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Recipients of the Teacher and Staff of the Year awards hold their plaquesNominated by peers and colleagues for their exemplary dedication to education, three teachers and three classified staff members were honored Thursday as the best in the District.
For the past 40 years, the Pueblo County Chapter of the Colorado Teacher of the Year Program has honored dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled K-12 classroom educators with a Colorado Teacher of the Year Award.
This year, Shari Elson (Haaff Elementary), Justin Novosel (Park View Elementary) and Nicole Soto (Fountain International Magnet School) received the awards.
For the sixth year, the District itself recognized three hard-working Classified Support Staff members for their contributions: DeeJ Lorenzo (Nettie S. Freed), Dorothy Guerrero (Park View Elementary) and Patricia Smith (Belmont Elementary.)
David Lytle, representing the Pueblo County Chapter of the Colorado Teacher of the Year Program Selection Committee, presented each educator with a plaque and check, with a check also going to the winning educator’s school.
The financial contributions, Mr. Lytle noted, is made possible through sponsorships, including support from SunWest Credit Union, Parkview Health Systems, Bank of the San Juans, TBK Bank, Michael and Becky Cafasso, Little Caesars Pizza, Xcel Energy and Pueblo Community College.
Dr. Henry Roman, president of the D60 Educational Foundation, presented the awards to the Classified Staff honorees.


Justin Novosel, physical education teacher, Park View Elementary School
Affectionately known as “Coach,” Justin’s reputation is one of a model citizen and an amazing educator whose tireless efforts and dedication make Park View, as well as the community in general, a better and more inclusive place.
In his instruction, Coach utilizes multi-modal lesson designs that include visual, tactile, auditory and physical movement aspects, thereby contributing to the full development of his students. Through his gym classes, Coach uses project-based learning that requires student collaboration and critical thinking. He also works with community partners to expand learning opportunities for Park View students.
Coach’s relationships with his students are robust and welcoming. He greets every student by name, every morning. His sense of empathy is so great that he acknowledges the difficulties and struggles of students while at the same time encouraging and motivating them to remain strong and resilient.
He has successfully applied for grants that have resulted in new bicycles for children, as well as park benches, picnic tables and umbrellas. He remains an ardent supporter of all Park View events, including Title 1 nights and school fundraisers.

Nicole Soto, kindergarten teacher, Fountain International Magnet School
For the 13 years she has spent as a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Soto embodies the qualities it takes to teach children in this age group. The excitement one feels when walking to her classroom is evident: a testament to the wonderful atmosphere she creates by allowing students to explore, question and grow as learners.
By allowing students to work within a framework of independence, Mrs. Soto is sowing the seeds of success and development. She does, however, allow students room to make mistakes, using guided inquiry to take learning to a deeper and more productive level. She is a firm believer in productive struggle for the ultimate development of fortitude and resilience.
Mrs. Soto supports her students based on individual needs and development level, always welcoming communication from parents on how best to support their children in their educational journey.
But her commitment to Fountain extends beyond her classroom, as Mrs. Soto is always willing to support the entire school and its events. This is commendable evidence of her ambition, leadership and self motivation.

Shari Elson, fifth grade, Haaff Elementary School
Mrs. Elson is credited for creating a true classroom community with a culture of high expectations for all students. She is warm and caring, and works diligently to form and retain positive and personal relationships with all her students. Within these relationships, Mrs. Elson sets high expectations regarding the manners students are expected to conduct themselves.
While her learning environment is structured and orderly, she works to make learning fun and engaging. Her classroom is bright and inviting, with flexible seating options and an overall atmosphere that is conducive to learning and growth. She has a “no-opt out” policy in which simple “yes” or “no” answers are not accepted, nor are students allowed to respond with, “I don’t know.” Instead, she uses probing questions and cognitive coaching to guide students to correct answers.
Mrs. Elson was instrumental in establishing the Leader in Me/7 Habits of Happy Kids at Haaff, and is a No Bully Implementation Coach. Additionally, this extremely active member of the Haaff community serves as a Family Engagement Coordinator, PTO Consultant, and is a member of the District Teaching and Learning Advisory Committee and District Accountability Committee.


Patricia Smith, paraprofessional, Belmont Elementary School
To her colleagues and the exceptional students she works with, Mrs. Smith is well known for her professionalism and ability to engage students through motivation, encouragement and praise. She is fully invested with her students and fosters meaningful relationships with them.
These relationships are not relegated to the classroom. When Mrs. Smith sees children in the hall, she takes the time to address them and ensure they begin the day on a positive note through encouragement and compassion.
Mrs. Smith is a true champion for Belmont. She participates in school and community projects, such as the school carnival, Title 1 reading nights, and musical performances. No matter how busy or challenging an event may be, Mrs. Smith approaches every occasion with an unflappable desire to help and make the experience enjoyable for everyone.

Dorothy Guerreo, secretary, Park View Elementary School
In her many years of service to Park View, Mrs. Guerrero has become the friendly face of the school, continually displaying excellence, compassion, and patience while fostering positive and meaningful relationships with all those who visit the office, whether students, families or fellow staff members.
It is evident to everyone that Mrs. Guerrero cares deeply about Park View’s students, continually encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves while establishing connections that make students feel valued, safe and capable. She also holds students accountable and places high expectations on them.
Safety is another goal that Mrs. Guerrero takes seriously, implementing all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of everyone within the Park View Building. In all matters, she displays the highest level of commitment to establish a spirit of community and inclusiveness at Park View Elementary School.

DeeJ Lorenzo, custodian, Nettie S. Freed Expeditionary School
Within the building of Nettie S. Freed, DeeJ is well known as the hardest working staff member, continually displaying excellence and pride in his work, which is always done with an encouraging, positive attitude. His number one priority is student safety, and always ensures the building is in the best shape and condition it can be.
On a more personal level, DeeJ always makes it a point to talk to a child who may be sitting alone, or who appears to be having a difficult day. The Nettie S. Freed students look up to him, as noted by a school survey that revealed DeeJ to be a “go-to” trusted adult favored by many of the respondents. He has such a wonderful way with children that many volunteer to clean up cafeteria tables through his inspiration.
Whether students, staff, family or community members, DeeJ treats everyone with respect and kindness, ensuring that any visit to Nettie S. Freed is a welcoming and memorable experience.

The evening’s entertainment was provided by AP Music Theory students from Centennial, under the direction of Leigh Kite, with visitors enjoying desserts and refreshments prepared by SFE-D60 Foodworks.