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The Spark - May 2023 - Teacher Appreciation Week

The Spark. A newsletter filled with information and inspiration for Colorado teachers.

A message to you from Education Commissioner Katy Anthes

Katy Anthes headshot during the Thanksgiving holiday message

Dear Educators,

In my final weeks as commissioner, I wanted to underscore my deep appreciation, respect and gratitude for the job you do every day teaching Colorado’s children.

Truly, one of the greatest parts of my job has been to hear from, learn from and witness the extraordinary work of Colorado’s teachers. It has been an honor to work for such dedicated and inspiring educators, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve you. On this first day of Teacher Appreciation Week, may you receive all of the kudos and regard you deserve!

Teaching is not an easy job. It requires patience, empathy, creativity and a deep commitment to the success and well-being of every student. You are the heroes of our education system, the unsung champions who work tirelessly to shape the minds and hearts of the next generation.

Your input and perspective are so important to the process of education in Colorado that I created a teacher cabinet to help inform us of what is happening in our classroom. From those cabinet meetings, I have learned about the challenges you face, from staffing shortages to the stresses the pandemic put you through. I know that these challenges can sometimes feel overwhelming, but I want you to know that you are not alone.

As the commissioner, I have been proud to fight for your rights and advocate for the resources and support that you need to do your job effectively. I have been inspired by your resilience and determination in the face of adversity, and I have seen firsthand the incredible impact that you can have when you are empowered and supported. 

So, as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, I want you to know that you are valued, appreciated and loved. Your work is not just a job, it is a calling, a vocation, a mission to change the world one student at a time. You are the true heroes of our society, and I am grateful for everything that you do.

Thank you for being the heart and soul of our education system, for inspiring us with your passion and dedication, and for making a difference in the lives of countless students. You are truly appreciated.

With gratitude and admiration,




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Colorado’s 2023 Teacher of the Year Jimmy Day says teachers should be recognized, lauded for all of their efforts

Photo of 2023 Colorado Teacher of the Year Jimmy Day

For Jimmy Day, the call to become a music teacher came upon him somewhat quickly while in college.

“Once I got the first taste of teaching a kid and educating a child, it was teaching all the way,” Day said recently from his classroom in Aurora’s East Middle School, where he is the band director and instrumental music teacher. Day, 42, is also Colorado’s 2023 Teacher of the Year.

“It was just being able to connect with those students and watch them become totally invested in the things I was teaching,” he said. “I could take them from something they didn’t know and guide them to it and see them light up. That really gave me a purpose.”

Day was about to embark on a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet the president, visit with other states’ teachers of the year and begin an adventure that will take him to the pregame ceremony at a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field, Google headquarters in California, Space Camp in Alabama and the BCS National Championship Football Game.

“It has been fun,” Day said.

Day, who is originally from Detroit, caught the teaching bug while an undergraduate student at Tennessee State University. He was in the university’s marching band, playing the euphonium, also known as a baritone horn. After graduating with a music degree, he went to Trevecca Nazarene University for a master’s in arts and teaching.

He taught in Memphis and Nashville schools before following his wife Keena Day to the Denver area, where she took a job with KIPP Charter Schools and now is the vice president of curriculum and assessment in the Denver School of Science and Technology network. 

He answered an ad for a music teacher at East Middle School and has remained there for six years.

On this day, the start of Teacher Appreciation Week, Mr. Day said he believes teachers should be recognized for more than what they do in the classroom every day.

Teaching isn’t the only thing we do,” he said. “We wear many hats. We are leaders, we are role models, we are protectors, we are mentors, we are counselors, we are secretaries who type up letters, treasurers who have to collect money to book trips, we are sponsors, we are coaches, we are father figures, mother figures and all the above. 

“That is why we need to be appreciated. We deal with hundreds of different personalities, the students come with hundreds of issues, and we have to figure out a way to motivate them. The responsibility is still on us to work through all of the challenges and consistently set them up for success. We do a lot,  which can cause exhaustion, stress and possible burnout. For that, we should be highly appreciated.”

And he said teachers should celebrate their colleagues and celebrate themselves. They should nominate their co-workers to be Teacher of the Year; and if they are nominated, they should apply.

 “I was that person who was about to give up on completing the application process,” he said. “I had filled out the application and realized I needed to get a signature from the superintendent. It was last minute. I totally panicked. I almost gave up. But my wife and friend encouraged me to not give up, get the signature the best way I could, and get it turned in.”

Day was selected to be the 2023 Teacher of the Year, which was announced at a surprise ceremony at his school in October.  He was picked out of dozens of candidates and became the state’s first Black Teacher of the Year.

“It is a huge opportunity,” he said. “If a coworker recognizes you, embrace it. Appreciate it. Go for it. What do you have to lose?”

Day said his mission now is to continue to elevate the profession and hopefully lead others to become teachers by showing them his passion for teaching.

“First, I hope that it will inspire aspiring educators of color to get into the field of education,” Day said. “We need more teachers of color. Also, I hope to inspire current educators to keep grinding, stay motivated and do their job to the best of their abilities in the realities they have been dealt. As the first black educator to receive this award in Colorado, I hope to inspire other black educators to complete the Teacher of the Year application process if and when they’re nominated. It’s an experience like no other. Most importantly, as the first elective and exploratory teacher to receive this award in Colorado, I hope to inspire future music educators.” 

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Nominate a teacher to be Colorado's 2024 Teacher of the Year

Image for Teacher of the Year Application


If you know an exceptional colleague who should represent Colorado’s educators, you still have a week to nominate them to apply for the 2024 Colorado Teacher of the Year award.

Nominations will be accepted through Monday, May 15. Teachers then have until Friday, June 2, to apply for the prestigious award that will recognize an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skillful K-12 classroom teacher to represent the entire profession. The selected teacher will automatically become Colorado's nominee for the National Teacher of the Year competition.

This special teacher also gets to attend the following events:

To nominate  someone, complete this brief online survey form with some basic information about the teacher. When a teacher is nominated, they are sent an invitation to apply. Applications are due in the summer, but it’s recommended candidates get a head start collecting signatures from school and district leaders and planning thoughtful responses to the essay questions.

Interested in applying yourself? Go for it! Teachers do not have to be nominated to apply. Visit the Colorado Teacher of the Year webpage to learn more about the process.

We also want to shout out Denver7 for supporting the Colorado Teacher of the Year program! Visit for coverage of the program, including the surprise announcement of the 2023 winner Jimmy Day at his school last fall.


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Colorado Rockies offer discounted tickets for teachers


Photo of Rockies promotion for teacher appreciation week.

To thank teachers for everything they do all year, the Colorado Department of Education partnered with the Colorado Rockies and TEACH Colorado to invite all teachers, support staff, administrators and volunteers to a special night at the ballpark Friday, May 12, through Wednesday, May 17.

Discounted tickets are available through the Rockies Teacher Appreciation Homestand webpage. For every ticket purchased through the homestand, $2 will be donated to TEACH Colorado. Go to CDE's website to learn more about Teacher Appreciation Week.


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Proposals being accepted for November’s Equity and Excellence Conference


Equity and Excellence Conference Image

The Equity and Excellence Conference is a free event for all Colorado educators and leaders to attend, enabling attendees to share ideas, strategies and plans on how to improve instruction through evidence-based and best practices implemented in Colorado. The 2023 Equity and Excellence Conference, titled “Strengthening and Expanding Practices: All Students and All Educators Emerging Stronger,” will be Nov. 1-2 at the Denver Hilton Inverness.  Find out more on the Equity & Excellence webpage.  

Submit your proposals to present 60-minute breakout sessions on this Google Form.

Contact for questions about the conference. 

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Additional news and resources

book logo

Educator Preparation Program Search Engine

CDE launched an updated Educator Preparation Program Search Tool to provide both potential and current educators and others detailed information on Colorado’s traditional and alternative teacher preparation programs. The updated search engine is easier to navigate than the previous version and, with additional search fields, returns more applicable results.

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