Vail Valley Voices: Honoring the creme de la creme
Research proves, and we all instinctively know, the most important thing affecting student achievement is a highly effective teacher. Teachers don’t just teach; they inspire, they motivate, they encourage, they counsel, and they change lives. As another school year comes to a close, I am convinced that we have truly amazing teachers in Eagle County Schools. In order to properly identify and recognize these amazing teachers, we have developed and executed outstanding systems like the Excellence in Teaching Award program. This program, funded by the Teacher Incentive Fund grant, was created to reward some of the exceptional teachers in our district. To give you a bit of history, in 2006, Eagle County Schools was selected by the U.S. Department of Education to receive a $6.8 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant. This highly competitive grant was designed to support programs that develop and implement performance-based teacher compensation systems, based primarily on increases in student achievement. Specific to Eagle County Schools, the grant would expand and enhance existing efforts to financially reward teachers. A component of the grant awarded in 2006 was a “Superstar Teacher” cash award that was to be paid to the highest performing teachers using NWEA assessments and the “Value-Added” method. Without getting overly technical, the 2007-08 Eagle County Schools administration pushed against using this method in determining “Superstar” teachers because it would have automatically excluded approximately 69 percent of our teaching staff who cannot be validly associated with a tested subject area. Through negotiations with the U.S. Department of Education, Eagle County Schools was able to use the cash designated for the “Superstar” awards as lump sum payments to all returning teachers for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years dependent on their individual performance.In June 2009, Eagle County Schools implemented a new program to use this money that even more specifically identified and rewarded excellent teachers and was open to all teaching staff. This program, called Excellence in Teaching Award, required that interested teachers apply and go through a series of evaluative steps in an effort to reward some of ECS’ very best teachers. Twelve ECS teachers were awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award of up to $10,000 that year, and another eleven teachers in 2010. The current school year welcomed round three of the Excellence in Teaching Award process, which once again required participating teachers to display educational professionalism, participate in teacher quality assessments, submit video evidence of excellent teaching, provide evidence of student achievement and offer professional practices evaluation scores.While all teachers in the district were eligible, we are pleased to announce that out of 18 applicants (4 mentor teachers and 14 career teachers) who completed the Excellence in Teaching Award process, eight have been chosen to receive the award. Each recipient will be awarded $10,000, to be paid in June 2011. The following is a list of the 2011 Excellence in Teaching Award recipients:• Matthew Abramowitz, Avon Elementary School.• Carol Blevins, Gypsum Elementary School.• Kathleen Cropp, Edwards Elementary School.• Emily Delles, June Creek Elementary School.• Dana Harrison, Avon Elementary School.• Scott Hopkins, Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy.• Allyson Metz, June Creek Elementary School.• Ashley Weaver, Eagle Valley High School.The Excellence in Teaching Award program is just one more way for Eagle County Schools to reward the creme de la creme in the district. This process is extremely intensive and involves additional time and work commitments for these teachers, and they should be applauded for their efforts.Please join us in recognizing the recipients of these prestigious awards at the Board of Education meeting on today.Dr. Sandra B. Smyser is superintendent of Eagle County Schools.
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