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Local teacher’s vision receives national recognition

Staff Writer

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson Pagosa High School’s Special Talents teaching team of June Landgraf, Mary Kurt-Mason, Julie Ogier and Bryan Hinds show off their own special talents during class Tuesday.

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson
Pagosa High School’s Special Talents teaching team of June Landgraf, Mary Kurt-Mason, Julie Ogier and Bryan Hinds show off their own special talents during class Tuesday.

Office Depot’s “Teachers change lives. So can you.” campaign features Pagosa Springs High School Special Talents students and their teacher, Mary Kurt-Mason, in three videos recently released.

The campaign highlights a select group of outstanding teachers across the country and strives to help support them by raising funds for much-needed classroom supplies. Office Depot reports that teachers spend upwards of $1,000 of their own money each year purchasing items for their classroom.

Though the campaign is being launched as the school year draws to a close, the company states, “we want to highlight teachers and their tireless efforts year round.”

Kurt-Mason, who was recently honored as one of People Magazine’s Teachers of the Year in October, was an easy choice for recognition in this new nationwide campaign.

The first campaign video featuring Kurt-Mason and her students gives the audience a glimpse of what life is like being in Kurt-Mason’s class. The one-minute film shows her students skiing, beading, making clay pots and getting outside, in addition to their regular classroom work.

The second video, a longer version of the first, gives Kurt-Mason a chance to delve into a deeper explanation of what she and the Special Talents team at the high school are trying to accomplish.

Kurt-Mason states, “The thing I want all of my students to take out of this classroom is that internal feeling that ‘I can.’”

“I want to provide my students the opportunity to push their own boundaries,” Kurt-Mason continues. “So much of what we do here — math, reading, kayaking — all of it, is overcoming what we think we can’t do.”

Getting students outside and challenging them beyond the classroom is meant to incorporate life skills and to build students’ confidence to go out into the world, rather than only focusing on getting them through the required curriculum, explains Kurt-Mason.

Though she has now been nationally recognized twice for the amazing work she does with her students, Kurt-Mason is uncomfortable with the idea that she does that work alone.

In her letter to the editor titled “Amazing team,” published April 10 in The SUN, Kurt-Mason stated, “Everything that happens in our classroom is the result of an enormous amount of teamwork.”

In her letter, Kurt-Mason thanked the Special Talents team of Bryan Hinds, June Ladgraf and Julie Ogier, fellow PSHS teachers Mary Helen Cammack and Jaye White, the school district, community, local businesses and her family and friends, without all of whom she said her work would not be possible.

Finally, the third video in the Office Depot campaign features students from across the country, including from PSHS, thanking the extraordinary teachers in their lives for believing in them, for pushing them to be their best selves and for being their friend.

One student in particular thanks Kurt-Mason for giving him the best year he has had in a long time.

The videos are all available for viewing online. Two of the three videos are posted on the home page of the high school’s website at pagosaspringshigh.co.adh.schoolinsites.com.

All three videos can be found on YouTube by searching for “Teachers Change Lives Kurt-Mason.”

shanti.johnson@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on April 24, 2014.