The Bank of Colorado Education Innovation Award is a coveted grant given to the Durango 9-R teacher or school proposing the most promising and innovative program; the award is administered by the Durango Education Foundation.


The 2015 award winner is 21st Century Writing Fluency, at Sunnyside Elementary School.


IMG_1022If you are seven, and brimming full of ideas, but you don’t exactly remember how to form your letters or where to put the comma or how to spell the vocabulary you’ve mastered orally, how are you to tackle that important report on, say, the Underground Railway? This program combines speech recognition technology, SMARTboard capabilities, and collaborative student learning to enable students to work together on research projects, develop strong writing habits and fuse their oral articulation with their written.

The program was initiated last year for a small group of students by (now retired) teacher Melissa Vance. It is being implemented this year as a whole-classroom pilot by 2nd grade teacher Lori Smith.


The other 2015 nominees’ programs, which were funded by the Durango Education Foundation, were:
“Park Powers Up! with Science” (Park Elementary School)
This program is helping Park Elementary School teachers expand and refine their K-5 science curriculum. Since the opening of school this year, teachers have been collaborating with educators trained in inquiry-based learning from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science along with two highly qualified Durango teachers who are serving as the Park Science Coaches. Grade level teams are working with the designated coach to deliver the units and coordinate with the local entities for the experiential, hands on portion of the curriculum. This grant was partially funded with a grant from the Ballantine Family Fund, through the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado.


Project Foundry (Durango Big Picture High School)
This small, alternative high school has faced a significant challenge assessing and tracking student progress, coordinating and collaborating on educational plans each student, and holding student work in an accessible location to show teachers and others. Project Foundry software and training is streamlining these elements for Big Picture, and creating a more effective, meaningful assessment and feedback mechanism for the students.


Past Recipients:
The 2014 Education Innovation Award was given to Animas Valley Elementary School and Kelly Von Stroh, for the program “What’s Different about Teaching Reading to English Language Learners. Throughout the year, Kelly brought this program to 75 teachers, who in turn delivered it to others at their schools. In all, we estimate that more than 2000 students were touched by this method in one year alone.


First grade scientistsIn 2013, the inaugural award was given to Riverview Elementary School, for their innovative all-school
science lab. Every child at Riverview does an intensive 6 week study in the lab, learning about everything from indigenous species to weighing matter with liquid displacement.