Each year, one dedicated and skilled K-12 classroom teacher is honored as Colorado’s Teacher of the Year. The 2019 honoree, Margaret “Meg” Cypress, a Colorado native and fifth grade teacher, is notorious at Bradley International School in Denver for her ability to rally a community and her seemingly endless supply of energy.
Colorado Parent: Being named Teacher of the Year is an impressive accolade. What does it take to win an award of this caliber?
Meg Cypress: I have so much fun teaching! It doesn’t feel right to win an award for doing something that’s so much fun. At Bradley International School, I’m surrounded by fantastic talented teachers, so it really is a huge honor to be named Teacher of the Year. I invest not just in my students, but in their families, too. I think that helps win an award like this.
CP: You’re often praised for your ability to inspire students and parents alike. How do you engage families in your community, and why is this engagement important?
MC: I organize annual family events at our school, including Math Night, the Cardboard Challenge, and the Bradley Science Fair. There’s an Arcade Carnival, too, and I also coordinate robot and stargazing nights. With events like these, we’re building a community. The more we can do to get parents into the school, the better buy-in we have from them. Once we start working together as a community, that’s when we have the greatest success reaching our students.
CP: Is it true that you also started a summer camp at Bradley International School?
MC: That was five years ago. I’d been running a program in the school called Science Buddies, pairing up students from different classes to do bimonthly science experiments. Initially, the school was buying the supplies for Science Buddies. I started a summer camp to help raise money for funding, and that’s been a success.
CP: Have you always taught at Bradley International School?
MC: I’ve been at Bradley since I started my teaching career in 2003, as a reading specialist. Lots of schools were closing at that time, and Bradley’s student body was small. I worked with our staff to bring the International Baccalaureate Program’s Primary Years Programme to Bradley. Our goal was to keep Bradley open for the neighborhood, and it worked. Bradley has since become a high-performing school with a waitlist.
CP: What about individual students? How do you make connections with children across all academic levels?
MC: Engaging kids isn’t necessarily hard, but sometimes it’s time consuming. I like to surprise my students with big projects. When we’re doing a new unit, I’ll go into the classroom over the weekend and transform our space into something my students haven’t seen yet. During our business unit, for example, I used refrigerator boxes to build miniature businesses inside the classroom. I’m at school almost every weekend, but it’s worth it. The kids are always so excited to see what I’ve done.
CP: Is there a specific learning strategy you subscribe to?
MC: The key is hands-on learning. With each unit, I try to design projects that will showcase the unique interests of all of my students. When I’m teaching the human body, we write stories from the perspective of body parts, then we draw comic strips and build three-dimensional models. I try to make every single day fun.
CP: How do you maintain your energy and positive attitude during the school year?
MC: I’m naturally a high-energy person. It’s one of those things I’m just lucky to have. I’ve been teaching for 16 years, and seeing my students excited to learn—watching them try something new—that also energizes me.
CP: What do you love most about working with children?
MC: Kids are fun to work with because they’re funny and they just say whatever they want to say. What’s better than that?
Meg’s Tips for Inspiring Children
- Ask lots of questions. You’ll build trust and camaraderie if you take time to learn about a child’s individual interests, hobbies, and skills.
- Don’t forget to tell children they’re gifted. Every child is brilliant in one way or another.
- Make a lot of mistakes, and be forthcoming about your mistakes so you can model perseverance and grit.
- Create a loving environment that promotes creativity, hard work, and, most important, fun.