Susan Tipton, 28, decided to be a school teacher when she was in second grade.
On Friday, the Colorado Department of Education named her one of three finalists for the state's top teacher award.
"It's so exciting," said Tipton, who teaches third grade at Bricker Elementary School in Harrison School District 2.
She has taught at the school for six of the seven years she has been in the profession. She was nominated by colleagues and her principal Stacy Aldridge, and went through a state vetting process to become a semi-finalist.
Tipton "focuses her time on creating a safe environment, having students take ownership of their behavior and learning and stresses the importance of community and its role in student's lives," the education department announcement said. In line with that, she created special parent nights for the students' families, a "Reading is Fun" community event and is part of the school wellness team.
More than 84 percent of the students at the school are impoverished, and about a third of her students are English language learners.
Tipton said she has tried to emulate her second-grade teacher in Fort Collins. "Mrs. Bontempo really had an impact on my life. She built relationships with us and instilled a love of learning," she said. "After that, I never had to struggle about what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a teacher like her."
Tipton received an elementary education degree with an emphasis on math from University of Northern Colorado, and a master's degree in linguistically diverse education from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Bricker Principal Stacy Aldridge, said that Tipton "has a warm command of students. She expects them to respect peers and adults, and to take responsibility for their learning. She has impacted our community through leadership projects in and out of school. I could go on and on about her."
Tipton likes third grade because the kids are so energetic. "They want to learn and tell you all about their lives. Everybody has a story. They are cute and fun," she said. And third grade, is one of those all important milestones for learning basics. She likes teaching English language learners, because "they are so curious and in a span of a year, they come so far."
To become a finalist, she had several interviews with state education and PTO officials.
The next step in the Teacher of the Year process will be a visit to her classroom by several state education experts. They will also talk to her colleagues and administrators.
The winner will be announced in October, and will be a candidate for the national honor.
The other finalists:
- Melisa Maes-Johnson, of Heaton Middle School in Pueblo City Schools. She has 17 years teaching experience including math department chair, and a member of the literature department. She teachers seventh and eighth graders, and says "her biggest accomplishment is to reflect on teaching and learning to create an effective learning experience for her students," according to the CDE announcement.
-Elizabeth Miner, a physical education teacher for seven years at Fitzsimmons Middle School in Platte Canyon School District. "She is as aggressive with academics in and out of her class as she is with physical activity and says her greatest love is the daily privilege to guide students down the right path," the CDE announcement said.
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