In most everyone’s high school yearbook there’s a section devoted to the “best of” and the “most likely;” as in the “best dressed,” the “best facial hair,” “most likely to end up married with 12 kids” or “most likely to move to Paraguay and live with goats.” Donna Baskins can be found in her yearbook under the “most up for anything” category, a testament to her spontaneous, fun-loving character that is assertive in every aspect of her being.”I not only attended Woodstock, I worked at Woodstock for weeks,” Donna says.And she did. She also knows how to change a fuel pump, work construction, grow homespun family businesses, sell sunflowers, raise children, teach the fourth grade and make maple syrup. She’s done all of those things and much more. Donna is truly a jack-of-all trades and she’s also a very busy woman, working three different jobs throughout the year, though not always at the same time.She’s been a fourth grade teacher at Red Sandstone Elementary school in Vail for 10 years, and this year she was the recipient of the 2004 Outstanding Educator Award.”I was very thrilled with that because I feel like once in awhile it’s really nice to be recognized,” Donna says. “I don’t think I’m one of the most popular types of teachers, but it’s not always about being popular. All teachers like to be liked, but most of us want to see that success come out in the kids.”When kids find out that Mrs. B is going to be their teacher, they tremble a bit, admits Donna. She starts out the year by asking, ‘How many of you have heard how mean Mrs. B is?'”It’s a pretty transitional year to teach; I’m a pretty tough teacher. You can ask the kids. I have that reputation and they shudder until they realize the difference between mean and sincere,” Donna says. “It’s about raising the bar; it’s about getting the most out of the kids that I can get.”It’s that same toughness that won Donna her award this year. What most of the parents and fellow teachers wrote on her evaluation was that that firmness has its place in the classroom and that it really has a profound impact on the kids.During the winter holidays Donna teaches skiing on Vail Mountain. During the summer you’ll find her at the Yarn Studio in Minturn, teaching people how to knit and sharing with others her passionate creativity. She rediscovered her love of yarn and needles when she fractured her leg last year and spent ten-weeks unable to put weight on her leg.”There’s a rejuvenation with knitting and when I broke my leg last year, I got thrown right back into that realm. My principal, Nancy Ricci, drove me down to the yarn studio and said ‘let’s get knittin,'” Donna says.It was 1976 when Donna moved here from her home state of New Hampshire. She needed a change and while on a cross-country road trip with a friend that took her through Boulder, she made herself a promise to move to Colorado.”I came here and I never looked back. I decided that the sun shined a lot brighter here,” Donna says. “I taught skiing at Vail and worked construction in the summer and realized that I could do anything. It was kind of all of these things that I always wanted to do that I could never do back East; it truly was the Wild West.”Donna and her husband Jack moved up to Lake Creek in the early ’80s when an opportunity arose that they couldn’t pass up.”Jack’s famous quote was, ‘we can’t afford not to do it,'” Donna remembers. “We moved out here and made our way and had our gardens and our babies and watched the valley grow.”Their firstborn daughter, Sarah, went to three different elementary schools without the Baskins’ ever moving. They lived in Edwards back when there wasn’t a stoplight to be seen, back when all four corners weren’t developed and a movie theatre and a sea of restaurants didn’t beckon. Donna has seen the growth and she is very aware of the consequences.Hatsie Hinmon has known Donna since 1980, when they lived in the same condos in West Vail.”Despite all the changes in the Valley, Donna has really stayed true to her values: family, home, teaching, creativity and her friends, like me,” Hinmon says.What Donna has recently realized is that she isn’t minding the growth as much as she has in the past, though it really is exploding right now. She understands that she isn’t going to stop it by complaining about it.”I think it’s made us dig in a little more and it’s made me a little more proud that I have stayed,” Donna says. “I think one of the nicest things I can do about the growth is to be nice to people that are moving here because that will help keep it nice.” It’s that old “Do unto others” way of thinking that Donna embraces.Besides, that same growth that is upsetting to many people, is also what affords our still-small community significant benefits. Donna is both able and thrilled to attend free concerts at Ford Amphitheater during the summer and take her class to the Vilar Center during the winter, something that many kids who grow up in New York City, surrounded by theatre, don’t have the chance to experience. As she says, it’s not just about how much we have, it’s about what we have.”Quality, more importantly, than quantity. People spend thousands and thousands of dollars to come here and we get to live here,” Donna says. “So here I am, born an Easterner, but I’ll probably be a Westerner when I die. It’s a part of me now.” VT
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