Colorado's Future Educator Honor Roll

Our educators are training the next generation of artists, scientists, engineers and health professionals who will power Colorado’s economy and communities. That’s why elevating the profession is a top priority for the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

To lead into Teacher Appreciation Week, we recognized Colorado’s top teacher candidates at a ceremony on Monday, April 29, 2019 at at History Colorado.

View the event photo album.

Download the event agenda.

Download the event program.

Read about the 2017 honorees and 2018 honorees.


2019 Honorees

Teacher Candidate: Leanna Brazel
Institution: Adams State University
Program: Bachelor’s in Elementary Education with Emphasis in Literacy
About Leanna: Leanna was born and raised in Alamosa, Colorado. She pursued teaching to support students socially, emotionally and academically, particularly for students who face significant obstacles in their lives. Her goal is to provide a safe space where all students can learn and thrive. Leanna is proud of the connections she has made with professional teachers in her community and believes she has a fantastic support team as she begins her career as a teacher.


Teacher Candidate: Avery Phillips
Institution: Colorado Christian University
Program: Bachelor's in Liberal Arts and Special Education
About Avery: Avery Phillips will graduate with honors from Colorado Christian University in the fall of 2019. Avery is a dedicated student and teacher candidate with a passion for education reform. She loves working with students and helping them overcome their obstacles. She has seen the difficulties that students with learning disabilities face and hopes to make changes in schools that ensure a top-quality education for every student. In her interactions with children, classmates, and educators, Avery always carries herself with a professional and charismatic demeanor. She is a strong leader while also demonstrating humility and a collaborative spirit. In the future, Avery plans to further her education by obtaining a master’s degree while studying how the brain works and exploring the best practices for teaching new information. Watch Avery's #WhyTeachCO video message.


Teacher Candidate: Allie Matsuo
Institution: Colorado Mesa University
Program: Bachelor’s in Elementary Education
About Allie: Allie is a Colorado native who is thrilled to bring what she has learned from CMU’s education and English departments back to the Front Range as a teacher next fall. She holds herself to high standards, both as a student and as an educator, always seeking feedback for her work. Throughout her time at CMU, Allie has maintained a 4.0 GPA as a recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Merit Scholarship and been a member of the President’s List. She seeks learning opportunities that will help her grow as a teacher and enjoys making connections with students and professors outside her program. Her passion for content and teaching is infectious, challenging her peers and mentors and fostering a love of learning in her students. In August, Allie will begin her teaching career as a 3rd-5th grade ELA teacher at an integrated arts school in Jefferson County, combining her love of performing arts with her skill as a teacher.


Teacher Candidate: Aspen Chagoya
Institution: Colorado Mountain College
Program: Bachelor’s in Education
About Aspen: Aspen Chagoya is a local of Eagle County, Colorado and a first-generation college student in teacher education. She is especially interested in supporting language development in children who do not use English as a primary method for communication. Aspen has taken leadership roles at both Colorado Mountain College and Eagle Valley Elementary School to demonstrate her commitment. During her college coursework, she took advantage of opportunities to conduct independent research into how multimodal literacy instruction benefits children learning English. She has created resources to share with her classmates and has presented to her cohort the scientific findings supporting her approach to literacy instruction. At Eagle Valley Elementary, she designs lessons and assessments alongside her mentor that translate her scholarship into practice. Her mentor regularly uses some of the strategies Aspen created; on more than one occasion, her mentor has expressed how much he has learned from Aspen. She is a bright and committed educator who deserves this recognition.


Teacher Candidate: Julia Blue Arm
Institution: Colorado State University
Program: Art Education
About Julia: Julia Blue Arm was originally born on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. She was raised in rural communities and educated in very small schools across the state. Her decision to become an art teacher is rooted in her desire to make art education equitable for all students. Julia is an advanced student who always completes assignments beyond expectations. Julia investigates different topics, experimenting on various techniques and materials, and explores teaching strategies to differentiate her lecturing and class management skills. She is particularly good at leading students to discover different cultural aspects from multiple perspectives. In her student teaching, every mentor teacher she works with has many compliments on her professional and positive attitude. She collaboratively works with colleagues and seizes every opportunity for professional growth.


Teacher Candidate: Aaron Nichols
Institution: Colorado State University
Program: Secondary English Education
About Aaron: Aaron is a born and raised Coloradan. His decision to become a teacher came from his desire to change the future one child at a time. He has used his experiences of working with people of other cultures as well as his own insights to build relationships with kids and help them grow into healthy adults and citizens. Aaron reflects on his practice, is open to learning and is eager to become the best. On top of these qualities, he connects with people genuinely. He is scheduled to serve in the Peace Corps after student teaching to help students in impoverished conditions as well as continue to build his capacity for human kindness and understanding of all cultures.


Teacher Candidate: Katherine "Kit" Magee
Institution: Colorado State University
Program: Secondary English Education
About Kit: Kit Magee is from Colorado Springs, Colorado but is originally from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Moving to Southern Colorado for her secondary education was incredibly confining. The constant focus and spotlighting on her race made her feel entirely invisible as an individual. However, through her education, she felt that she could tangibly access a world outside of her own and expand herself. She brings these life experiences into the classroom, which makes her an exceptional teacher. Kit has worked with faculty—after her work hours—to go to summer programs to recruit diverse teachers for the classroom. She shares her experiences openly and honestly, and high school students are extremely inspired by her. Kit is easily one of the strongest preservice teachers at CSU. Watch Kit's #WhyTeachCO video message.


Teacher Candidate: Elisabeth Richardson
Institution: Colorado State University
Program: Bachelor's of Music, Music Education
About Elisabeth: Elisabeth Richardson is a junior music education major at Colorado State University whose primary instrument is the flute. She grew up in Parker, Colorado and went to Chaparral High School. She has wanted to be a music educator since she was little and has been actively involved in as many musical programs as possible for her whole life. She is already a remarkable music educator. Whether it is teaching singing games at a local elementary school or conducting over 100 middle school band students at the CSU middle school outreach program, Liz is always a proactive, prepared, creative and passionate instructor. She regularly and consistently goes above and beyond what is expected of her for each teaching experience and class assignment. Liz designs creative and engaging lessons. She works to connect kindly and meaningfully with all the students in her charge. She has the heart, perseverance and passion of a great teacher!


Teacher Candidate: Angelina Carochi
Institution: Colorado State University-Pueblo
Program: Bachelor’s in Elementary Education
About Angelina: Angelina is from Pueblo, Colorado, and has wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl. She comes from an extended family with many teachers. She is a first-generation college student and has worked very hard throughout her program. She has faced many challenges in her life and has gotten to the end of her bachelor's degree program with remarkable success. CSU-P staff appreciate her willingness to stretch and grow, taking on more and more responsibility so that she was able to secure such a rare student teaching placement. She is going to be a great teacher!


Teacher Candidate: Jorge Melo
Institution: Colorado State University-Pueblo
Program: Alternative Liscensure
About Jorge: With a deep background in Mariachi music, Jorge has one of the most unique teaching jobs in the entire state. He teaches general music at Chavez Huerta Prepatory Academy and Cesar Chavez Academy. He is also the director of Dolores Huerta Preparatory High School's Mariachi Band. Jorge embodies what truly great alternative teacher education can look like. Prior to pursuing alternative licensure with CSU-Pueblo, Jorge had worked for CCA-DHPA since 2009. This spring marks the end of his tenth year as a music educator, and he will celebrate that milestone by completing his alternative teacher licensure program at CSU-Pueblo. Jorge is also an asset to CSU-Pueblo, where he’s taught mariachi since January 2014.


Teacher Candidate: Amanda Fox
Institution: Friends School Teacher Preparation Program
Program: Elementary Education
About Amanda: Originally from New York City, Amanda moved to Colorado and found her niche working for Eco-Cycle as an environmental educator. This sparked a desire for Amanda to take her newfound passion a step further and pursue a teaching credential. Amanda is highly committed to her own growth and learning as an educator—and a learner. She regularly and consistently connects course materials to her practice and does so with grace and effectiveness. She is not afraid to take risks and step outside of her comfort zone in the interest of her students and their learning. Amanda is an outstanding member of her cohort, always offering support and guidance to her peers or a great joke to cheer them up.


Teacher Candidate: Coleman Kane
Institution: Fort Lewis College
Program: Secondary Math
About Coleman: Coleman is a student from Fort Collins who has managed to be successful in completing his math degree and the accompanying teacher endorsement classes all while being an active member and leader on the Skyhawks men's soccer team. He has always enjoyed working with kids and has great enthusiasm for a high need teaching area: secondary math. Along with being an approachable person, Coleman makes math fun and applicable for students and is creative in helping them understand concepts in ways that makes sense. He has received rave reviews from his college supervisor and his cooperating teacher at Animas High School. He is kind, helpful, responsible and a no-nonsense guy: all characteristics one looks for in a teacher. He will be successful in life as he leaves Fort Lewis College to make his mark on the world and will make a difference in the lives of students.


Teacher Candidate: Erika Litson
Institution: Littleton Public Schools
About Erika: Erika is an Arapahoe High School student pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher. As a National Honor Society member, Erika continues to push herself to learn new things. She currently is an honor student and will gain college credit through her enrollment in Teacher Cadet, a Career and Technical Education course. Erika also loves volunteering in her free time—especially if it means getting to work with kids. She often volunteers with local organizations such as Break Bread, Helping Hands First Aid and Young Life. Erika is passionate about helping students grow by supporting them not only academically but emotionally as well. As a recent recipient of Littleton Public Schools’ Foundation Spirit Scholarship, along with other academic scholarships, Erika plans to continue her education to become a Secondary Chemistry Teacher. As of now, she works as a tutor to gain experience in working with kids. Erika is dedicated to changing and evolving the world of education so that it better supports today’s students.


Teacher Candidate: Darlene Lopez
Institution: Metropolitan State University of Denver
Program: Elementary Education with a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Concentration
About Darlene: As a new mom, Darlene applied for a job working in the office at a school. As she watched the teachers, she thought that she would love to teach kids too and decided that she was ready to try out being in a classroom herself. She went back to school part-time at first to study education and eventually decided to dive in and pursue her passion to become a teacher. Darlene is continuously showing thoughtful lesson plans and reflective practices in her residency. She has taken ownership of the literacy data this semester and during recent data team meetings with the school's principal, Darlene had the highest literacy data for the entire fifth grade team. Darlene works hard to provide all students with quality instruction.


Teacher Candidate: Marina Ribes-Martin
Institution: Metropolitan State University of Denver
Program: Elementary Education with a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Concentration
About Marina: Originally from Barcelona, Spain, Marina brings a wonderfully unique lens to the classroom. Her understanding of different cultures has helped build a very strong rapport with her students, staff and parents. Marina has learned to use her creativity and positive attitude to bring out the best in her students while working closely with her mentor teacher to plan lessons that engage students and refine her teaching skills. Her love and passion for teaching are evident every day in her classroom with her high energy and the “life” she brings to teaching; she is expressive and captures the attention of each students with her smile and personality. Marina’s peers look to her for guidance, advice and support, and she is seen as a positive part of the community in her school, on campus in class. She is an impressive pre-service teacher and will be an amazing teacher to any student who has the privilege of being with her.


Teacher Candidate: Saira Galindo Vazquez
Institution: Metropolitan State University of Denver
Program: Elementary Education with Concentration in Psychology and a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Endorsement
About Saira: Saira Galindo Vazquez was born in Mexico and entered the United States when she was four years old. Her family settled in Aurora, where she grew up and attended public school and by graduation had set a goal of becoming a teacher. As an undocumented high school graduate, Saira faced challenges as she embarked on her college education, but with her perseverance and determination, she has now met her goal. Among other activities, she is the Vice President of RISE, providing workshops for students, bringing in pro bono attorneys to help students with DACA information and applications. Saira was also the recipient of the DREAM US Scholarship and the Salazar Foundation Scholarship for Latina's in Education. Working closely with her mentor teacher, she’s refined her teaching skills and helped students make the connections from the lessons taught in the classroom to "real life." Saira's energy, willingness to try new strategies and ideas, and her understanding of her students helped her grow as a teacher. Saira has been a good role model for her students, showing them what is possible.


Teacher Candidate: Aspen Gray
Institution: Relay Graduate School of Education
Program: Master of Arts in Teaching, Elementary
About Aspen: Aspen Gray hails from Aurora, Colorado and graduated from Arizona State University in 2013 with a degree in agribusiness sciences. Aspen traveled to South Korea and taught English for two years and served as a long-term substitute teacher in the Denver Public Schools. Through these experiences, she recognized her passion for teaching and the positive impact that teachers can have on students. This year she is participating in the Rocky Mountain Prep Teaching Fellowship and serves as an RMP Berkeley Fellow in a second-grade class. Aspen holds high expectations for herself and her students. She is committed to continuously increasing her effectiveness and actively seeks out feedback. Aspen is also dedicated to building strong relationships with her students and goes above and beyond to support them. She has already accepted a lead teacher position at RMP Berkeley next year!


Teacher Candidate: Maria Morales
Institution: Relay Graduate School of Education
Program: Elementary Education
About Maria: Maria Morales is a first year third grade ELA-S teacher at Samuels Elementary, a Teach for America Corps member, and believes every student should receive a quality education regardless of their background. Through her teaching, she emphasizes the value of representation. Due to sharing similar backgrounds, she relates to students and build strong relationships with families. Maria grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina and graduated from Lander University. She also is a DACA recipient and a first-generation college graduate. Maria is incredibly hard-working, thoughtful, and loves her students and teaching. She is more than deserving of this distinguished honor.


Teacher Candidate: Melinda Viescas
Institution: PEBC Boettcher Teacher Residency Program
Program: Elementary Education
About Melinda: Melinda is from the Rocky Ford area but relocated to the San Luis Valley to be with her husband. She was accepted into the PEBC/Boettcher Alternative Licensure program and is serving as the Teacher of Record in a third grade classroom in Monte Vista. The daughter of a mechanic and a fellow teacher, Melinda is quickly becoming an amazing educator, eager to learn and diligent in implementation of quality research-based teaching practices. She has established amazing routines in her classroom that allow all students to succeed and encourage all students to work hard and progress. She is a real-life example to them that you can do whatever you decide to do, and her excitement about teaching is infectious.


Teacher Candidate: Shannon Leupp
Institution: Pikes Peak BOCES/UCCS Two Year Alternative Licensure Program
Program: Social Studies
About Shannon: Shannon Luepp previously taught history at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak Community College for several years before accepting the job as a history teacher at Miami Yoder. This allowed her to pursue two of her passions: history and youth mentorship. She adores the secondary age group; they are coming into themselves, discovering not only who they are, but what potential they have. In collaboration with her principal, Shannon wrote curriculum for the Scholars Program in her world history and geography class. She also works with her school's English teacher to develop literacy history projects to help raise reading scores. As a teacher she is caring and approachable with high expectations. Shannon works hard to meet the needs of all of her students. It'll be amazing to see how many more students she'll impact in the future!


Teacher Candidate: Alexis Gonzales
Institution: University of Colorado Boulder
Program: Secondary English Education
About Alexis: Alexis is a first-generation Latina who is committed to working on issues of equity and social justice in education. She attended one of the lowest performing high schools in Colorado and works endlessly to intentionally create more opportunities for students of color. In every assignment she completes, she evidences her ability to think deeply and critically, to wonder and wander beyond shallow assumptions in the quest for rich understanding. When working with students, she strives to meet individual needs and help students of all ability levels find success through improvement. She develops rapport with students that allow her and them to take risks as readers, writers, and thinkers. Her lessons are thoughtful, inspired, and grounded in good theory, bridging the gap between content knowledge, skills, and student experience. She sees education as empowering, an opportunity for learners to question the world in which they live and pursue alternative ways of living in hopes of creating a more equitable society.


Teacher Candidate: Megan Heier
Institution: University of Colorado Colorado Springs
Program: Alternative Licensure Program, Secondary Science
About Megan: Megan Heier credits her own middle school science teachers for igniting her love of math, science, and teaching. The valedictorian of her graduating class at Doherty High School in Colorado Springs District 11, Megan went on to the University of Northern Colorado, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in biological sciences. Working with low income, immigrant, and refugee students through Northern Colorado Upward Bound confirmed her passion for teaching. Megan exudes enthusiasm for her subject and her students, whom she addresses as “scientists.” Megan designs lessons that challenge her students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, and she builds in supports and resources to ensure that no student is left behind. She has earned the respect and affection of peers, colleagues, and professors alike.


Teacher Candidate: Kathryn Oppenheimer
Institution: University of Denver
Program: Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and Elementary Education Licensure
About Katie: Katie's decision to become a teacher was influenced by dedicated teachers she had while growing up in Minnesota. She is proud to be a teacher whose pedagogy sits on the pillars of community building, sustainability and high expectations for all. Katie demonstrates a great deal of professionalism and growth this year as an apprentice teacher in the DU program. Her year-long placement in a kindergarten classroom in a highly impacted Denver school has provided her with many learning opportunities about how to build classroom community, develop positive relationships with students and families, and meet the learning goals of all students, regardless of prior schooling and background. She is extremely insightful and creative in her lesson planning and teaching, and she is especially caring and genuine with her students, classmates, and colleagues.


Teacher Candidate: Breanna Snyder
Institution: University of Northern Colorado
Program: Physical Education K-12 Teaching (Sport and Exercise Science)
About Breanna: Bre Snyder is a Post-Baccalaureate Physical Education K-12 Teaching Licensure and Master of Sport Pedagogy student from Aurora, Colorado. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and working as an operations manager for a local youth hockey team in Northern Colorado, Bre found that she wanted to combine her passion for health, physical activity, and kids into a rewarding and impactful career as a physical education teacher. Since joining the UNC physical education teaching program, Bre has been actively involved in the communities and schools in her practicum and student teaching placements, as well as in local, state, and national professional organizations. Bre is among only a few students who has delivered professional presentations at the Society of Health and Physical Educators Colorado convention to help others grow as educators. Bre deserves to be recognized for all her efforts and achievements while a teacher candidate and represents UNC extremely well.


Teacher Candidate: Shelby Brier
Institution: West Central Alternative Licensure Program
Program: Elementary Education
About Shelby: Shelby Brier grew up in Norwood, Colorado with the San Juan mountains as her playground. She attended Colorado State University, where she found a special place in her heart for volunteering with child support programs. After receiving her bachelor’s in science, she moved back to Norwood and landed a high school science substitute job in Nucla. Teaching came naturally to her, and after three months of substituting, the administration of West End Public Schools presented her with an offer to teach fourth grade in Naturita. Ms. Brier took the position and could not be more excited as she finishes her first year in the classroom. She truly goes above and beyond the expectations. She is not afraid to ask for help when needed, but also is an independent, trustworthy, hardworking ATL student. Shelby has already mastered using data to help her differentiate and drive her instruction. She brings her classroom alive with her teaching skills.


Teacher Candidate: Stephanie Buchanan
Institution: Western Colorado University
Program: Elementary Education
About Stephanie: Stephanie is a recent transplant to Evergreen, Colorado after spending her entire life in Houston, Texas. She dreamed of being a teacher throughout most of her childhood. She adores children, and she has a passion for education and the impact it can have on a child's life. Stephanie has excelled in her classes at Western, submitting work that is thoughtful, insightful, and always having her students’ best interest in mind. She works hard always and often sets the standard for an assignment or discussion. What's even more impressive is watching Stephanie in her classroom. She is a natural around students and easily creates an atmosphere of respect where students are free to learn in a variety of ways. Her pedagogy is progressive and inclusive, and it is inspiring watching her teach. Stephanie is already an excellent educator, and kids will be fortunate to have her as their teacher. Watch Stephanie's #WhyTeachCO video message.


Teacher Candidate: Tori Hess
Institution: Western Colorado University
Program: Special Education K-12 Generalist, Alternative Teaching License
About Stephanie: Tori is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado, lives in Glenwood Springs and works in the Roaring Fork School District teaching Special Education on an alternative Teaching License. Tori loves creating a positive environment for students to grow confidence and develop life and academic skills. She believes relationships come first: learning only happens after trust and relationships are built. Tori is passionate about making education equitable for all and using a multi-sensory approach to learning. Tori not only has been an excellent student, completing work on time with great detail, but she is a passionate and caring teacher in her classroom. Tori's energy with her students is contagious, and her students respect and work hard for her. She also communicates and collaborates with general education teachers and is a positive force for the students she works with. Watch Tori's #WhyTeachCO video message.