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News Release - Seven finalists for the 2020 Colorado Teacher of the Year announced

Seven finalists for the 2020 Colorado Teacher of the Year announced

DENVER – The Colorado Department of Education announced today seven finalists for the 2020 Colorado Teacher of the Year competition with the sole finalist to be announced by Nov. 1.

“These seven teachers serve as inspiring examples among the thousands of teachers across the state who every day go above and beyond to teach our children," said Katy Anthes, Colorado's Education Commissioner. "These finalists are dedicated, innovative and pushing our students to new heights. Any one of them would make an excellent Colorado Teacher of the Year."

Each year, the Colorado Teacher of the Year program recognizes an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled K-12 classroom teacher to represent the entire profession in Colorado. The sole finalist goes on to become Colorado’s nominee for the National Teacher of the Year competition. The National Teacher of the Year Program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The Colorado Teacher of the Year program is sponsored by Denver 7. Award partners include the Colorado Education Association, Adams State University, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado Free Masons and Blue Bell Ice Cream. 

The 2020 finalists for Colorado Teacher of the Year are:
Justin Bankey (Cactus Valley Elementary School, Garfield Re-2)
Justin Bankey is a general music teacher in Silt, Colo., where he directs exemplary musicals, orchestrates an award-winning choir and has taught band as well as academic classes. He believes in learning all you can, sharing all you know and that our kids are worth whatever it takes. Bankey has created a district-level arts calendar that organizes performances across the district’s schools. He recently created a website that includes the new Colorado music standards, learning progressions and lesson plan sharing for all grades.  Bankey has also been a driving force in revamping the school district’s mentoring program, helping to acquire a Retaining Teachers Grant and assisted in developing a district-level training program for mentors. 
Richard Green (Shelledy Elementary School, Mesa Valley School District No. 51)
Richard Green is a kindergarten teacher in Fruita, Colo., who has been in education for 39 years with the majority of his time spent teaching kindergarten. He is an active member in the school district who has served twice on legislative committees examining full-day kindergarten and helped form a state kindergarten association. Green loves working with children in many different roles, including volunteering as a community Santa Claus since 1993.  Full-day kindergarten for Colorado has been Green’s biggest passion so far, and he was actively advocated for full-day kindergarten funding in 2019. He is now working toward making kindergarten developmentally appropriate.
Claudia Ladd (McMeen Elementary School, Denver Public Schools)
Claudia Ladd is a first-grade teacher in Denver, Colo. She is a National Board certified teacher with experience in leadership, curriculum development, instructional coaching, standards alignment and 16 years of classroom teaching experience. Ladd firmly believes early literacy is the gateway to education and that classrooms must be the front line of equitable opportunity. Her professional purpose is to advocate for systemic change in education so that all children, regardless of zip code, can receive an equitable, joyful and rigorous education that inspires intellectual curiosity.
Machin Norris (Franklin Middle School, Greeley-Evans School District 6)
Machin Norris is an eighth-grade Integrated Science and STEM Teacher in Greeley, Colo. Prior to pursuing education, Norris was an emergency medical technician and field trainer. Educating others in EMS led her to further her career in public education. During Norris’ nine-year teaching career, she has actively promoted STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education while capitalizing on the rich opportunities within the aerospace industry. Norris has a strong drive to develop global learners who will become better world citizens. She is an advocate for building and incorporating specific instruction to encourage students’ global awareness. Norris encourages students to reach high; she consistently projects the philosophy that you can accomplish meaningful goals—even dreams -- as long as you are willing to sacrifice and work hard.
Erika Siemieniec (Sand Creek High School, School District 49)
Erika Siemieniec is a business teacher in Colorado Springs, Colo. Siemieniec has been teaching at Sand Creek High since 2011, when she started as an International Baccalaureate (IB) mathematics teacher who later transitioned to teaching business. Siemieniec often incorporates the community into her classroom through professional interviews, visiting local entrepreneurship pitch events, as well as hosting an advisory board of teachers, students, parents and community members. She is an advisor to a competitively successful Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) organization and was head dance coach at Sand Creek High School. Siemieniec demonstrates outstanding development of the business pathway, and excitement and passion for the success of her students.
Hilary Wimmer (Mountain Range High School, Adams 12 Five Star Schools)
Hilary Wimmer began teaching business in 2004 and was part of the inaugural staff at Mountain Range High School in Westminster, Colo., in 2006. She serves as the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department chair and high school business program coordinator. Wimmer leads the largest DECA program in Colorado and was recognized as the Colorado DECA Advisor of the Year in 2016. Wimmer heads the district-wide CTE professional learning teams in curriculum development and is building a common business curriculum for students in Colorado. She was named by the national Next Gen Personal Finance Organization to be one of the Next Gen Change Makers with the goal of ensuring all students leave high school financially literate.
William Yerger (Horizon Middle School, School District 49)
William Yerger is a middle school enrichment teacher in Colorado Springs, Colo. He teaches seventh-grade forensics and eighth-grade health science. He holds a license as a registered nurse in Colorado, Career Technical Education certification in health science and is an instructor for the American Heart Association. At Horizon Middle School, William has worked to establish a partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for students and the school community to provide sponsorships for children participating in the program. Yerger believes the goal of teaching is to provide students the knowledge and skills necessary to become contributing members of society. By using project based learning, he helps to make those real-world connections and valuable learning experiences for students. 

Visit this webpage for more information about the Colorado Teacher of the Year program.