elementary school winner. Last year’s recipient was Rifle High School teacher Kyle Mickelson. Rifle Middle School teacher Amanda Stockton was the previous middle school winner. Next year, the award will rotate back to the middle schools.

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