I have been actively participating in Eagle County's public schools for 13 years - from a nervous kindergarten mom through PTA, school and district accountability committees to my current seat on the Board of Education, where I have had the honor of serving our community for three years.
Over all this time there has been one constant: I continue to be awed by our teachers.
I mean no disrespect to all our other staff: award winning administrators, cutting-edge curriculum and development directors, empathetic human resources, savvy financial department, dedicated and kind office personnel and councilors, conscientious maintenance and custodial staff and skillful bus drivers, but our teachers are the core, foundation and heart of our system.
Teachers work incredibly hard to improve our children's lives and futures. Preschool teachers wear out the knees of their jeans and get messy while following research based curriculum that prepares our littlest for their next 12 years.
Elementary teachers stand at the door and greet each child by name as they start on another day of discovery.
Middle school teachers face the challenge of connecting individually with kids who are changing so quickly that they hardly know who they are on any given day.
Our secondary teachers expect excellence and hard work from young adults, which is a huge challenge here in our valley where skiing and having fun are more important than work for many.
Our students continue to show academic gains while budget cuts have made conditions more challenging in the classrooms. Excellent teachers are responsible for these gains.
Teachers plan lessons, implement rigorous curriculum and give assessments. They create a learning atmosphere that is challenging and engaging.
However, their job doesn't end here. It is just beginning. Teachers know when their students are suffering, who is sleeping on someone's couch, whose parents just lost their jobs, which little girl didn't get breakfast. Teachers know when their students are joyful, who just got new shoes, whose family just got back from the islands, which little girl just got a new puppy.
They give support and kindness. They are a constant in the sometimes turbulent life of our young ones. Their unconditional dedication to every student - gifted, English learners, special needs, athletes, actors, debaters, class clowns - is inspiring.
If you have any doubt about the skill and dedication of our teaching staff, I invite you to watch them work. You will be awed.
The Eagle County School District has been on a track to put an outstanding educator in every classroom, in front of every child, for over 10 years.
We are leaders in educator evaluation and professional development. The district will not waiver from our mission to "educate every student for success."
We are fortunate to have had strong leadership over the past five years. We will find a new leader who is willing to continue along our path toward teacher excellence and high expectations for all students.
One thing that won't change is the dedication and excellence of our teachers. Teachers are the soul of what we do, and they deserve our recognition and respect.
Kate Cocchiarella, of Vail, is the secretary of the Eagle County Board of Education.