The value of great education and great educators in our valley was emphasized to me twice this week, once at the community school level and again with the recognition of two legendary professors from Western State Colorado University.
My kids have graduated from the Crested Butte Community School so I sometimes feel out of touch with the local community school. But on Friday I attended the “walk-in” organized by some local teachers and parents. The “walk-in” differed from so many other schools where teachers “walked out” to protest the relative lack of funding for students by the state. Here, the teachers emphasized that while the state has some major work to do to bring per pupil funding up to par with other states, they appreciated the outstanding local support that makes the Crested Butte Community School pretty special. So instead of walking out as a protest, they “walked in” to teach another day and turned what was a demonstration and strike in so many other areas of the state and country, into a positive statement of awareness for our kids and community.
The CBCS teachers and administrators I chatted with spoke of how lucky they were to have such a fortunate partnership with the district and local community that consistently supports the local education hub. People here have voted to raise their taxes. Parents are involved and businesses contribute when asked. The Crested Butte Community School PTA has helped with everything from tools for the recent school-build project to after-school programs, tutors, classroom materials and help with science, art and the Ski for PE programs.
One local parent, Michelle Gerber, was circulating a petition at the rally to get Initiative 93 on Colorado’s ballot this fall. That initiative would raise teacher pay and help fund some programs like special education. Michele said that according to the website, Initiative 93 focuses on “Creating a Quality Public Education Fund financed through higher taxes on higher incomes above $150,000 and on ‘C’ Corporations…generating $1.6 billion annually for schools in the state.” It needs the required 100,000 signatures by July for citizens to vote on the proposal this fall. Find Michelle if you are interested in that movement.
Meanwhile, the broad community support we see in this valley is continuing to show results. The CBCS is consistently ranked as one of the best schools in the state. The students are provided a high-quality education that has taken them to high-quality universities and opportunities outside of academia for those who choose not to pursue more education. The teachers and administrators are an integral part of the community and our kids get to see their teachers not just in the classroom, but on the chairlifts, the trails and the entertainment establishments of town. Our kids see their teachers partaking in life and the teachers at the CBCS model a pretty good life for the most part. Students see them enjoying what this place offers and not just within the boundaries of a classroom.
The personal relationships formed between Crested Butte students and their teachers are pretty special and not common in bigger places. The opportunities presented to the kids, in part due to the commitment and passion of the local teachers, is unique. I’ve seen how those working in the school go well out of their way to lend the helping hand and give a boost to those students who want it. Our teachers love being a part of a small, smart community and that love envelopes us all. They reflect the distinctive attributes of this place and that is not always easy. The Crested Butte kids are lucky and so are we as a community to have such an exceptional institution filled with such remarkable teachers and administrators molding our children and our future.
Speaking of molding the future: Two Western State Colorado University stalwarts were honored Saturday at Western for “Breaking the Mold.” Professors Duane Vandenbusche and Bruce Bartleson will be featured later this year in a Rocky Mountain PBS documentary produced by Cathy Carpenter Dea. Saturday’s event was a premier party gala for the two icons of the community’s institution of higher learning and they were deservedly roasted and toasted.
Vandenbusche and Bartleson have influenced thousands of people through their passion, humor and knowledge. To me they represent the smart, quirky characters who arrived in a more, shall we say, unrefined time, and loved the isolation and distinctive charm of the place. They were thrilled to embrace everything about it with enthusiasm and a thirst to experience what it offered. The friendship bond between the two is inspiring, as both men are skiing, hiking, biking and giving each other grief into their 80s. The influence they have had on individuals was evident in the documentary and, like the opportunity at the CBCS, speaks to the power of intimate relationships and quality role models between teachers and pupils.
The number of men and women who credit these two teachers with changing their lives is impressive. And it is easy to see why. Vandenbusche and Bartleson are funny, smart and full of passion. They are competitive and obviously love this place, the community and one another. That love has influenced a lot of individuals and really, an entire community. Again, we are all fortunate, whether you know them personally or not, to have such characters influencing your community.
Community is made up of many things. Here, we are blessed with a rich tapestry. The education patch of the quilt basically represents the future of any community. It helps shape the future citizens and reflects the current situation. This valley has always valued education and it is important we continue to attract and honor educators who thrive with the challenges of this exceptional place. We could not ask for better representatives to mold our children, our future, than Vandenbusche, Bartleson, and the cadre of elementary and high school teachers and administrators at the CBCS. They all continue to inspire, love and embrace the future of a quickly changing community, and for that we are all fortunate.