Antonito’s K-12 PE teacher has an enthusiastic fan club

South Conejos School District is an Expeditionary Learning district, where project-based and hands-on instruction are emphasized. No teacher has embraced the innovative learning style more than physical ed instructor Joe Guenther, selected this week to receive the Educator Highlight Award from the Adams State School of Education.

“He’s taken the PE program and turned it into an actual class. The kids are really engaged and involved in the sports, too,” said Antonito Principal Maddie Mansheim. “He steps up to do whatever we need. He has a strong relationship with the kids, but he has a firm relationship with the kids, too, so they know what his expectations are.”

Antonito School District Joe GuentherGuenther, Adams State Class of 2015, holds a master’s degree from Adams State. This week he is using his lacrosse background to instruct students. Originally from the city of Louisville located near Boulder, Guenther played lacrosse four years at Adams State and then helped coach the team while he finished his studies.

He joined the South Conejos School District in 2019 and the Joe Guenther fan club has been forming ever since. Upon hearing the news of their teacher receiving the award, students lined up and formed a support system as Guenther has instructed them to do and easily lifted him horizontally to showcase both teamwork and their own pride in their PE teacher.

Pretty heady stuff from a teacher, who like many of his students, didn’t have a lot himself growing up but made the most of what he did have to find his way.

“The biggest way I connect to kids from Antonito is I can say my life experiences from a bigger town and teach them there’s more out there than what they see in their small town. They don’t have the opportunities all the time to get up to the bigger towns, so we encourage them to explore more and I can teach them that through my life experiences that I’ve had growing up,” Guenther said.

The Educator Highlight Award was established by Adams State School of Education to showcase the work of its alumni like Guenther as well as other prominent local teachers and staff working in K-12 public education.

“Being a teacher to me means impacting kids, changing my community and just overall teaching them how to live life to the fullest,” Guenther said.

Every day, educators in the Valley make a difference to our kids and families. To make a nomination for the Adams State Educator Highlight Award, please email 

Past winners:

Presley Garcia, Monte Vista special education teacher, January;
Nick Dionisio, Alamosa High English teacher, February;
Aaron Miltenberger, Boys & Girls Club executive director, March;
Anna Bishop, Center High School CLD teacher, April;
Phyllis Vigil, Sierra Grande first-grade teacher, May;
AlexAndria Moore-Guenter, Moffat Schools secondary counselor, June:
Omar Gonzalez, Alamosa Elementary visual art and music teacher, July;
Leanna Brazel, Alamosa Elementary kindergarten teacher, August;
Freddy Lawrence, Alamosa Elementary custodian, September.