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Berthoud Teacher Receives Colorado’s 2024 Teacher of the Year Award
As a child, Jessica May witnessed her mother caring for numerous foster children throughout the years — a total of 189 to be precise.
“I had the opportunity to see her both as a mother and as an advocate for those who lacked a voice,” she shared.
May set out to carry on that legacy by becoming a teacher and using her own voice to support children from the front of the classroom.
“This is my way of making a difference,” she expressed on Friday afternoon after receiving the title of Colorado’s 2024 Teacher of the Year during a ceremony at Berthoud’s Turner Middle School.
Following speeches from state and district officials in the gymnasium and the promise of an ice cream party for the school, May made her way towards the bleachers, where she was greeted by students offering congratulatory hugs.
The family and consumer science teacher was one of seven finalists for the award, which is presented annually by the Colorado Department of Education and other sponsors. Over the next year, she will serve as a representative for the state’s teachers and join the education commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet, a state advisory panel consisting of educators. Additionally, she will represent Colorado in the National Teacher of the Year competition, visit the White House, and take part in NASA space camp.
Last year, May taught at Conrad Ball Middle School in Loveland and is currently in her 21st year of teaching middle-schoolers in the Thompson school district. She particularly enjoys working with this age group. They still appreciate hugs, stickers, and playing Twister, but are also transitioning into the next stage of their lives.
“Middle school is unique because they are caught between being young children in elementary school and young adults in high school,” she explained. “I am here to assist them in finding their voice.”
May, who has four children of her own, also helps her students acquire life skills that range from cooking and using coupons to personal finance and building relationships.
“If I cannot relate what I am teaching to real-world situations, I do not teach it,” she stated.
For instance, she assigns a project called the “rice baby assignment,” in which students learn about child development (as well as the challenges of parenting) by creating a “baby” using pantyhose, five pounds of rice, and a styrofoam head that they must carry with them everywhere for two weeks.
In addition to imparting practical knowledge to her students, multiple speakers at Friday’s awards ceremony highlighted May’s enthusiasm and ability to connect with her students.
“You represent excellence here in our school district,” Thompson Superintendent Marc Shaffer said to May. “I couldn’t be prouder of you.”
In a brief speech, May, who grew up in the northern Colorado district, described herself as “fiery” and vowed to advocate for the needs of teachers in her capacity as teacher of the year. She also expressed her love for her students.
“You provide us with the best job in the world,” she exclaimed. “Life is not about money. It’s about pursuing your passion and feeling it with every fiber of your being.”