Red Canyon teacher Tom Gladitsch honored by Polis Foundation |

Red Canyon teacher Tom Gladitsch honored by Polis Foundation

Red Canyon HIgh School teacher Tom Gladitsch, center, won the Education Foundation of Eagle County's Apple Award in April, and in May became one of 11 teachers across Colorado honored with a Jared Polis Foundation Teacher Recognition Award.
Education Foundation of Eagle County |

EDWARDS — It’s good to be Tom Gladitsch most days, but it was really good this spring.

The Red Canyon High School government, social studies and business teacher won the Education Foundation of Eagle County’s Apple Award, and in May became one of 11 teachers across Colorado honored with a Jared Polis Foundation Teacher Recognition Award.

The Education Foundation’s Apple Awards are monthly, and go to a local teacher who exhibits excellence in teaching. Along with the undying gratitude of colleagues and students, the winner receives $500.

Fourteen Years of Teaching

Polis Foundation winners receive:

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

$1,000 award for themselves

$500 technology award

$1,000 teacher-directed school grant

Jared Polis Foundation’s crystal apple award

Gladitsch has been with Red Canyon for 14 years, moving into education after a successful business career. Teaching at Red Canyon is hard, as is almost anything worth doing, Gladitsch said.

The challenge and rewards are why faculty and staff tend to stick around Red Canyon, he said.

“At-risk programs like Red Canyon High School give students the education and life skills they need to be successful,” Gladitsch said.

When people love what they do, you can tell, said Wade Hill, Red Canyon High School principal.

“Tom loves his kids and loves Red Canyon and always goes the extra mile for our students,” Hill said. “The relationships he builds with kids are the kind that lasts a lifetime.”

Gladitsch was a corporate recruiter for 20 years in Minnesota. His wife Melinda Gladitsch was in marketing in Minneapolis. She had a chance to relocate to the Vail Valley, so Tom sold his business and moved to the mountains.

Part of his recruiter gig was to help people make a good impression. He helped the local Rotary Clubs start their annual career fair, where he noticed local high school students needed to know what he knows about meeting people.

So he taught them.

“It’s a huge reward when we see students succeed to whom we’ve taught some skills and talents,” Gladitsch said.

Mark Strackbein was running Red Canyon High School at the time and tapped Tom to help prepare students for skills they’ll need in real life.

“I don’t like to say I teach government, as much as I tell them how to function in the system in which we live,” Gladitsch said.

Answering important questions

Economics include lots of personal finance, helping students answer questions like whether they should buy or rent?

All kinds of guest speakers impart pearls of wisdom to his classes. Sheriff James van Beek was one. His students liked him so much that he was invited to be their commencement keynote speaker.

Every January for the past 16 years, Rep. Jared Polis’ (D-Boulder) of Polis Foundation puts out the word that it’s looking for educators to honor and to give money to. Anyone can nominate someone. Debra Beard, Gladitsch’s Red Canyon colleague, nominated him this year. All nominees must be Colorado pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade public school teachers.

Nominators address three criteria in their two-page nomination:

• Innovative and effective teaching that demonstrates clear academic results for students;

• Commitment to their students; and

• The ability to work collaboratively with colleagues to create a positive school environment.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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