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Kathy Gonio Named Steamboat Springs School District Educator of the Year

Kathy Gonio Named Steamboat Springs School District Educator of the Year

Kathy Gonio, a bus driver for severe-needs students, is the Steamboat Springs School District's 2023-2024 Educator of the Year.

Gonio has worked for the District for 30 years and spent 28 of those years safely transporting students with severe needs to and from school. When she first came to the district, she was the transportation office secretary. One year, the department needed more drivers, and she was asked to fill in. She has been a driver ever since. 

When asked about the most significant difference she made in a child’s life this year, Gonio responded, “I called 911 to save a student’s life twice in the past month.” According to Gonio, this incident was significant for the families and students she works with, but the outcome turned out well. 

“It put all my skills to work,” she said. 

Casey Ungs, SSSD transportation manager, said Gonio has even trained him on the aspects of her job, which often require a more hands-on approach. 

“I am grateful to work with her,” Ungs said. “It is a joy to watch how she works with the kiddos and families of our most impacted students. Plus, she has never had a fender bender!” 

After 30 years of service with the SSSD, Gonio will retire at the end of this year but will continue to drive for one more year. She hopes the District can find another driver she can train while still driving. 

Each building and department within SSSD can nominate its Educator of the Year. Colleagues, parents, and students can submit nominations. Staff selects their building-level or department Educator of the Year. The building-level and department winners are interviewed for the district-wide Educator of the Year. The announcement was made at the SSSD End of Year Celebration at the Steamboat Springs Community Center on May 23. This is the first year the program opened up nominations for classified staff, recognizing their significant contributions to our school community each year. 

“We are so lucky to have such dedicated educators in our district that bring their unique ways of helping our students learn and grow,” said SSSD Superintendent Dr. Celine Wicks. “We appreciate each outstanding teacher and educator and recognize them for their extraordinary commitment to our students.” 

The following staff members were the building-level Educators of the Year: 

celine wicks, laura lebrun and kalie mchaffie
  • Soda Creek Elementary - Laura LeBrun, 2nd Grade Teacher

LeBrun has a gift for making her classroom feel like a family and is called her student’s “favorite teacher ever.” This year, she has helped a student thrive in her classroom thanks to building a trusting relationship, consistently being there for the student, and getting them the mental health support they need. Now, the student has improved their math and reading scores and is a budding, creative, and intelligent student. 

celine wicks, jill rowan and eron haubert
  • Strawberry Park Elementary - Jill Rowan, Special Education Paraprofessional 

Rowan became a paraprofessional because she “wants moms to feel safe sending their kids to school.” She is nicknamed “Mama Jill” and is described as a kind, relationship-based, thoughtful person who always puts kids and families first. Rowan went back to school to become a special education teacher to continue positively impacting her students. This year, she helped a nonverbal and d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing student go from being a runner to independent in the classroom. 

joe laliberte, jennifer mccannon and celine wicks
  • Sleeping Giant School - Jennifer McCannon, English/Social Studies Teacher

McCannon has been a teacher for 35 years and has been in the District for 29 years. She says teaching was the job she was meant to do and wants to help every student make their growth goal, regardless of what is going on in their lives. She cares about building relationships and trust with students and is the teacher who will show up to her student’s events outside the classroom. She has inspired others to become teachers. Her teaching is described as “magic.” 

celine wicks, danielle weekley and dennis alt
  • Steamboat Springs Middle School - Danielle Weekley, 7th Grade English/Social Studies Teacher

Weekley is a teacher with high accountability, a warm demeanor, and high rigor. She creates a safe space for students to think and explore. Everyone thrives in her classroom. She always strives to push herself and her students to better themselves. She is a Professional Learning Community Lead and incorporates culturally responsive teaching and learning into her classroom. 

celine wicks, kristin o connor and jay hamric
  • Steamboat Springs High School - Kristin O’Connor, Math Teacher 

O’Connor is known for always greeting her students with a smile and creating a warm and creative learning environment. She is a “master teacher” because she teaches all levels of math. Each of her lessons is challenging and engaging, getting her students up and moving. She incorporates culturally responsive teaching and learning into her classroom, honoring students for who they are. 

all of the educators of the educators of the year and the retirement staff

Additionally, the retiring staff for the 2023-2024 school year were honored for their dedicated service to our students. 

  • Barry Butler, Bus Driver
  • Pam Geppert, Paraprofessional
  • Kristi Lear, Interventionist
  • Diane Letson, Nurse
  • Jennifer McCannon, 7th Grade English/Social Studies Teacher
  • Tracy Metzler, Social Worker
  • Carrie Hall, Paraprofessional
  • Fran Pelletier, Production Manager, Nutritional Services


Media contact:
Laura Milius, Director of Communications