BAYFIELD – Becki Talbot, a kindergarten teacher at Bayfield Primary School, was in her planning period Monday when the principal called her into the school’s gym. When she arrived, she saw about 300 students, ages 5 to 8, sitting cross-legged and yelling, “Surprise!”
Talbot received the 2019 Colorado Parent Teacher Association award for teaching excellence – the first state PTA award for the primary school.
The Colorado PTA in partnership with McDonald’s gave the award, a $100 prize and free meals at McDonald’s, to eight teachers this year. The surprise award ceremony brought tears to the eyes of most adults. For Talbot, it validated her efforts and signified the success of the kindergarten teaching team and students.
“I couldn’t have gotten this award without you guys,” Talbot told the crowd of students gathered at the assembly.
“Not only do I teach you things, but you guys teach me things, too. And I’m a better person, I’m a better mom, I’m a better wife because I get to come to school every day and spend the day with you,” she said. “Thank you for making me a great teacher.”
Aidan Hudspeth, now a first grader, and his mother, Andrea Hudspeth, nominated Talbot for the award, explaining how she has made a difference in their lives.
“The reason I like being in your class is because you made me feel happy every day,” said Aidan, while reading a note to Talbot at the end of the assembly.
Local McDonald’s owner-operators then chose the awardees based on the stories told in the nomination packet, said Ami Prichard, vice president of communications and marketing for the Colorado PTA.
The award ceremony itself was a feat. Teachers secretly sneaked lines of students through the school and then managed to keep them quiet before Talbot entered the gym. Once Talbot arrived, Amy Davlin, president of the Bayfield Parent Teacher Student Association and incoming school board member, gave her the award.
Then, students sang a song they learned in Talbot’s class and read reasons why they liked her as a teacher. Talbot led them in a dance routine to “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” by Kamehameha Schools Children’s Chorus and Mark Keali’i Ho’omalu.
“As a small school in rural Colorado, it’s pretty exciting to be recognized in this way by the statewide PTSA,” said Amanda Holden, principal of Bayfield Primary School.
Holden described Talbot as caring, kind and “in tune with what kindergartners need to shine.” Talbot is the kind of teacher who brings positive energy with her when she enters the building, she said.
Talbot’s teaching philosophy is to make her classroom a structured, loving and safe place for kids. Every morning, she checks in with her students about how they’re feeling, which helps her know if someone is having a bad day, needs a hug or has an accomplishment to celebrate.
She focuses on relationships with students and their families, and she wants students to feel comfortable reaching out to her even after they leave kindergarten. The combination of routines and hugs helps kids flourish and feel safe, she said.
“Sometimes you always wonder, ‘Why do I do this?’” Talbot said through teary eyes after the assembly. “Even on a bad day, I always try to come in here with a smile on my face because my bad day can’t be a bad day for them.”
The award validated Talbot’s efforts, but it wasn’t just her success, she said. After the assembly, she told the kindergarten teaching team that the award represented all of their hard work because they couldn’t do the job without each other.
“I can’t imagine teaching any other grade than this grade because I’m their first school experience,” she said. “I hope that they leave me loving school.”