Award shines a light on teachers who teach in the summer

Teachers who teach in the summer are something special. Just ask Curtis Garcia, Ph.D., the director of the Adams State School of Education who this week gave special attention to the summer faculty in the Upward Bound program at Adams State.

Each summer students, faculty and staff in the Upward Bound program gather for an awards ceremony to recognize outstanding students and to appreciate the educators who teach in the program.

This summer the awards ceremony was extra special when Garcia showed up to make a surprise presentation to Upward Bound Director Amanda Atencio and her staff, recognizing them with the Educator Highlight Award for the month of June.

The award was established two years ago by the ASU School of Education to recognize outstanding contributions educators make to the San Luis Valley’s K-12 educational system. It’s Adams State’s way of thanking teachers who have graduated from the university, and showcasing the important work they do with hopes of inspiring others to enter the field of teaching.

Adams State Upward Bound Summer Faculty“Our staff who commit to the summer are phenomenal,” said Atencio. “They just finished a rigorous nine months in the classroom and then they move right into it. I mean we end school on a Thursday, and then our students are moving in the following Monday for classes that begin the following day. So it’s immediate and their commitment every summer is phenomenal.”

This summer around 80 students participated in Upward Bound and were supported by 12 instructional staff and 15 support staff.

Manuelito Casias, the assistant director for Upward Bound, said the focus of the summer program is to help students shore up the academic areas they are deficient in, which translates into a lot of math and science for students in the summer.

“I really think I am in the position I’m in today because of the people that have led me, that have guided me, that have mentored me,” said Casias, a 2017 graduate of Alamosa High. “Gary Ramstetter (former Alamosa wrestling coach) is one of my biggest mentors in my life. Growing up, I would see myself in these types of people and that’s really what I want to provide to our students, to be a good role model.”

Educator Highlight Award Recipients

Presley Garcia, Monte Vista special education teacher
Nick Dionisio, Alamosa High English teacher
Aaron Miltenberger, Boys & Girls Club executive director
Anna Bishop, Center High School CLD teacher
Phyllis Vigil, Sierra Grande first-grade teacher
AlexAndria Moore-Guenter, Moffat Schools secondary counselor
Omar Gonzalez, Alamosa Elementary visual art and music teacher
Leanna Brazel, Alamosa Elementary kindergarten teacher
Freddy Lawrence, Alamosa Elementary custodian
Joe Guenther, South Conejos School District
Katie Turner, Del Norte math teacher
Edwin Mondragon, Monte Vista High School agriculture teacher
Aaron Williams, GOAL High School English teacher
Miriam Baines, Alamosa High School biology and math teacher
Rachel Kellum, Moffat Schools art teacher
Darlene Pinales, Sargent School District, food service staff member


This monthly award recognizes Adams State University School of Education alumni, prominent local teachers, and other educators working within or hailing from the San Luis Valley. In so doing, Adams State University hopes to build familiarity with the community as a serious destination for future educators. To nominate and educator email Chrissy McKinney at