A Fruita elementary teacher has been named one of the top teachers in the entire state of Colorado.

Mr. Richard "Rick" Green is one of seven finalists for the 2020 Colorado Teacher of the Year award. The announcement was made this week by the Colorado Department of Education. The program honors exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled classroom teachers.

Rick is in his 14th year as a kindergarten teacher at Shelledy Elementary School in Fruita, and was at Chatfield before that. He's been with the Mesa County School District since 1993 and has been involved in education for 44 years. That's pretty incredible.

While Rick enjoys working with children on various levels, he has been extremely active outside the classroom.

Twice he has served on legislative committees exploring full-day kindergarten and helped form a state kindergarten association. He's advocated for full-day kindergarten funding and is now working toward making kindergarten "developmentally appropriate."

I've personally known Rick for 16 years and have observed first-hand his interaction with children as a community Santa Claus during the holiday season. In my observations and conversations with Rick, his passion and connection with the kids are unmistakable.

Only one other teacher from the western slope made the list of seven. Mr. Justin Bankey, a music teacher at Cactus Valley Elementary School in Silt is also a finalist.

The 2020 Colorado Teacher of the Year will be announced by November 1. That person will go on to be the Colorado nominee for the National Teacher of the Year.

Regardless of the outcome of the Colorado Teacher of the Year results, Mesa County Valley School District 51 is extremely fortunate to have teachers like Rick Green in and out of the classroom, who truly care about giving our kids the best education possible.