Bailey P.E. instructor named Colorado Teacher of the Year

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By Daniel Laverty

The gym at Fitzsimmons Middle School in Bailey was alive Monday to honor physical education teacher Elizabeth Miner. The Colorado Department of Education named Miner the 2014 Colorado Teacher of the Year.


“I first want to thank you, the students,” Miner said as she smiled and clutched her award. “You make me a great teacher.

“Every day I make it my personal mission to get you students the best education possible,” she said. “Your ability is never a concern to me — your work ethic is. It’s OK to fail as long as you pick up the pieces and try again.”

Miner then acknowledged principal Rim Watson.

“Thank you, Mr. Watson, for seeing in me my qualities and nominating me,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who has helped me to be a great teacher.”

Liz Martinez, program director with Adams State College, awarded Miner faculty status at the college and presented her a $1,000 scholarship to give to a student.

“She’s just amazing,” eighth-grade student Wyatt Morris said after the ceremony. “She always comes up with fun activities for us to do. She’s taught me a lot.”


How the news was delivered

Bad news is usually given when one is called into the principal’s office, and that’s exactly what Miner thought she was getting.

“I was pulled into the principal’s office about (three) weeks ago when (Watson) told me,” Miner said. “He closed the door, and I got a little nervous. Maybe a parent had called to complain about something or me. Principal Watson never closes his door.”

But Watson delivered good news.

“I was shocked,” she said. “How could this be possible? How could I win?”

The 2014 Colorado Teacher of the Year

Miner is entering her seventh year teaching physical education at Fitzsimmons Middle School.

“She seems to have a way with those kids that nobody else seemed to have,” said Lynn Bamberry with the state Education Department.

Traditionally, teachers who win the coveted award aren’t notified until the ceremony, but Miner was told nearly three weeks ago. Miner is expecting her second child next March, and the Education Department wanted to make sure she could cope with the duties of being Teacher of the Year.

“Of course I accepted,” Miner said. “I’m ready to go.”

The Colorado Teacher of the Year is expected to be a liaison between the teaching community and the legislature and Department of Education.

Miner was also awarded stipends from the Colorado Education Association and the Free Masons of Colorado to cover her travel expenses next year. She will also travel to the White House in April to meet President Barack Obama and the other Teacher of the Year winners in the nation.

“I think that she will make an excellent liaison,” Bamberry said. “With the way that she runs her classes and works with kids, she’ll be able to represent Colorado teachers well.”

Miner also qualifies to win National Teacher of the Year.

More than just push-ups

Miner doesn’t just throw out a few dodgeballs and sit in her office; it’s her hands-on approach that sets her apart.

She incorporates all school subjects into her lesson plans.

“My classes align with other courses the kids are taking,” Miner said. “There’s an emphasis on writing, but I include language arts, science and social studies.”

Her sixth-graders focus on fitness, and their final is designing a personal workout plan for themselves. Seventh-graders design a game and make up its rules. Eighth-graders have to research universities and find out where they could do their personal workout.

“She does all she can for these kids,” Watson said. “She’s an elite P.E. teacher.”

A sign of accomplishment

Park County’s Platte Canyon School District consists of four schools — Platte Canyon High School, Deer Creek Elementary, Deer Creek Preschool and Fitzsimmons Middle School.

“What an awesome opportunity for the district to get some attention,” Miner said. “Sometimes it’s hard for smaller communities to get recognized, and I think it’s a sign of what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

Miner earned her teacher’s certificate from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2006 before coming to Fitzsimmons. She lives in Lakewood with her husband, Bill, and their son. Miner said their new arrival will also be a boy.

“I couldn’t do any of this without the administration, staff and students here at FMS,” Miner said. “We have such a supportive system here. We don’t ever give up on these kids.”

“I think she’s the best teacher I’ve ever had,” Wyatt said. “I think she should win National Teacher of the Year.”

Miner admitted her life won’t be the same.

“Never in my life could I have dreamed of a moment like this,” she said. “I am very happy here.”

Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.com or at 303-350-1043. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.