by Marissa Lorenz
West Grand teacher Emmylou Harmon was recently recognized as the Colorado Science & Engineering Fair (CSEF) Teacher of the Year. She was announced as the winner of the prestigious competition at the CSEF Grand Awards Ceremony, held virtually on April 10 of this year.
According to Colorado State Science Fair, Inc., the CSEF Teacher of the Year award is sponsored and funded by Lockheed Martin. It
was “established out of the desire to honor teachers who demonstrate excellence in teaching in any of the many disciplines related to the sciences and engineering.”
The recipient of the award is presented with two cash prizes, the first in the form of a nominal personal prize, and the second in the form of a grant, sponsored and funded by Lockheed Martin. The grant may be used to fund either ongoing student research and learning or a school/district-wide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program.
Harmon was nominated for the 2021 award by West Grand Middle School Science Teacher Katie DeBell.
DeBell rallied for Harmon, submitting a four-page nomination form and collecting additional letters of support from District Superintendent Dr. Darrin Peppard, West Grand High School Counselor Jennifer Hooks, teacher Ryan Tripicchio, and student Emily Osborne. Recommendation letters all discussed the writer’s experience with Ms. Harmon, her teaching methods and innovation, and her impact on students and the teaching profession.
Following nomination guidelines, DeBell highlighted Harmon’s many educational roles, both within the West Grand School District and the Kremmling community. DeBell noted that Harmon has not only taught and organized Science Fair in West Grand for the past 13 years but she also founded the high school’s greenhouse/horticulture program and their award-winning food science program. She sponsors National Honors Society in West Grand and serves as the District Health Coordinator.
Harmon organizes Science Night every year “to help the elementary students of West Grand develop a love of science.” She writes and manages various grants for the District and serves as president of the West Grand Education Association.
Ms. Harmon referees volleyball at the middle school and is assistant coach to the girl’s club volleyball team. She is leader of the Blue Ribbon 4-H Club and volunteers each year with the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo. She helps document community happenings through photography and articles to local media–all on top of being a dedicated mom and teacher.
“I cannot think of a person more deserving for this honor than Emmylou Harmon,” reads DeBell’s nominating essay. “(…) [She] is the most dedicated and selfless person I know, and she deserves to be the Science Teacher of the Year. She bleeds purple and gold and gives her time to the students, school, and community. She devotes the majority of her time during the school year and also a significant amount of time during the summer to West Grand School District.
“It takes a special person to be as involved as she is and also be upbeat and good at what she does. She is truly a very special addition to our district, and there is no other teacher or person that I am aware of who dedicates more of their time and energy for the betterment of others.”
Contributing nominators agreed. “[Ms. Harmon’s] ability to work well with others, even those who have a different point of view, is just remarkable,” explained Hooks. “Emmylou’s desire to exceed all expectations is seen in all the work she does. It is a privilege to work with her, to teach with her, and to learn from her.”
Harmon] to be a very supportive, encouraging, hardworking, and adaptive person,” praised Osborne. “(…) She is so supportive during Science Fair. She will push you to get it done, but she will also help you in any way she can. She will help with equipment or give you time during class to work on your project. No matter what lesson, [she] always encourages us to dig deeper and ask questions. I do not think that you could find a teacher that works harder.”
“It takes a special person to do it all,” wrote Superintendent Peppard. “Emmylou Harmon is that person, a ‘once in a lifetime’ type of teacher, both for so many students and for our school community. There is nothing she won’t do to give every student the opportunity to be successful.”
On learning of her successful award, Peppard stated, “It is an awesome honor for [Ms. Harmon].”
And Osborne enthused, “I think it is great that Mrs.Harmon won Teacher of the Year! With all
of the hard work that she has put in for all of us students this year, I cannot think of a better way to honor and celebrate her dedication!”
The 2021 Lockheed Martin grant amount is still to be determined, says CSEF Director Courtney Butler. It has been $3,000 for the last two years.
Regardless of the amount of the funds, Harmon says that she is “so honored to receive the award. There have been amazing teachers who have won the award in the past, teachers who have supported tons of students to participate in and be really successful in Science Fair. (…) I appreciate [West Grand] kids making me work hard, and I appreciate their hard work that led to my receiving this honor.”
Harmon notes that she looks forward to buying “cool science equipment for the kids that we don’t yet have. I think it would be great and would enable them to do different kinds of science experiments.”
She points to Vernier classroom technologies, such as probes, a LabQuest data-logging machine, CO2 or O2 for lab experiments, a Geiger counter, or a weather station.
“Up-to-date lab equipment is important,” Harmon explains. “It helps to prepare our students for a career in the science field and allows them to experience how different technology works first-hand.”
For more information on the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair, including current and past student and teacher winners, go to www.csef.colostate.edu/.