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Two South Jeffco teachers win Jeffco Hero Awards

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By Deborah Swearingen

A teacher can influence a student for a lifetime.

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This year, two South Jeffco teachers — Barb Weisiger, a gifted and talented teacher at Coronado Elementary School, and Alisha Lindsey, a middle school teacher from Bradford K-8 North — were recognized with a Jeffco Hero Award last month. It’s the second year in a row that two of the winners have come from the area.

The annual award is presented by the Jeffco Schools Foundation and honors students and teachers with Jeffco Public Schools. According to the foundation, winners exhibit extraordinary character, leadership and strength.

‘An innate thing’

In a way, Lindsey always knew she would one day be a teacher.

Lindsey grew up on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. She can remember the inspiration she felt from her first-grade teacher Mrs. Foster, who made her want to be an educator, and from her parents, both of whom were teachers.

“ … Growing up around teachers, it was just kind of an innate thing,” she said. “I was kind of plugged into that kind of mentality, that … love for learning.”

Though she now teaches middle school social studies and language arts at Bradford K-8 North, Lindsey has experience teaching various subjects and ages. She taught in Taiwan and Texas before moving back to Colorado, and she has experience with every grade from preschool to eighth.

But for now, she’s happy where she is, with an age group who understands accountability and can handle in-depth content.

At Bradford K-8 North, she has the opportunity to get to know students well and often teaches students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade.

“We have been on quite a journey over the past three years,” she said. “We’ve had some pretty traumatic experiences happen to our little group, and we’ve had some really, you know, incredible, joyful experiences.

“That doesn’t happen very often in teaching where you get to walk the journey with a kid for three straight years.”

Lindsey is applauded for her success with the Socratic seminar method of teaching, in which students help facilitate a group discussion around the ideas in a text. For sixth-grade students, it can be a challenge. At that age, students are just beginning to learn to have high-level discussions and fostering intellectual discussions is one of Lindsey’s primary goals as a teacher.

“My ultimate goal is to help them learn how to have civil, respectful, adult-level conversation about anything,” she said.

In a profession that can feel thankless, Lindsey appreciates the recognition of the Jeffco Hero Award. She’s learned to accept the praise, despite the fact that she doesn’t feel like a hero.

“Gratitude is not extended frequently, so I’m very award of the magnitude of it,” Lindsey said. “… As teachers, our natural inclination is just to be like no, no, no. I don’t deserve that. Somebody else deserves it.”

‘It’s my place’

At Coronado Elementary, in her classroom full of gifted and talented second-grade students, Weisiger has found a home.

“I just find that population so naturally empathetic and helpful and caring,” she said. “ … They just give each other chances over and over and over.”

“It’s my place,” Weisiger said.

Weisiger has been involved at Coronado in some capacity since its inception. Her son was in kindergarten when the elementary school first opened, and Weisiger has been teaching there for 18 years.

But despite this, she continues to wake up every morning excited for a new day.

And according to Coronado principal Amanda Pierorazio, Weisiger’s students feel similarly.

“Kids are so excited to be in her classroom,” Pierorazio said. “I never get a complaint. I never get a question. Parents are comfortable going right to her.

“She has expectations. There’s discipline in her classroom. It’s just a really structured and positive environment that challenges. And so they … thrive in her classroom.”

Achieving a successful relationship with students and their parents comes naturally for Weisiger. She maintains a positive attitude and treats the kids as she once expected her own to be treated.

“I think that’s the key. You just get to know that kid and try to do the best you can for them,” she said. “It’s different for each kid, but I really want the kids to skip to school and skip home from school. Happy coming and going.”

Two parents nominated Weisiger for the Jeffco Hero Award. To Pierorazio, this speaks volumes about Weisiger’s influence on students and families alike.

When Weisiger found out she won the award, it was heartening.

“It just makes me feel like what I’m doing is working, like I’ve made a difference in some people’s lives,” she said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.