District recognizes teachers, coach, students and drivers

By Tamie Meck


At the December meeting of the Delta County School District, board members and administrators honored several North Fork school teachers and students and others for their outstanding achievements and dedication.

The meeting was held at Paonia High School and began with Dee Holt's mixed choir singing "The Star Spangled Banner."

PHS volleyball coach Krista Carsten was recognized for receiving the Colorado High School Coaches Association's Horizon Award. The award recognizes volleyball coaches with 10 or fewer years with the program whose enthusiasm and participation in volleyball have led to significant improvements in their school's overall success.

District superintendent Caryn Gibson said she remembers Carsten as an outstanding high school athlete at Paonia High School. "But what I love about her is how she interacts with kids and how she cares about kids." On the court she has a knack for teaching skills. "She brings every team that she's ever coached to a high level."

Since becoming head coach in 2012 Carsten's teams have a combined 134-25 win-loss record, produced numerous all-state players, and have qualified for the state tournament the last five years. "Most people count their wins," said Gibson, "but she's had so many wins, she counts her losses."

In honoring Carsten, PHS principal Randal Palmer said most people know her for her accomplishments on the court, but don't always hear about her accomplishments as an English teacher. "And that's where she needs to get the applause," said Palmer. Carsten teaches grades 7-12 and each day goes back and forth several times between the high school and junior high school. "Those are the unsung pieces of what Krista does behind the scenes, and that's what I want everybody to understand," said Palmer. "She's a wonderful human being."

Ellie Roberts was also recognized. She teaches junior high world geography, social studies and English courses at PJSHS, and coaches Knowledge Bowl during lunch. Her team recently won the district Knowledge Bowl tournament. About 20 kids practiced for the tournament, said Roberts.

The final recognition went to the PHS fall volleyball, football, and boys and girls cross country teams, which all earned Academic All-State honors from the Colorado High School Activities Association. This is the first time that all of the teams received the honors in a single season, said Palmer, calling it "a huge accomplishment."

To be considered for the honor, teams must have a collective grade point average of at least 3.5. Everyone sees the sports banners and trophies, said Palmer. But the highlight, he said, "is that teachers here are preparing students for that next level."

Gibson also recognized the Flight of the Eagle Project committee, represented by Randy and Beverly Wilmore, for its hard work and dedication in improving the PJSHS grounds. They were able to put a plan into place and are working on the first phase, said Gibson. "They have done so much for this school."

They've also helped to maintain and clean up the school grounds, created a walking path, installed playground equipment, and through the "Buy a Brick" campaign constructed a wall at the entrance to the school that includes numerous engraved bricks.

"I just want you to know, we appreciate Flight of the Eagle so much," said Gibson.

PHS juniors Derek Holt and Caden Meilner (not pictured) Delta High School junior Thomas Neil were recently selected to participate in All State Choir. "It's really exciting to have kids from our county even make it," said choir director Dee Holt. "It's a pretty big deal." The audition is very difficult and requires knowing the scales, sight reading and other skills. They were among 400 of the roughly 2,000 students to pass the audition. Unlike in sports, said Holt, all of the state's students undergo the same selection process.

District board member and retired music teacher Jan Tuin has judged All-State auditions for many years. "It is a high honor to be able to do this," said Tuin. The Colorado All State Choir performance will be Feb. 2-4 at the Colorado Convention Center BellCo Theatre.

The students of Paonia Elementary School math teacher Bob Bushta were recognized for their skills. Bushta said the district math competition, which he said is "always my favorite week," was held recently. In 2012 the school began competing in the Noetic Learning Math Contest, which last year attracted more than 20,000 students from more than 600 schools and 45 states, said Bushta. "It was real exciting for our kids to be a part of this contest."

All PES fourth, fifth and sixth grade students competed in the contest. Of them, four received national honorable mention, including fourth grade class champion is Giavanna Luna, who had the second highest score overall and fifth grade champion Mariah Cowan. Middle school students receiving national recognition in the MathCounts competition were Ace Connolly and Easton Tribble. Tribble, a team captain, received national recognition and also had the highest score in sixth grade, said Bushta.

PES teacher Jodi Simpson was also honored after being one of six finalists for Colorado Teacher of the Year. She was nominated by PHS English teacher Krissey Allen. "It's been an honor," said Simpson. She acknowledged her friends, parents, fellow teachers and bus drivers, and said she couldn't do it alone. "Dreams can come true in school. School can be that place where kids want to come ... We have to keep fanning those flames and their sparks and telling them, 'You can do it.' And we have to tell each other we can do it."

The district has so many great teachers, said Gibson. "Thank you for being our shining star and loving kids and helping them learn and grow."

District assistant superintendent Kurt Clay introduced four Hotchkiss K-8 students as having done "incredible things with their vocal cords." Amelia Hickam, Bailey Miller, Genevieve Fisher and Ariana VenJohn recently earned Middle School All State Choir honors under the direction of Jeannette Carey. They will have the opportunity to perform in the All State Concert on Feb. 3 at the Bellco Theater in Denver.

This is the first year HK-8 students auditioned for the choir, said Carey. The audition included singing "America the Beautiful" accompanied by a piano, singing a scale, and performing a sight reading (singing a piece without ever having sang or heard it before), which Carey said is very difficult,

She also thanked Mr. Tuin, from whom Miller and Fisher take private voice lessons. "He is the best of the best," she said. "We're so lucky to have him in the North Fork Valley.

Two Hotchkiss High School students, Rocky Wick on alto sax and Jordan Dennison on trumpet, made district Honors Jazz Band, which also requires an audition, said Carey.

The district also recognized retired North Fork area bus drivers Rebecca "Becky" Clowers and Bob Reedy with a combined 86 years of service to district. "It went very quickly," said Clowers, who retired with 40 years behind the wheel of a school bus.

"These two are kind of like the stars of the transportation department," said District bus barn manager and lead mechanic Barry Lister. In his 21 years of working with them, "Not once have they ever called in sick. Not once have they been late for a shift." That's even more amazing, he said, considering that they have to be on time twice a day. "They're dedicated."

Reedy, who retired with 46 years of service, said he went through five bosses. "Two of them were like dads and three of them were best friends," he said. He would have had fewer bosses, "but two died on the job."

Working for the district was like working with family, he said. "It wasn't just working for somebody else."

Reedy's dad, the late Gene Reedy, also drove a bus for the district for 44 years, and son Mike has driven a school bus 15 years so far, said Reedy.

Transportation Director Kurt Clay said Reedy was not only a great bus driver, but also a great mechanic for the district. In his 46 years, "Not one day did he call in sick."

When asked why they do the job for so long, "Of course the answer from both of them is, 'Well, we just do it for the kids,'" said Lister.