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Tammy Neal, Kelly Warren, and Pat ManzanaresEducators of all ages, some fresh out of college and others with years of experience in the field – but all new to Pueblo School District 60 – were treated to a warm, and delicious, welcome Thursday afternoon in the courtyard of the administration building.

The 100 teachers, which included Pueblo and Colorado natives as well as Los Angelinos and Houstonians, were greeted by Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso and members of her leadership team as they enjoyed a tasty brisket and chicken meal prepared by the D60 Foodworks staff under the direction of Southwest Foodservice Excellence, the District’s new nutrition services partner.

The new staff members also received District-issued laptop computers along with a supply-filled gift bag and teaching technique book ideal for a solid start to the school year.

The first smiling face the new teachers saw was that of Kelly Warren, Director of Professional Development, who checked in each arriving visitor before directing them to the computer check-out station inside the administration building.

“We are here to welcome our new teachers to the District in a positive way,” Director Warren said. “And the goodie bags and materials we are giving out are to help them have a successful year.”

With representation from community partners like SunWest Credit Union and Kaiser Permanente, together with high-energy music as a backdrop, the courtyard was awash in a positive, uplifting aura as the educators exchanged greetings with one another and accepted well wishes from Superintendent Macaluso.

The diversity of this new teacher collective is impressive.

Together with many first-year educators electing to begin their careers in the District, others arrive with years and sometimes decade of experience culled from neighboring districts. 

Some, like Kimberly Young, are one-time District educators returning to start anew in a familiar and welcoming environment.

“I started in the District 8 years ago – teaching 6th Grade at Heroes – before I went on to District 70 to teach in elementary school,” Kimberly said. “And now I’m back to teach children with autism, because my niche has always been elementary autism. I like teaching the children when they are young because you can teach them strategies they will use throughout their lives to deal with the social-emotional aspect that they don’t understand. 

“To teach in Exceptional Student Services, I twice had to return to college: first, to get a Master’s in Special Education and then for two specialties: Culturally Linguistic Educators, and Curriculum and Instruction Design.”

Kimberly’s return to the District will begin at Fountain International Magnet School.

“I’m very excited to be back,” Kimberly continued. “And this event really feels like a red-carpet welcome.”

Having previously served as a guest teacher in Denver Public Schools, Alex Brandenburger was seeking a “change of pace” and, familiar with the charms of Southern Colorado, decided to join the District 60 family.

“I’ll be teaching English Language Arts at Roncalli STEM Academy,” Alex said. “I was looking at different school districts to branch out to and Pueblo is a tight-knit community, which is appealing.” Kayla Verna

Like Alex, Kayla Verna and Chris Ludwig come to the District as experienced educators.

“I previously taught in District 70 for 5 years,” said Kayla, who will be teaching 2nd Grade at Sunset Park Elementary. “Now I’m in District 60 and I’m so excited. I’m going to be 5 minutes from my house, but more importantly, I’ve heard nothing but great things about District 60. 

“And this welcome is fantastic. Honestly, transitioning from 70 to 60, it’s ‘night and day.’ They are so nice here: the HR is wonderful, and everyone is lovely and smiling in the District building. It’s different.”

Kayla said she chose the teaching profession “because I want to show children that there are people that care for them. I wanted to be the teacher I never had.”

Formerly of La Junta High School, Chris Ludwig will be teaching Science at Centennial High School.

“I’m ready for a career change,” Chris said. “Pueblo is a great town and so far, the District has been amazing, with a great staff. Centennial is a great building. I was up there today to meet my Department Chair and it’s a great place.”

On the other end of the experience spectrum, Martin Chrisman, of Pueblo West, will be begin his career by teaching Social Studies at Risley International Academy of Innovation.

“I knew that once I graduated from Adams State University, I wanted to return to Pueblo to teach: get back home and back into the District,” Martin said. “Risley had an opening, and so I interviewed. I really like the Principal and the staff, and everything fit for me.

“I’m very excited to start.”

Another first-year teacher is Tyler Perea, a graduate of Doherty High School in Colorado Springs who became familiar with the community while attending Colorado State University Pueblo.

“I’ll be teaching instrumental music at Heaton Middle School,” said Tyler, himself a tuba player. “I love it down here in Pueblo and I’m both excited and nervous about my first teaching experience. I’m looking forward to meeting all the kids and working with the staff.”

BBQ Chicken Provided by SFEThursday’s welcoming event also served as an introduction of the talents of the Southwest Foodservice Excellence team, which oversaw the production of the barbecue brisket and chicken quarters, with a black bean and roasted corn salad, and potato salad, together with all the “fixins.”

“The ladies at Centennial High School helped prepare all this food and they did a wonderful job,” explained Glenn Topfer, SFE Assistant General Manager of Operations. “We’re getting our feet wet today and making great strides as the school year approaches.”

As for the food itself, there wasn’t a “thumbs down” review to be found anywhere.

That so many educators continue to select District 60 as a workplace was both humbling and celebratory for Superintendent Macaluso.

“We are grateful and thankful for all of our educators, and I was just talking to people – products of D60 – who are ‘coming home’ to serve our students,” Superintendent Macaluso said. “It feels good, because we are building community confidence in our school district and it shows, because we have a lot of people who are thankful to be here, and we are grateful for them.”

Serving as a testament to the familial bonds that define the District, one of Superintendent Macaluso’s high school classmates, Ursula Duran – whose father, Isaac Duran, was a colleague administrator when Superintendent Macaluso served at Spann Elementary – has returned to Pueblo to teach Kindergarten.

Ursula, formerly an automobile broker, is in her fifth year as an educator.

“I’ve always loved Pueblo and always said I would move back and retire here,” Ursula said. “I want to teach here for the next 12 years and I’m very excited to start. At Morton, I will be with Principal Susan Sanchez, another alum of East High School.”

Placed at Risley through Teach for America, first-year teachers Stephanie Musso and Kendall Ward come to the District from Los Angeles and Houston, respectively.

“I’ve always loved working with children and I think education is such a fundamental part of their development,” said Stephanie, a Math teacher. “And I want to be a part of something special.”Stephanie Musso

After learning that her assignment would take her to Pueblo, Stephanie spoke with Pueblo natives and those currently living here to get a feel for the community.

“They told me how strong the community is and how incredible it is to be part of the community,” Stephanie said. “And I love the change of pace from Los Angeles. It’s beautiful.”

As her father is from Colorado, Kendall, an English teacher, has been visiting the state since her childhood.

“I’ve only driven through Pueblo but never stopped in,” Kendall said. “I’ve only been here a week, but I love it. Everyone is very friendly.”

With a teaching mother, Kendall said she was motivated to follow the same career path.

“Just being able to see her ability to shape the lives of children was very inspirational to me growing up. And I love working with kids and being a positive influence for them,” she said.