The Succeeds Prize Awards $137,000 to Colorado’s Transformational Schools & Educators

Valdez Elementary School, Mountain Vista Community School, DSST Green Valley Ranch High School, and Bristol Elementary School split $60,000 in cash awards to reward and promote innovation in Colorado’s public schools. Additional prize money was given to educators making an impact in their schools and among the remaining school finalists.

DENVER – October 4, 2017 – Four of Colorado’s most innovative and successful schools were recognized as inaugural winners at The Succeeds Prize on Tuesday, a first-of-its-kind awards celebration for public educators. The schools – Valdez Elementary School, Mountain Vista Community School, DSST Green Valley Ranch High School, and Bristol Elementary School – were selected by an accomplished panel of experts representing the education, government, and business communities for their transformational impact and excellence.

The Succeeds Prize, a partnership between 9NEWS and Colorado Succeeds and powered by mindSpark Learning, is the state’s most prestigious awards and recognition event. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, and former governors Bill Ritter and Bill Owens served as honorary co-hosts. The winners were announced Tuesday evening at a live-reveal celebration at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver. The event was also live-streamed here:

“Education is one of the most important investments we can make as a society,” said Steve Carter, president and general manager of 9NEWS/KUSA. “For sixteen years, 9NEWS hosted the 9Teachers Who Care to recognize some of Colorado’s best educators. Now, through The Succeeds Prize, we will have an even greater impact as we elevate what is working in public education so every school and every child across Colorado can benefit. Congratulations to the winners on all you have accomplished.”

Through a partnership with mindSpark Learning, a nonprofit dedicated to evolving education through educators, The Succeeds Prize will offer opportunities for the finalists to engage in customized professional learning based on their specific needs. This partnership will also enable schools to package and share successful practices in a manner that will benefit educators, schools, and ultimately students statewide.

“As a former principal, I have seen firsthand the value of applauding and encouraging creativity and innovation in our schools,” said Kellie Lauth, CEO of mindSpark Learning and STEM coordinator for Adams 12 Five Star Schools. “We clearly need more of this, and The Succeeds Prize helps make this a reality. I offer profound thanks to the winners and finalists for your hard work inside and outside the classroom; mindSpark Learning is grateful for the opportunity to learn from your successes and share them widely. I also offer thanks to all schools for their continued hard work. It is my hope that sharing best practices from The Succeeds Prize winners will be a win for all.”

The Succeeds Prize also awarded a $15,000 Excellence in Education Innovation Award, presented by Janus Henderson Investors, to Deb Harding and Tara Hardman, teachers from STEM Launch K-8 in Thornton. Deb and Tara were recognized for their idea to create a STEM Family MakerSpace that would support both parents and students in learning about STEM subjects and careers. Specifically, their goal is to empower all students, especially girls, African-American, Latino, and low-income students, to become engineering and tech innovators.

Over the course of the evening, it was announced that an additional $60,000 in prize money would be awarded to the runners-up in all five award categories. Additionally, each finalist school selected one educator to receive a $1,000 award from 9NEWS. In total, The Succeeds Prize awarded $137,000 in cash prizes throughout the evening.

“We know that only through the power of education can we build the community we all aspire to create,” said Scott Laband, president of Colorado Succeeds. “The business community came together last night to honor education’s impact makers and innovators – the real changemakers creating a better Colorado for all of us. We look forward to the next step in this process: taking the energy and momentum from the event and translating it into actionable data for all educators.”

The 2017 winners of The Succeeds Prize are:

“At Valdez, as students, families, teachers, and staff, we have worked hard to create a rich, rigorous learning environment and a community that celebrates all students,” said Jessica Buckley, principal of Valdez Elementary School. “Valdez is honored to receive to receive The Succeeds Prize award for Transformational Impact in an Elementary School, recognizing our hard work. We look forward to working with The Succeeds Prize over the next year to supercharge our efforts and drive further success for our students.”

“We are honored to receive The Succeeds Prize award for Transformational Impact in a Middle School,” said Britney Gandhi, principal of Mountain Vista Community School. “Thank you to our incredible staff, parents, and our amazing students for always giving your all and doing your best. We are excited to continue working with The Succeeds Prize to augment our successes and learn from the other winners and finalists.”

“Our entire school community has worked tirelessly and relentlessly to support the success of all of our students,” said Jenna Kalin, School Director at DSST: Green Valley Ranch High School. “The Succeeds Prize award for Transformational Impact in a High School is welcomed recognition for our efforts, and we are grateful for the opportunity to scale this success even further through future professional development and training opportunities through this initiative.”

“Colorado is an amazing state with a growing number of STEM industries and careers,” said Manuel Ramsey, principal of Bristol Elementary School. “Bristol Elementary School is committed to providing our students with the skills and mindset needed to excel in a world yet to be imagined. Thank you to The Succeeds Prize for recognizing our dedication to STEM and supporting us in building future-ready, life-long learners.

“It is an honor to be chosen as the winner of The Succeeds Prize Innovation Award,” said Deb Harding and Tara Hardman of STEM Launch K-8. “As educators teaching in a Title 1 school, we applied for this award to help establish our STEM Launch Family MakerSpace concept where we are providing learning opportunities in engineering and technology for students and families. We will utilize our award money to provide our school community with access to technology tools and learning events to expand their skill-sets and become engineering and technology innovators. We envision this concept to scale well to surrounding Colorado communities. Thank you to The Succeeds Prize for supporting a school community that often goes unrecognized.”

How The Succeeds Prize Winners Were Selected

The Succeeds Prize Selection Committee used a three-step, data-driven process for identifying and rewarding transformational public schools in Colorado. First, the committee used publicly available school performance data, including a formula that measures the growth of individual students with an emphasis on traditionally underserved students, to collect the top 25 schools for each category.

Second, the committee narrowed down the top 25 to a top-three-per-award category through a deliberation process that was informed by additional measures of school performance and characteristics about the school. The names of these schools were masked during these two steps, ensuring the committee focused solely on student outcomes. Finally, the committee selected the winners by reviewing information and conducting site visits and interviews with school leaders, teachers, parents, and community members.

The Succeeds Prize Selection Committee is composed of Colorado education, government, and business leaders. Ninety-four percent of committee members have taught in a classroom, led a school building, served on a school board, or worked in a district or state agency.

For more information on the selection process, click here.

About The Succeeds Prize
The Succeeds Prize is the most prestigious awards and recognition event for Colorado’s public schools and educators. It honors the transformational impact Colorado’s public schools and educators are leading across the state. It also serves as a year-long campaign to implement and scale successful innovations and best practices, so every student in Colorado can benefit.

The Succeeds Prize is sponsored by the business community in partnership with Colorado Succeeds and 9NEWS. It is powered by mindSpark Learning, a nonprofit dedicated to evolving education through educators which provides professional learning for teachers and administrators at all levels. Learn more at


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