Everyone agrees that education for our children is supremely important. The quality of that education will affect the child's life through adulthood.
It will determine whether our nation is prepared for the future with intelligence, insight and innovation or loses its role of global leadership.
Oftentimes people believe schools in rural areas miss out on the advantages of wealth in the urban areas. But that is decidedly not true in the North Fork Valley. The schools, teachers and students use the tools they have to maximum results and regularly win top awards and scholarships.
To recognize that excellence the board of directors for the Cocker Kids Foundation examined what they could do that would enhance and promote that commitment. The result is the Teacher Appreciation Award.
Each year peers, students and citizens will nominate a deserving teacher and the board of directors along with an advisory board will decide which teacher will win the $10,000 award. All teachers K-12 at Hotchkiss K-8, Hotchkiss High School, Crawford School, Paonia Elementary and Paonia Jr./Sr. High School will be eligible. Nomination forms became available at all the schools on Feb. 18 and from the Cocker Kids Foundation website. Nominations are due by March 18. Then on May 1, the winner of the Teacher Appreciation Award will be announced.
Pam Cocker recently sat down to discuss the new award. Why give a monetary gift to teachers?
"We had lots of debate over this within the board of directors and on different approaches. We had a meeting of all the principals," Cocker began. The discussions led to an abundance of feedback on who should receive the award. Should it be the school or a school department? Perhaps a teen should receive the award. Maybe one school would be the focus of the award one year and then other schools in subsequent years.
Their conclusion was to give one teacher an award of $10,000 to show the appreciation of the community for being an exceptional teacher.
"It would have more impact on the teachers than giving it to a school. These teachers work really hard and they don't get paid very much at all. So, to be able to participate in this and have people appreciate them, nominate them and give the reasons why they think they are excellent teachers, I think it is a really strong personal show of respect for that person's hard work," Cocker said.
In future years the program may evolve, but this is the plan for the first year. "We're trying to spearhead this. We eventually want to make it a community project not just a Cocker Kids project. Our goal this year is to do the entire award. Next year we're hoping that Cocker Kids will put in $5,000 and we'll be able to raise another $5,000 from individuals and businesses in the community," Cocker said. "Then every year after that to make it so the teachers know it's coming from the whole community not just from one foundation."
Cocker believes the North Fork Valley is lucky as a community to have such quality education available. Cocker Kids Foundation has been giving technology grants to local schools. Paonia Junior and Senior High Schools recently received $25,000 for iPads.
"We are really learning of the caliber of the teachers we have in our community. In our high schools and elementary schools it's really exceptional. Most of the Paonia teachers have master's degrees. Or if they don't have one they have to get it. Same in Hotchkiss.That's not necessarily the case [elsewhere]," Cocker said. "My daughter and two grandkids are in the school system in southern California. They don't have iPads in their schools. They have a small tech lab but the teachers don't use iPads or use computers to teach in the classroom. Their teachers most definitely don't have to have master's degrees. So, I really think we have a leg up in this community. The teachers do it for less than they deserve."
She adds, "It does irritate me that the people who are doing all this hard work, this important work with our children, the future of this country ... are getting paid nothing. I think the whole board felt that way. We just felt it was a good time, especially with the economy the way it is, to make that effort for the community to show their appreciation of our teachers."
The foundation's research showed that teacher appreciation awards are being given throughout the United States. "We're not unique in doing this program. It is happening all over the country, but I think it is time for us to do it in the North Fork," she said.
Each of the schools received metal suggestion boxes for the nominations. The nomination forms are right there for students, fellow teachers, office staff and parents to fill out. The nominator answers a few questions and can write from one to three pages about why the teacher should win the prize. Nomination forms are also available online at cockerkidsfoundation.com.
The nomination form states, "Award recipient will be recognized as a representative of all the excellent, dedicated teachers in the community who make a difference to children everyday."
There are seven criteria listed, of which, each teacher being nominated should demonstrate at least four. They are:
•Inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.
•Have a superior ability to teach and to inspire in students a love of learning.
•Have a broad understanding of current trends and issues in education.
•Should be highly respected by students, parents and colleagues.
•Be facilitators of creative teaching strategies.
•Show active involvement and leadership in professional development and extracurricular activities.
•Should demonstrate the ability and willingness to devote time and energy to activities that result in improved instruction for children.
For the awards debut, teachers from Vision and Montessori schools are not being included. It's certainly not because they aren't excellent. The board learned teachers at Vision and Montessori have certifications and requirements different from their fellow public school teachers.
"We wanted to make certain that all the teachers eligible for the award had the same certification. That's pretty important," Cocker said. The foundation continues to award a senior scholarship award to Vision students.
As far as determining who will win, the Cocker Kids board of directors and an advisory board of Betsy Marston, Mike McMillan and Pauline Carr will pour over the nomination forms and select the winner.
Cocker shared her hope for the impact of the Teacher Appreciation Award. "I think it will foster a community pride in our teachers and I think the teachers will feel more appreciated by the community just to have this going on every year," she said. "I think the award will spark a little more creativity among teachers. Maybe it will spark a little more working together and finding new programs that will inspire the kids. But I think the big thing is just for the teachers to know they are appreciated. And that they are working really hard and we know it."
After the May 1 announcement of the winner, the board will focus on a campaign to increase community involvement for next year and subsequent years.
Cocker Kids Foundation will continue to invite every teacher in the North Fork Valley to their Back To School Barbecue.blog comments powered by Disqus