Teachers have an often thankless job, so a group of volunteers decided to throw an appreciation party for them Friday afternoon at the Cortez Cultural Center Plaza.
About 100 teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, and principals from Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 gathered for a barbecue lunch, entertainment, door prizes and dancing with a chicken to a DJ.
The event was put on by Cortez Teacher Appreciation Committee, a newly formed group of 15 volunteers inspired by the work educators do. More than 200 invitations went out.
“We wanted to honor our teachers for all they do and especially for making in through these tough last two years,” said committee chairman and volunteer Jim Skvorc.
During the pandemic, Montezuma-Cortez teachers faced the additional challenges of remote learning, shutdowns from COVID-19 outbreaks, hot-button political debates like critical race theory, leadership and teacher turnover, and school board controversy.
Signs stating “We Love Cortez Teachers” sprang up all over Cortez in anticipation of the party, held Friday under a sunny sky in a gentle breeze.
Thirty-five businesses and organizations donated more than $3,000 in door prizes for teachers that included artwork, Osprey packs, lawn chairs and gift certificates.
The LOR Foundation provided financial support for the party.
“Its wonderful to see this expression of love for teachers,” said Nancy Shaw, who teaches third grade at Kemper. She has been a teacher at the district for 33 years and has taught for 43 years.
“What keeps me coming back are the kids and the people I work with,” she said.
Montezuma-Cortez High School math teacher Andrew Coad enjoyed the event as he stood in line for a barbecue lunch and chatted with colleagues.
“I see a lot of value in a job like this. We make an impact on the community,” he said.
Organizer Terri Helms said the group wanted to “bring some sunshine to our teachers. They’ve been on the front lines, and we want them to know they’re not forgotten.”
Depending on community support, it could become an annual celebration, she said.
Dan Porter, longtime educator and current head of the new Kwiyagat Community Academy in Towaoc, gave a speech.
Retired teacher Carolyn Goff entertained the crowd with a comical show-and-tell of the PTSD symptoms and remedies teachers go through. She wore a cardboard sign that read, “The end is near.”
To officially end the year, teachers gathered to dance on the plaza as DJ Burt Valencia blasted upbeat tunes. A coordinated dance was led by a man dressed in a bright yellow chicken suit.