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News Release - Recipients of 2011 Commissioner's Choice Awards Announced

Jan. 27, 2011

News Release

Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Legacy Foundation Announce Recipients of 2011 Commissioner’s Choice Awards

The annual Legacy Luncheon on Tuesday, Feb. 8 will celebrate effective Colorado teachers and school leaders. Sponsored by the Colorado Legacy Foundation, the occasion is the state’s first event celebrating effective educators that apply best practices and get results.

“Attracting, developing and supporting effective educators are top priorities for the Colorado Department of Education,” says Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond. “Our goal is to make sure all public school students are ready for success in work and college when they complete high school. To do that, we must provide an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective principal in every school.”

Commissioner Hammond will present educators and leaders with a 2011 Commissioner’s Choice Award for demonstrated effectiveness in 12 areas of student achievement and growth, teacher leadership, and educator preparation and induction. Colorado’s teacher of the year also will be honored.

The 2011 award recipients represent eight schools, five school districts and Mesa State College:

  • Kevin Jones, Principal, Center High School, Center School District: Expanding Opportunity through Effective Leadership Award recognizing a leader from a school that is using successful innovation with a historically underserved population.
  • Cherry Hills Village Elementary School, Cherry Creek Schools: Teacher Leadership Award recognizing innovative leadership models that empower teachers to achieve consistent, sustained student growth.
  • Cherry Creek STAR Mentor Program, Cherry Creek Schools: Excellence in Induction Award recognizing an induction program that exemplifies the strongest elements of a process for introducing new educators into the profession in a manner that is most likely to make them effective educators.
  • Linda Barker, Director of Teaching and Learning, Colorado Education Association: Effective State Leadership Award recognizing a leader who makes a significant positive impact on improving education policy and instructional practice across Colorado – ultimately improving outcomes for students and supporting the profession for educators.
  • Delta County 50J School District: Innovative District Practice to Drive Student Achievement Award recognizing a district that has encouraged innovation among schools – allowing each school to meet the unique needs of its students in order to achieve strong student outcomes.
  • Explore Elementary School, Mapleton School District: Getting Results Award recognizing teams of teachers who have improved performance at a historically low-performing school.
  • Highline Academy K-8 Charter School, Denver Public Schools; and Poudre School District: Engaging Students as Leaders Award recognizing schools and districts with a student leadership program that most effectively engages students – resulting in increased academic outcomes.
  • Michelle Pearson, Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher, Hulstrom Options K-8 School, Adams 12 Five Star Schools: Colorado Teacher of the Year recognizing a teacher’s ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities. Pearson was chosen last November by a six-member committee comprised of individuals from state-level education agencies.

  • Lance Luitjens, Principal and Superintendent Kiowa High School and Kiowa School District: Innovative Use of Resources to Meet Student Needs Award recognizing a school or district that has aligned all available resources toward the goal of meeting student needs in order to achieve strong student outcomes.

  • Mesa State College; and Douglas County Schools Alternative Licensure Program: Excellence in Educator Preparation recognizing Colorado educator preparation programs that act as a strong partner with Colorado schools and districts to prepare effective educators for Colorado students.

  • Virginia Court Elementary School, Aurora Public Schools: Community Partnership Award recognizing a school or district that has successfully implemented a community partnership resulting in increased academic outcomes.
  • Principal Josh Smith and Office Manager Tommy Rivera, West Denver Prep Middle School, Denver Public Schools: Leader in Data Driven Innovation Award recognizing a leader or group of leaders from a school or district with the greatest growth rate.

“We believe that all of Colorado’s teachers and school leaders want to be the best they can be,” says Helayne Jones, president and chief executive officer, Colorado Legacy Foundation. “We also believe there is increasing support across the state to help them continue to grow and hone their craft. That’s why recognizing educators who are effective and sharing their practices is so critical.”

The Colorado Legacy Foundation will prepare a series of tools to document and share the practices of 2011 award winners later this year.

The Legacy Luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Seawell Ballroom, 1101 13th St., Denver. Register at:

The event’s keynote speaker Sir Ken Robinson addresses audiences around the world about the creative challenges facing business and education in new global economies. His latest book, “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything,” is a New York Times best seller. Gov. John Hickenlooper also will speak at the luncheon.

About the Colorado Legacy Foundation

Inspired by CDE's Forward Thinking strategic plan, the Colorado Legacy Foundation is the first foundation in the country to be launched by a state department of education. The Colorado Legacy Foundation was established in 2007 as a private nonprofit governed by an independent board of trustees that develops initiatives to support CDE's work. Its mission is to invest in promising strategies to improve public education. The privately funded nonprofit evaluates results, convenes education stakeholders and provides recommendations to schools for continuous improvement. Its unique partnership with CDE allows the foundation to advance innovation in public schools throughout the state. More:

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