Annie Teague, a beloved, longtime Aspen local and teacher, died peacefully inside her mountain cabin up Lenado on Saturday. She was 72.
A selfless free spirit, Annie loved to teach, dance, garden, be barefoot — “especially in the mud” — and ride motorcycles, said Annie’s children, August and Emily Teague.
The latter part of this portrayal is from Annie’s application to teach kindergarten in 1970 at Aspen Community School, where she impacted thousands of children’s lives throughout the course of her nearly 50-year tenure.
Growing up as the second-oldest child among 10 siblings largely shaped Annie as a person and, ultimately, her trajectory, Emily said.
“She was always taking care of other people and nurturing her siblings,” she said, “and very much had that maternal instinct, helping her siblings learn and grow.”
Annie was born in Boston, but grew up between Hamilton, Massachussets, and Matunuck, Rhode Island.
While her siblings stayed on the East Coast, Annie “was drawn to the wildness and ruggedness” of the West, Emily said. “She was incredibly adventurous and definitely carved her own path,” driving her Volkswagen across the country headed to the mountains.
Annie started teaching at Aspen Community School upon its opening in 1970, said Polly Whitcomb, a founding member of the community school who became one of Annie’s closest friends.
For many in the valley, Annie’s role and influence at Aspen Community School is as much a part of her legacy as anything.
“She was the heart of the school,” Whitcomb said.
August Teague said the family often joked that “she was the hardest-working kindergarten teacher around,” as she regularly would wake up at 6 a.m. to head to the school’s Woody Creek campus and not return home to Lenado until 10 p.m.
“We joked that it was kind of crazy, but for her, it wasn’t,” August said. “She wanted to make sure that every day was going to be special and unique for her kids.”
An early recipient of the Dick Butera Distinguished Teacher Award (now known as the Kellie Schenck Award), Annie was known for her individualized teaching style that tailored to each student’s needs.
In an Aspen Times letter to the editor in 2005 after Annie won the prestigious local teaching award, Liz Meador of Glenwood Springs wrote: “Teague is a master teacher in the progressive tradition who embodies the term ‘child-centered education.’ … I’ve never met a teacher who could design individualized, personalized learning experiences for students the way Annie can.”
August, who also was a student of Annie’s, echoed: “She recognized that each child is different in terms of how they learn and how they interact, and figured out how to motivate, ignite, relate to each and every one of those kids.”
Annie also had a special way of using the earth, animals and nature “to bring the classroom to life,” he said.
During Annie’s early years in Aspen, she rode her Norwegian fjord pony, Hunka Munka, from her home in Woody Creek to the community school.
Part of her reason for commuting by horse, Emily said, was because her students loved it.
“Annie embodied so much of what we value in this valley, of being part of nature and celebrating our environment and children and all that we hold dear,” Whitcomb said. “She was just meant to be in this valley.”
Before settling into her treasured mountain home in Lenado, Annie and her ex-husband, Harry Teague, spent their first few summers camping.
Harry, an architect in the valley, and Annie were married about 25 years.
Although Annie was a “gentle and beautiful” soul, Harry said, she also was tough.
“She was full of enthusiasm and adventure and didn’t mind that kind of living,” Harry said. “It was really, really rough, and she was game for all of it.”
After building their home together in Lenado, the two would host “unforgettable” dinner parties with other colorful characters, Harry said.
Annie also loved costume parties or any excuse to sport an eclectic ensemble.
In fact, she didn’t need an excuse, Harry said.
“She always had the most wonderful, crazy outfits, and it didn’t take much to get her to put them on — a (native) headdress, a hat from an Amazonian tribe, things likes that — she would wear those in unlikely situations, (like) cross-country skiing,” Harry said. “A lot of people would never put on stuff like that, but she was always ready to put on this crazy hat made of bird feathers or beautiful embroidered pajamas.”