Charleah Firestone sits in her classroom at Craig Intermediate School. Firestone is retiring this year after 32 years teaching music in the district. Firestone estimates she has led about 900 student choir and instrumental performances during her tenure.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Charleah Firestone sits in her classroom at Craig Intermediate School. Firestone is retiring this year after 32 years teaching music in the district. Firestone estimates she has led about 900 student choir and instrumental performances during her tenure.

Charleah Firestone began, will end teaching career in Moffat County

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— Charleah Firestone wasn't looking for a career as a music teacher in the Moffat County School District.

Instead, the job found her.

In 1976, an unexpected job interview turned out to be the beginning of her tenure in the district and her 32-year teaching career.

Teaching music for a living was a welcome occupation for Firestone.

During her first year, "I was so excited because I made $9,000," she said. "It was like, 'Oh, my gosh, money to teach music.'"

She rolled her eyes skyward and smiled at recalling the thought.

This year, she will end that career in the county where it began. Firestone gave her resignation to the school district in December, she said.

Firestone's years in the school district haven't been idle.

She taught in the district's elementary schools for nine years before coming to Craig Intermediate School, which was then an extension of Craig Middle School.

At CIS, she teaches general music, including guitar and vocal music, to fifth- and sixth-graders. She also leads CIS' after-school choir.

And then, there are the concerts.

Firestone estimates that during her tenure, she's conducted about 900 choral and instrumental music programs with students at elementary and intermediate levels.

Now, she said, it's time for a break.

Firestone's retirement coordinates with that of her husband, Ron, who stepped down from a 30-year career at Colowyo Coal Co. in March.

Together, they plan to reserve enough time to travel and see their two children - Josh, 26, and Holly, 20 - both of whom live in state. In the meantime, Firestone intends to take up a part-time job.

Teaching music combined two interests Firestone inherited from her parents.

Her father was a high school math teacher before taking over as assistant principal and then in a principal position at a Grand Junction high school, she said.

Her mother has more than 65 years experience teaching private music lessons.

"I love music," Firestone said, "and to share that with the kids is the best."

Firestone's teaching career taught her a few things, especially in the beginning.

Lesson one: Flexibility.

An invitation to apply for a music teaching position from an East Elementary School principal first summoned Firestone and her husband, Roy, from their home in Fort Collins.

Firestone wasn't anticipating the call.

At the time, she didn't know where Craig was.

When she arrived for the interview in late August, she received the job.

Firestone also learned that school began later that week.

With the clothes on her back and an outfit to spare, Firestone began her teaching career.

"My first year was really interesting," she said, adding that during the course of a day, she taught music in three elementary schools.

She began her day teaching music to first-graders at Sunset Elementary. Then, she traveled to East Elementary, where she taught music to all the school's students.

While at East Elementary, she also was a librarian.

Finally, in the afternoons, she taught music to students at Breeze Elementary, a school that since has been demolished.

"You had to be young to do that," she said, "to travel to all those buildings."

Lesson two: Appearances aren't always what they seem.

Ultimately, Craig residents were what sealed Firestone and her husband's attachment to the area.

"The people were so friendly," she said. "We just loved Craig."

At first, however, it was the scenery around Rabbit Ears Pass and through Steamboat Springs that struck Firestone

"I thought it was the most beautiful place I've ever seen," she said, recalling her first trip to the area. "But, then, you keep driving."

Firestone's last lesson is one she wants to pass on to new teachers coming into the district.

"Make sure you love what you're doing," she said. "The kids will respond to that."

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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