by Marisssa Lorenz
On September 20, Emmylou Harmon, long-time math and science teacher at West Grand High School, was announced as being among seven finalists for 2022 Colorado Teacher of the Year.
The Colorado Teacher of the Year Program is coordinated by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and is designed to “honor an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled K-12 classroom teacher to represent the entire profession in the state” each year.
The process is a long one, and Harmon, who was also recently awarded as Colorado State Science Fair Teacher of the Year and who has spent 22 of her 24 years in the classroom in West Grand, was nominated by the school district last spring after being recognized as the District’s 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year.
In the intervening months,” “video, and do a panel interview with leaders from CDE and various other organizations invested in
and impacted by education.
“It was intense!” Harmon recounts.
She tells of receiving a list of 10 “hard education-related questions” just 20 minutes prior to that panel interview and having only 45 minutes in which to provide all of her answers.
A sampling of those questions asked Harmon to address how she implements the CDE’s strategic plan to ensure quality education and opportunity for every student within her own classroom; to describe something innovative she’s done to address a gap or need in her classroom, school, or community; and to explain what her primary message to Colorado teachers across the state would be.
Expounding on this last, Harmon states that her main message to teachers right now, in Colorado
and across the country, is what a great job they are doing.
“There are so many things going” “an escalated political climate, no matter what side you’re on, that is impacting all aspects of our society. And through it all, teachers are doing a great job.
“Teachers are persevering, meeting the challenges, finding success, and they’re doing it all without more. I want to recognize and commend them for that!” she praises enthusiastically.
“With no preparation, little time, and fewer resources, teachers are doing everything they can to ensure student success. And I don’t know how many other professions that have been able to rise to that challenge, persevere through it, and be as successful as education has been.”
Harmon acknowledges that there are still gaps to be addressed and things that could have been done better, but she affirms, “With the [lack of] time, with the already stretched budgets, teachers across the nation have done an amazing job. And those who are sticking it out through the education shortage, the lack of pay–teachers deserve some kudos!”
The next stage of the selection process will begin on October 9, when the CDE narrows down the field of potential winners even further.
If chosen to move forward at that time, a number of judges will observe Harmon at work in the classroom. Traditionally, this observation has taken place in person and in the nominee’s own classroom, but it is still unclear
how it will be conducted in 2021.
Then the 2022 Colorado State Teacher of the Year is expected to be announced by the end of October.
“The Colorado Teacher of the Year receives many professional development opportunities and, along with the country’s other teachers
of the year, is honored at a special ceremony at the White House and gets the opportunity to go to NASA’s Space Camp,” according to the CDE’s website. “The teacher also becomes a member of the Colorado Education Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet.”
That individual is automatically nominated for the National Teacher of the Year competition, organized by the Council of
Chief State School Officers.
But no matter how the process unfolds, Harmon can’t express enough how honored she is to Harmon have been recognized among the seven finalists.
“They are an impressive group of quality educators,” she acknowledges, “and I’m honored to have been included among them.”
But the best recognition Harmon’s received so far was in the form of a phone call from a woman whom she had taught in Westminster over 20 years ago.
Having seen the announcement on the news, the woman had contacted Harmon at West Grand High School to tell her what a profound influence her one year in Harmon’s class had had on her. She noted that she always remembered her teacher as going out of her way to always be available and to understand where students were coming from. She even told how she held the former teacher up as an example to her own children.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” Harmon admits. “It is the best thing that has come out of this.”
The West Grand Community and the Grand Gazette congratulates Emmylou Harmon on her well-deserved recognition!!
For more information about the Colorado State Teacher of the Year program, go to https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdeawards/teacheroftheyear.
For more about the National Teacher of the Year competition,
go to https://ntoy.ccsso.org/.