Vail Valley teachers win $10,000 awards |

Vail Valley teachers win $10,000 awards

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –Eleven teachers in the Eagle County School District received Excellence in Teaching Awards from the district Wednesday night. Each teacher won $10,000. Winners are:

• Kristine Atkinson, Eagle Valley Elementary School

• Melanie Bacon, Gypsum Creek Middle School

• Susan Brainerd, Gypsum Creek Middle School

• Meredith Deem, Edwards Elementary School

• Gretchen Gerleman, Eagle Valley High School

• Lindsay Hawkins, Gypsum Elementary School

• Amy Rogers, Red Sandstone Elementary School

• Carol Wellbaum, Battle Mountain High School

• Mella Wheatley, Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy

• Shannon White, Edwards Elementary School

• Maria Soledad Whittington, Avon Elementary School

Thirty four teachers had competed for the awards. The district will pay the winners later this month with money from a Teacher Incentive Fund grant. The district received the grant in 2006 from the U.S. Department of Education. This is the second year the district held the competition. To participate, teachers had to submit written references, an essay, videos of lessons and evidence of student academic growth.

“I just thought it was a good opportunity,” Wheatley said. “I’d known a couple of people who had done it the year before. They said whether you win it or not, it’s definitely a good learning experience.”

As a math teacher at Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, Wheatley posts video lessons and assignments online to help students learn while they’re away at competitions. She also works with students outside school hours if necessary.

She was excited to win the award.

“I didn’t really believe it, to be honest,” she said.

Maria Soledad Whittington, a first grade dual-language teacher at Avon Elementary, said she saw the competition as a challenge.

“It was a great opportunity to check yourself, how you’re doing as a teacher,” she said.

Superintendent Sandra Smyser presented teachers with plaques during Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

“The biggest, most important thing that happens in the life of a school student is their teacher,” she said.

Staff writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 790-748-2928 or

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