Cimarron teacher wins VFW state award

Shannon Shelton honored for connecting students to ‘real people’

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The Colorado Veterans of Foreign Wars recently honored Cimarron Middle School eighth-grade history teacher Shannon Shelton as its Teacher of the Year for 2016-17. A ceremony honoring Shelton capped the VFW’s annual state convention, presented at the Eleganté Hotel and Convention Center in Colorado Springs from June 14-17.

“I’m just honored to be able to accept this on behalf of the true heroes of our country,” said Castle Rock resident Shelton. “Their sacrifices and courage are what allow me to be able to teach.”

Shelton said she enjoys teaching history because it connects her students to “the real people” they read about in textbooks.

“Their struggles were the same,” she said. “They’re just like them.”

Her students at the Parker school have successfully submitted the biographies of two veterans to the Library of Congress for the Veterans History Project, involving extensive interviews, research and sound and video production.

Shelton’s students also organize Cimarron’s annual Veterans Day ceremony and participate in the annual 9/11 stair climb at Red Rocks, among other community service projects they carry out through the school year.

Shelton was one of several teachers who competed first for the Parker VFW’s award before advancing to the district and state competitions. Parker VFW Post 4266 selected Shelton and awarded Shelton a certificate and cash award, as well as a check for Cimarron Middle School, on June 1.

The VFW began the contest in 1999 as a way to identify and recognize America’s best educators. The VFW annually evaluates candidates based on their teaching of citizenship, American history and national traditions. Elementary, middle and high school teachers are nominated by fellow teachers, students, supervisors or other interested individuals.

First-place winners from each state in each grade level are now entered in the National Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award competition. Each of the those winners will receive $1,000 for professional development, $1,000 for their school and an all-expense paid trip to the VFW National Convention in July.

Shelton said she’s not concerned about winning the national award, she just wants to continue the work of connecting her students to history.

“For them to be able to hear the story of someone who liberated a concentration camp at the age of 18,” she said. “It’s a way of letting these kids know they are capable of great things.”

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