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Adams 12 teacher, Michelle Pearson, named Colorado Teacher of the Year

6:37 PM, Nov 10, 2010   |    comments
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"I'd rather them come back and say we thought deeper. We applied what we learned in class," said Pearson, a social studies and language arts teacher at the Hulstrom Options K-8 School in Northglenn. "We really thought hard about the questions we were asked."

Wednesday morning, Hulstrom Options Principal Steve Isenhour put together an assembly under the guise that the school was being recognized for its high achievement and recently winning the award for best Colorado public library.

"I concocted a story to have [Education Commissioner Dwight Jones] come out and honor our students," Isenhour said.

As Jones began talking about the school, he started to reveal the real reason for the assembly - to recognize Pearson as the 2010 Colorado Teacher of the Year.

Pearson was completely surprised and she started to cry as hundreds of students, teachers, and staff applauded her achievement.

"I got emotional because I come from generations of teachers," Pearson said.

Pearson is no stranger to 9NEWS. We have done stories on Pearson's use of technology in the classroom. She won a grant to have her students create podcasts on the history of Colfax Avenue to be used in conjunction with the Colfax Marathon.

Her students also embarked on a massive project to generate audio reports on Colorado history to be stored in the United States Library of Congress. In 2007, she won a 9Teachers Who Care award from 9NEWS.

She has been a finalist for Colorado Teacher of the Year the past two years.

"To earn this honor, [Pearson will] be a voice for all of education," Isenhour said.

Pearson teaches gifted and talented students from sixth to eighth grade. She says often people forget that teaching upper-level students can be as challenging as teaching struggling ones.

"Frankly, they can tie your shoelaces in a knot faster than you can breathe if you're not prepared," Pearson said. "You have to be one step ahead of them."

Isenhour says while it is proper to pay more attention to struggling students, he does believe sometimes the needs of gifted students get overlooked.

"We often ignore or forget about our kids that are at and above grade level," Isenhour said.

Pearson says she wants to be a voice for all students.

"We are trying to reduce this achievement gap across the board, but we only target one area of kiddos," Pearson said. "It's not about that. It's about every student, every day."

She was awarded $10,000, which she plans to spend in her classroom. She won other prizes including an iPad. Pearson will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Barack Obama. She is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year.

Pearson beat out two other finalists: Kristin Donley, a science teacher from Monarch High School in the Boulder Valley School District and Amy Nichols, a math teacher at Hinkley High School in Aurora.

The teacher from the Adams 12 Five Star School district says the key to her success has been the ability to stretch her students' minds.

"I truly believe that they need to be active and engaged and asking questions themselves," Pearson said. "It's not about what I give them. It's about the questions that we ask together."

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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