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D60 COLORADO TEACHERS OF THE YEAR, SUPPORT STAFF HONORED
In a long-standing tradition, three D60 peer-nominated educators and three Classified Support Staff were honored Thursday for their commitment, dedication and professionalism.
Each year, the Pueblo County Chapter of the Colorado Teacher of the Year Program honors dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled K-12 classroom educators with a Colorado Teacher of the Year Award.
And for the fifth year, the District itself recognized three Classified Support Staff members for their exemplary service and professionalism.
As nominated by peers and colleagues, the 2022-2023 Teachers of the Year are Derek Flowers (Sunset Park Elementary), Stacey Marquez (Irving Elementary) and De-Ann Hillebrand (Goodnight School.)
Concurrently, the District selected Thomas Portillos (D60 Facilities), Lawrence Espinoza (Risley) and Leilani Ortega (Sunset Park) as the year’s top Classified Support Staff.
The honorees were lauded by David Lytle and Leslie Shepard, representing the Pueblo County Chapter of the Colorado Teacher of the Year Program Selection Committee, District leaders, and family and loved ones gathered for the ceremony.
Dalton Sprouse, the District’s Director of Communications, praised the work of all District employees in furthering the District's mission.
“No matter what your role is, it’s important. And the simple fact is: many young lives count on you to be there for them. And tonight, we're here to celebrate the VIPs through the Pueblo Chapter of the Colorado Teacher Awards.”
In addition to the award and a gift basket presented by the District, each honoree received a cash stipend, made possible through the generosity of sponsors Bank of the San Juans, Black Hills Energy, Colorado Bank and Trust, Little Caesars Pizza, Michael and Becky Cafasso, Parkview Medical Center, Pueblo Community College, Southwest Credit Union, and Xcel Energy.
LAWRENCE ESPINOZA, CUSTODIAN, RISLEY INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY OF INNOVATION
A Risley alumnus, Lawrence demonstrates the utmost professionalism and is always willing to go above and beyond in order to help staff, students, clubs and sports. He takes great pride in the facilities he oversees, especially when setting up, arranging, and managing sporting events.
Lawrence is very supportive of the Risley students and engages in conversations with them while he is working. He relays his personal experience to the students and encourages them to fulfill their duties with integrity while bettering their own lives.
Lawrence is known for a positive attitude and a work ethic that is second to none.
LEILANI CORTEZ, ESS PARAPROFESSIONAL, SUNSET PARK
Day in and out, Leilani displays excellence by being open minded, flexible, and knowledgeable. She is always willing to do whatever is needed to ensure students and staff are successful.
Her strength is inspiring others through building relationships. She has the ability to reach all students through developing trusting relationships. With humor as a foundation, Leilani can often be seen interacting with students by calling out unique nicknames she gives them. The students love the attention and feel special when they hear their nickname.
A hands-on leader, Leilani takes time to mentor new paras, leading by example. She is willing to pick up and help whenever is needed: whether to support a teacher in need or a student in crisis.
THOMAS PORTILLOS, FACILITIES PAINTER
Tom, who has been with the District since 1985, is known as an outstanding employee who is always friendly, professional and easy to work with. He is forever willing to help schools with requests, as well as any staff member needing his assistance. He goes the extra mile to ensure that all his efforts are geared toward supporting the educational mission of the District.
Tom is revered for his pleasant interactions with students and staff. He always has a positive attitude, a smile, and remains ever attentive to the needs of the schools.
No matter how large his workload, Tom approaches every job with the utmost dedication and effort in order to ensure that students and staff have a safe, clean and beautiful learning environment.
DEREK FLOWERS, KINDERGARTEN TEACHER, SUNSET PARK
Derek's colleagues praise him for his exceptional dedication, enthusiasm and passion for his job. He is a highly skilled and committed veteran teacher who goes above and beyond to ensure that his students receive the best possible education.
What sets Derek apart is his genuine love for students. He creates a nurturing and warm environment that fosters a love of learning and exploration. His enthusiasm and passion for the job are infectious, and his students can't help but get swept up in the enthusiasm, energy and excitement.
Derek also is highly skilled at tailoring his teaching to meet the individual needs of each student. He understands that every child is unique and has their own strengths and challenges, and he works tirelessly to ensure each child receives support and guidance.
DE-ANN HILLEBRAND, SECOND GRADE TEACHER, GOODNIGHT SCHOOL
De-Ann is lauded by colleagues and peers for being that teacher who always goes above and beyond for her students. With more than 40 years in education, her energy and enthusiasm never wane. She remains committed to the social-emotional well being of her students and to their academic success. She believes in every student and will do whatever it takes to see them succeed.
One of the special things De-Ann does for her students is gift them a small stuffed animal to start the school year. She lets her students know that the animals are their "reading buddies" and that they are to take care of them. Students take ownership of the cute critters, especially during reading.
Her supports for students are many, including sending home notes of encouragement, and teaching them life skills, such as time management, respect for others, the power of teamwork, and an appreciation for doing their best. Through De-Ann's efforts, the confidence/self esteem of children is vastly improved.
STACEY MARQUEZ, LITERACY COACH, IRVING ELEMENTARY
As a dedicated, innovative and effective leader at Irving, Stacey is the epitome of a Teacher of the Year. She is well respected by colleagues, who note that she is knowledgeable, valuable, fun and interesting.
At Irving, she leads the charge when it comes to literacy instruction and is always up-to-date on research-based practices that benefit both teachers and students. She asks students to make judgments and interpretations of the ideas, arguments and claims of others presented in the texts they read. Students must carefully consider an idea and evaluate the evidence supporting it. This builds critical thinking.
At Irving, Stacey wears many hats, including Student Council leader, Instructional leadership team member, and Junior Officer Coordinator. She also started a recycling program at Irving which continues to be sustained, and was involved in a school community garden.
And best of all, Stacey does it all with positive energy and a desire to make Irving the most desirable place for both students and staff.
Following the presentation of awards, honorees and guests enjoyed light refreshments, with the evening’s entertainment provided by the East Jazz Combo, under the direction of Chris Herron.