No one can accuse Amy Pottinger of accepting the status quo.
Since she began her teaching career at Moffat County High School five years ago, she's been stirring things up.
But that's not what won her the 2005-06 Craig Daily Press Teacher of the Year.
It was the letter one of her students wrote as a nomination.
"She treats everybody individually," sophomore Nick Larson said. "She really cares, and you can tell."
Larson asked the Daily Press editorial board to select Pottinger (formerly Amy Coleman) for the award -- out of the 20 teachers nominated -- because of her tireless dedication to her students.
"She is dedicated to her work, no matter how stressful it can be," Larson wrote. "She makes every effort to teach her students what they need to know."
Pottinger is an English, drama and public speaking teacher at the high school. She is also the theater director and speech and debate team coach.
This is the first year the Daily Press has given a Teacher of the Year award. The editorial board raised the idea as a way to honor an under-appreciated job, Daily Press Publisher Bryce Jacobson said.
"We thought it was a great idea. Teachers deserve more recognition than they receive," he said. "We thought this was a great way to pull the community together and hear about the many great teachers we have.
"We're so pleased Amy won this award. She combines classroom techniques with extracurricular activities that make students well-rounded. She is a perfect candidate for the inaugural award."
This has been a big year for Pottinger.
The speech team grew to its largest, and youngest, participation this year. Pottinger said she and co-coach Eric Hansen spent more time training the inexperienced group, and it paid off -- the team had its most successful state showing yet.
She raised some eyebrows with her stage productions this year. In the fall, she chose "Aida," a piece with challenging vocals written by Elton John and Tim Rice.
She was nervous about reactions to "Aida" but was thrilled with the response.
"The Craig community surprises me, but it really reinforces that there's a place for that in our community," Pottinger said.
This spring, she called her teenage actor and actresses to bring Shakespeare's work to life. She got more than a few groans when she announced "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as the spring play. But she also got a crop of new faces, who were eager to try something new.
Gretel Pogline, editorial board member, attended the performance. She said Pottinger did an excellent job acclimating the new actors with the stage.
"I was very impressed with the performances and with the set, so it gave the energy of a good drama coach," Pogline said.
She said that's one of the reasons the board chose Pottinger -- her energy extends beyond the classroom and into a field that is sometimes overlooked in Craig.
"That is a demanding and thankless craft," Pogline said.
Dress for success
But Pottinger is looking forward to her next production. It's one she's sure will be tough, considering the elaborate costumes. It's one she's certain will delight students and families. It's one with songs she's sure she'll grow tired of by the time the curtain rises.
It's "Beauty and the Beast."
Pottinger said she tries to create a wide scope, via a four-year rotation plan, of the pieces students are exposed to. And she's always looking for bigger projects to keep herself and the students excited.
"You've got to up the ante a little bit every time," Pottinger said.
Freedom of speech
She also ups the ante in the classroom, where she encourages the free flow of ideas, even those not typically discussed in school -- the conflict in Iraq, movies depicting gay relationships or the legalization of marijuana.
It's issues teens see addressed on TV, but they never get to talk open about it, she said. That's what her classroom is for.
"It's out there, and you have to deal with it," Pottinger said.
She invites students to share opinions without attacking one another or getting their feelings hurt. She allows them to express themselves without being hateful or judgmental of others.
"It's a balance between being laid-back and open-minded and disciplined and respectful," she said.
High school Principal Jane Krogman said Pottinger is successful because she is able to make learning accessible to students. She customizes lessons to each student's specific needs and interests.
"We are proud to have her as a teacher at MCHS due to her high expectations and enthusiasm, which consistently result in quality productions on the stage and in the classroom," Krogman said.
Pottinger said working with the district's other staff members and the youths of Moffat County is what makes her job enjoyable.
"I'm not sure what it is, but there's a part of (the kids) here, and it's in all of them," Pottinger said. "There's a part of them that's real and good."
She got married during spring break and has heard rumors that she and her husband, Chris, are moving. But it's not true.
"I'm not going anywhere," she said.
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 204, or firstname.lastname@example.org.