Throughout his teaching career spanning more than two decades, Justin Bankey has nominated many of his peers for teacher of the year. This year, someone nominated him.
“I received an email from a very nice lady at (the Colorado Department of Education) congratulating me,” Bankey said about being notified Monday that he is one of seven finalists for the statewide award.
He was one of 43 nominated, all of whom went through a lengthy application process.
Bankey said the application process was very intensive and extensive, including an essay on a subject he is not use to talking about.
“The hardest part is you have to talk about yourself As a teacher, you’re so use to thinking about the students and supporting the staff, and all the sudden the essay questions are all about you,” Bankey said.
Bankey said one of the things he focused on in his teacher of the year application was his role in revamping the teacher-mentor.
“One of the things I became passionate about last year is helping with the mentor program,” Bankey said.
“We are creating a better mentor program for teachers here. One of the top reasons (teachers leave the job) across the nation has always been besides pay, has been support new teachers feel from admin and staff.”
Bankey said between 19 and 30 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years on the job.
“I felt pretty strongly about redoing our mentor program here, so with support and working with our head of the program, we have been able to revamp it,” Bankey said.
Bankey said the new program began this year and they are already receiving positive feedback from new teachers.
“That’s been one of my focuses, pretty thrilled to do that. Teaching is a pretty noble profession,” Bankey said.
Last Friday Bankey traveled to Denver for an interview in front of a dozen people, fielding questions.
“Which was kind of nerve racking,” he said.
TEACHING IS HIS PASSION
A 19-year veteran of the Garfield Re-2 School District Justin Bankey has introduced thousands of Silt elementary school students to music over the years.
“My favorite part about being a music teacher is I get to see them as they grow, kindergarten through fifth, I get to know the kids and their families pretty well,”
Bankey moved from Montana to Colorado to teach at Cactus Valley Elementary because the area reminded of the rural area he grew up in Eastern Montana.
“One of the reasons I picked this area is that I’m from a rural community and I really believe in education in a rural community,” Bankey said.
He said his favorite thing about teaching at CVES for the last two decades is really getting to know and being part of the community he teaches in.
“I really feel the support of the community is really awesome for out kids,” Bankey said.
“I have some great friends, we think of each other as family here.”
When he is not teaching, refereeing football or working a the Rifle pool, Bankey spends as much time as he can traveling, camping, hunting and fishing with his wife Jamie and their two daughters.
When asked about what it would be like if he won the awards he was quick to say it was more about his students, school staff and administration.
“For me I feel like if I win teacher of the year it’s not me that won, because I don’t know if I would be the same teacher I am if I wasn’t in this building and this community. So for me personally it about the school I teach in and the staff that I work with and the district I’m in. I really believe in learning all you can and sharing what you know, I really believe in that,” Bankey said.
“It’s more about not just me, it’s everybody. For me just coming here everyday I get to put on my teacher hat and that makes me pretty happy.”
Other nominees include Richard Green (Shelledy Elementary School, Mesa Valley School District No. 51), Claudia Ladd (McMeen Elementary School, Denver Public Schools), Machin Norris (Franklin Middle School, Greeley-Evans School District 6), Erika Siemieniec (Sand Creek High School, School District 49), Hilary Wimmer (Mountain Range High School, Adams 12 Five Star Schools) and William Yerger (Horizon Middle School, School District 49).
Bankey said he will find out next week whether the committee will come for a site visit, and the winner will be announced by Oct. 31.
“These seven teachers serve as inspiring examples among the thousands of teachers across the state who every day go above and beyond to teach our children,” said Katy Anthes, Colorado’s Education Commissioner, according to a news release. “These finalists are dedicated, innovative and pushing our students to new heights. Any one of them would make an excellent Colorado Teacher of the Year.”