Vail Valley Voices: Some teaching superstars | VailDaily.com
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Vail Valley Voices: Some teaching superstars

Sandra B. Smyser
Vail, CO Colorado

As the school year (and my second year in the district) comes to a close, I have come to one firm conclusion: We have amazing teachers in Eagle County Schools.

Furthermore, we have developed and executed outstanding systems to recognize these amazing teachers, one of which is the Excellence in Teaching Award program.

The Excellence in Teaching Award program, funded by the Teacher Incentive Fund grant, was created to identify and reward some of the truly excellent teachers in Eagle County Schools.



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 Northwest Evaluation Association assessments and the “value-added” method. The 2007-08 district administration pushed against using this method in determining “Superstar” teachers because it would have automatically excluded approximately 69 percent of our teaching staff that cannot be validly associated with a tested subject area. Through negotiations with the U.S. Department of Education, the district 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, the district 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 the Excellence in Teaching Award, required that interested teachers apply and go through a series of evaluative steps in an effort to find ECS’ very best teachers. Twelve teachers were awarded an award of as much as $10,000.

The current school year welcomed Round 2 of the Excellence in Teaching Award process. This intensive process once again involved displaying educational professionalism, participating in teacher-quality, submitting video evidence of excellent teaching, providing evidence of student achievement and offering professional practices evaluation scores.



While all teachers in the district were eligible, we are pleased to announce that out of 34 applicants (17 elementary, 16 secondary) who completed the Excellence in Teaching Award process, 11 have been chosen to receive the award. Each full-time recipient will be awarded $10,000 to be paid in June.

Here are the 2010 Excellence in Teaching Award recipients:

• 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.

The Excellence in Teaching Award program is just one more way for Eagle County Schools to identify the creme de la creme in the district. This process is extremely intensive and involves additional time and work commitments for the applicants who choose to take part. All participants should be applauded for their efforts.

Please join us in recognizing the recipients of these prestigious awards at the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday.

Sandra B. Smyser is the superintendent of the Eagle County School District.


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