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Seven finalists announced for Colorado Teacher of the Year

The Colorado Department of Education has announced the seven finalists for the 2024 Colorado Teacher of the Year title. The final, sole Teacher of the Year will be announced in the coming weeks.

Each year the Colorado Teacher of the Year program honors an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled K-12 classroom teacher to represent the entire profession in Colorado. The selected teacher becomes Colorado’s nominee for the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Denver7 is proud to partner with the Colorado Department of Education on the Teacher of the Year program.

The finalists for the 2024 Colorado Teacher of the Year are:

Rawa Abu Alsamah

Rawa Abu Alsamah is a middle school special education teacher at Rocky Mountain Prep, formerly Strive Prep, on the Sunnyside campus in Denver. Rawa has more than seven years of experience teaching in public schools, and education is a way of life for her. Her life was guided and formed by her parents and key educators of her youth. Rawa graduated with a second honor from the University of Dammam in Saudi Arabia and was awarded with the prestigious Saudi King Scholarship. In 2009, she moved to Colorado and started to learn English as a second language. Rawa made history as the first Saudi Arabian woman to earn a master’s degree with honors in educational equity and cultural diversity from the University of Colorado-Boulder’s School of Education. She is working on her Ph.D. in education leadership and policy studies at the University of Denver. She was recently featured in a Denver Post article when she was named Strive Prep’s Ambassador of Education. Rawa is a favorite of the students in her school. Colleagues recognize her ability to engage students in fun and educational ways. Rawa uses her own diverse experience to help students think about the world critically and with a culturally diverse lens.

Danielle Cerna

Danielle Cerna is a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Trailside Academy in the Mapleton School District in Denver. Danielle’s academic journey includes earning three degrees, including a Bachelor of Science degree and two master’s degrees, one in teaching in diverse contexts and a second in culturally and linguistically diverse education, from the University of Colorado Denver. Her advanced degrees equipped her with a deep understanding of how to support and engage students from diverse backgrounds.

Additionally, in 2022 Danielle was nominated for the Mapleton Public Schools Teacher of the Year award. Danielle is also a founding member of the Mapleton Mentorship Program, which plays a crucial role in supporting new Mapleton teachers as they enter the profession, providing them with guidance and mentorship to ensure their successful transition into the classroom. Danielle’s teaching philosophy centers on supporting multilingual learners and promoting equity within urban schools. She believes in creating a classroom environment where all students, regardless of their background, can experience the joy of learning. Through her teaching, she strives to foster a sense of belonging and respect among her students, empowering them to reach their full potential.

Ivy Dalley

Ivy Dalley teaches sixth grade language arts and social studies at Mancos Middle School in Mancos, a small rural community in southwestern Colorado, six miles from the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. Dalley holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from Fort Lewis College in Durango and a Master of Arts in elementary education from the University of Phoenix. She has worked at the Mancos School District for nine years where she has cultivated a deep connection with her rural community that has allowed her students to showcase all the amazing resources around them. She believes in the potential inherent in every student in her classroom. The principles of Project Based Learning, especially student voice and choice, authenticity and critique and revision, help Dalley and her students grow in all areas of their education and set high expectations and goals for their future. In Mancos, Dalley has worked with students, staff, parents and community members to develop and implement numerous district and community-wide programs, including the Buddies program, PBL carts, Positive Behavior Intervention Systems rewards and Mancos United, a sixth-grade transition retreat. Dalley has an extensive track record for creating meaningful relationships with students, staff and community members. She is motivated to create positive educational change within the Mancos School District, the state of Colorado and nationally.  

Miles Groth

Miles Groth is a sixth-grade teacher for the Mountain Academy of Arts and Sciences at Ute Pass Elementary in Chipita Park in Manitou Springs School District 14. Groth earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology and southwest studies and a Master of Arts degree in elementary education from Colorado College. Mr. Groth created the Mountain Academy of Arts and Sciences curriculum nine years ago, drawing upon his childhood exploring the woods in Connecticut and his courses at Colorado College. The goal of the MAAS is an approach to public education that focuses on experiential learning, integrated lessons and environmental stewardship. Mr. Groth’s instruction focuses on English and language arts, science and social studies with cross-curricular units developed around outdoor education. Groth and his class can often be found backpacking in Florissant, cooking their own meals at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, crawling through mud in caves, releasing rainbow trout into Fountain Creek and volunteering their time to help close trails and revitalize the park at Red Rocks Canyon Open Space. Groth is an avid mountain biker with a passion for taking care of natural resources. In 2022, he helped the MAAS become the only school-based programming in the U.S. to earn a Leave No Trace Youth Program Accreditation.

Kimberly Kane

Kimberly Kane teaches sixth grade English Language Arts at Delta Middle School in Delta in Delta County School District 50J. Thirteen years ago, Kane began her instructional journey in a charter school setting and has since served students in public, private and international schools. Kane’s focus on creating a positive, inclusive learning environment prompted her to implement a school-wide peer tutoring program in two different buildings. In addition, Kane supports new teachers in her district as an instructional coach and mentor, guiding them through best practices in classroom management and instructional strategies. Kane was recently recognized by her district with the “Passion for Teaching” award for her work with new teachers and peer tutors. Further, Kane was honored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars as “Teacher of the Year” for Delta County and the Western Slope for her active role in developing citizenship and patriotism within the student body. Kane believes that authentic relationships supported by consistency in instruction and expectations is the key to success in helping every student succeed in and out of the classroom. Kane has earned both a Bachelor of Science in elementary interdisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in secondary education in social studies from Liberty University.

Jessica May

At the time of her application, Jessica May taught at Conrad Ball Middle School in Loveland in the Thompson School District, teaching a course focused on social emotional learning, life skills and reading in the real world to all sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. For the 2023-24 school year, Jessica is now at Turner Middle School in Berthoud also in the Thompson School District, teaching Family and Consumer Science for grades six through eight. May earned her Bachelor of Science in social sciences with an emphasis in elementary education from the University of Northern Colorado in 1996, and her Master’s in educational leadership from Colorado State University in 2018. May earned her district’s Commitment to Excellence award in 2016, her school’s New to the Nest Teacher of the Year award in 2019 and the Thompson Education Foundation’s Secondary Teacher of the Year award in 2020. May is passionate about creating strong relationships with her students, believing in them until they believe in themselves, and inspiring all students to read, read, read.

Tiffeny O’Dell 

Tiffeny O’Dell is a junior high science and CTE health teacher at Byers Junior Senior High School in Byers in the Byers School District 32-J 444. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in human development from Warner Pacific College, and a Master of Education in environmental science from Concordia University both in Oregon. O’Dell has taught kindergarteners to adults. She has worked in an emergency department and driven an ambulance, but nothing excites her as much as teaching junior high science and high school CTE health classes. O’Dell uses her love of asking questions to help kids discover the world around them through predictions, excitement and wonder.

This coverage of Colorado Teacher of the Year is brought to you by Canvas Credit Union. At Canvas, it’s about more than banking. Learn more at

This article was paid for through an in-kind partnership.

Seven finalists announced for Colorado Teacher of the Year

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