3 local educators honored by Peabody Energy

Teresa Ristow
Hayden Valley Elementary teacher Erika Jezo holds a gift basket from Peabody Energy while two students hold her check from for $1,000 during an assembly at the school Thursday morning.
Courtesy Photo

— Three local school employees were surprised last week with Peabody Energy Leaders in Education awards.

Peabody Energy, which operates Twentymile Mine, gives the awards throughout the year to outstanding education professionals that work in the areas where they mine.

Erika Jezo, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Hayden Valley Elementary School, and Amanda McDermott, a special education teacher and transition coordinator at Moffat County High School in Craig, were honored at their schools Thursday morning, and para-professional Michelle “Mickey” Badaracca, from North Routt Community Charter School, was honored during an assembly at her school Thursday afternoon.

Program Director for the Peabody Leaders in Education Award Maureen Moore traveled from Missouri to personally deliver the good news and a check for $1,000 to each of the honorees.

North Routt Community Charter School Director Brandon LaChance said that Badaracca exemplifies the type of person who deserves the Leaders in Education award.

“She’s an unbelievable North Routt community member,” LaChance said.

In addition to her job as a para-professional, Badaracca also is a volunteer EMT and firefighter with the North Routt Fire District and has been a school bus driver.

Hayden Valley Elementary School Principal Rhonda Sweetser said that Jezo is a dedicated teacher who received multiple nominations for the award.

“Erika is one of those incredibly dedicated teachers, she is here so much,” Sweetser said. “If I had to pay her hourly, the district would go broke.”

Sweetser said Jezo is organized and has a good gauge on her how her students are performing academically as well as how they are doing socially.

“She’s also very connected with students and teachers outside of school,” Sweetser said. “She’s empathetic and has a huge heart.”

Peabody Energy Leaders in Education awards also were given earlier this school year to Soda Creek Elementary School office manager Tammy Farrell, Hayden Secondary Schools art teacher Susan Koehler and Steamboat Springs Middle School sixth grade math and science teacher Carly Ziegler.

Because the awards are presented on a rolling basis throughout the year, more Routt County school employees could be honored later during the year.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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