Apple Award Winners 2021

Apple Award Winners 2021
Posted on 04/09/2021
Apple Award Winners 2021

The Foundation for Douglas County Schools annually honors exceptional Douglas County School District educators and staff who are inspiring a love of learning in their students and trailblazing extraordinary innovation in our schools. Thousands of nominations are submitted every year. Just five receive an Apple Award. To read more and see all of the nominees, please visit the Foundation's website. 

Classified Employee of the Year
Chelley Dansereau
Early Childhood Instructor, Copper Mesa Elementary

"While I may not have expected myself to end up in education, I am beyond grateful that my path has led me to preschool. Empowering young children is one of the most rewarding components in my career and personal life!"

Early Childhood Instructor Chelly Dansereau at Copper Mesa Elementary faced the unique restrictions of 2020 head-on. She created and managed an eLearning Pre-K class while simultaneously teaching an in-person class. Through intentional trial and error, Dansereau designed a consistent curriculum between her in-person and eLearning students. She used the additional time gained to adapt or extend materials to meet individual student needs. Feedback from families is overwhelmingly positive, especially in how Dansereau enabled students to build fundamental relationships despite the constraints of eLearning.

Maddy Scholfield, an Early Childhood Education SPED teacher at Gold Rush Elementary, says: "It is difficult to put into words how much preparation, thought, and care Chelley puts into her daily interactions with our preschoolers, but it shows as she keeps 13 preschool eLearners engaged for an hour each day. Chelley does not let any of her time go to waste. She spends the extra few minutes to look for the perfect movement break video, adapts materials to make them appropriate for eLearning, and does it all with a smile."

When she isn't contributing to the success of Copper Mesa Elementary preschoolers, Dansereau volunteers in the ministry at her church and a therapeutic riding center.

Department Employee of the Year
Kristina Keer
Training Specialist, Nutrition Services

"Education isn’t just memorizing information, it’s taking that information, being able to use it, and evolve with it to be a better person. Education is about working with others, learning from our combined knowledge to produce a better outcome."

The 2020-2021 school year was filled with firsts, especially for Training Specialist Kristina Keer with DCSD Nutrition Services. As the department's first Training Specialist, she faced a steep learning curve to ensure consistent and clear training for Nutrition Services staff.

Keer instituted processes and developed training material to meet the needs of the department. Her work was crucial to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) in 2020. The majority of the Kitchen Managers were new to the summer program. Keer had to make certain each person understood the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) requirements and maintain a safe environment for staff and students.

Director of Nutrition Services Brent Craig writes: "It is breathtaking to see the innovation, standardization, and knowledge [Kristina] has brought to our program. This past year has been a great test for us all, and she has taken her skills and caring nature to new levels to help us through this pandemic. Tri-County Health commented on how well we kept our program working within the guidelines of COVID-19 and its sanitation schedules, social distancing, and general operational excellence. Kristina was at the heart and leading the way to make that happen."

As a leader, Keer dedicated time and initiative to build a positive climate and culture within the department by strengthening personal and professional relationships. Keer is also an Assistant Track & Field Coach at ThunderRidge High School and actively volunteers with local organizations such as Food Bank of the Rockies.

Elementary Educator of the Year
Cindy Berndt
Music Teacher, Stone Mountain Elementary

"I will never underestimate any child. I am here to coach and help students actively construct their own learning. I will meet the academic and social emotional needs of each of my students no matter what it takes." 

"Being a music teacher during a pandemic means delivering instruction without the basic musical tools and resources," say Cindy Berndt of Stone Mountain Elementary. Due to safety restrictions, Berndt's students could not sing, share instruments, or play recorders. They also could not play the ukulele and guitar because the cleaning products would damage the instruments.

Despite the safety restrictions, Berndt kept the music alive with new COVID-friendly instruments and techniques. Now she teaches using easy-to-clean or disposable items like large aluminum cans from the kitchen, cutting boards, bouncing balls, chairs, sticks, paper plates, and tambourines. To shift her classroom, Berndt sought every professional development opportunity and took every chance to learn what other teachers were doing across the world. She is extremely active in local, national, and international music teacher forums that focus on delivering instruction and content under current COVID restrictions for varying learning models.

The Kruse family, whose three boys attend Stone Mountain Elementary, writes: "Watching Mrs. Berndt dig deep into professional development, reach out to professionals across the globe, re-invent instruments (including making them out of vegetables), and work tirelessly to stay true to the standards and ensuring her students receive the music education (and love) they deserve has been a sight to behold. Her commitment, enthusiasm, and quiet resilience have shown me the value of a true professional who will not quit."

Berndt looks forward to giving adults the chance to be kids again with whole-staff jam sessions of ukuleles and Boomwhackers.

Secondary Educator of the Year
Nadene Klein
Science, DC Oakes High School

"Education is the key to open all of the doors available to us. As said by Epictetus, 'Only the educated are free.' These words are painted on the entry to DC Oakes High School and in my soul."

Nadene Klein, a science teacher at Daniel C. (DC) Oakes High School, made a conscious commitment to lifelong learning. And, like any passionate educator, she pulls in students and colleagues alike with her enthusiasm. Klein was the first person in her family to graduate college and to get a master's degree. She has also earned endorsements to teach middle school math and secondary English to better serve her students in class.

"While I don't currently teach math or English, science is the place where math and literacy skills come together," explains Klein.

At DC Oakes High School, Klein has pursued and won grant funds for professional-grade science probes and sensors, drones, and other equipment. She has worked to improve hands-on opportunities for scientific learning and to fund project-based learning opportunities. She does so while focusing on being a supportive person for colleagues and students. Part of her ability to connect with others comes from her ongoing challenge of managing Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Since receiving the diagnosis in 2012, Klein openly shares her story with students to demonstrate different aspects of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).

Principal Derek Fleshman writes, "Nadene has been an amazing addition to our team here at Oakes. She continuously goes above and beyond for our students and is always looking for ways to better our program as a whole."

Outside of school, Klein supports the education field as an active member of the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) and the state chapter Colorado Association of Science Teachers (CAST). She also mentors first-generation college graduates and leads training programs for other teachers.

District Administrator of the Year
John Gutierrez
Principal, Cougar Run Elementary

"Cougar Run is the strong school that it is because of his leadership that has trickled down to the rest of us. Mr. G is a role model of grit, of compassion and of what it truly looks like and sounds like to be a successful leader in this school district." - Shannon McPherson, Assistant Principal 

John Gutierrez has been the Principal of Cougar Run Elementary for 17 years and during that time has mentored and trained countless future leaders in education. He is a leader in the Cougar Run Elementary community and a leader among leaders, often offering advice and insights to other Douglas County School District principals.

"I often hear parents, staff, and community members speak about how at Cougar Run 'We do things very well,'" writes Administrative Assistant Andrea McNamara. "I thoroughly agree with this statement, and I think that our success starts with the leadership of John Gutierrez."

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In compliance with Titles VI & VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, and Colorado law, the Douglas County School District RE-1 does not unlawfully discriminate against otherwise qualified students, employees, applicants for employment, or members of the public on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services. Discrimination against employees and applicants for employment based on age, genetic information, and conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth is also prohibited in accordance with state and/or federal law. Complaint procedures have been established for students, parents, employees, and members of the public. The School District's Compliance Officer and Title IX Coordinator to address complaints alleging sexual harassment under Title IX is Aaron Henderson, 620 Wilcox Street, Castle Rock, Colorado, [email protected], 303-387-0127.

Outside Agencies

Complaints regarding violations of Title VI, (race, national origin), Title IX (sex, gender), Section 504/ADA (handicap or disability), may be filed directly with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 1244 North Speer Blvd., Suite 310, Denver, CO 80204. Complaints regarding violations of Title VII (employment) and the ADEA (prohibiting age discrimination in employment) may be filed directly with the Federal Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 303 E. 17th Ave., Suite 510, Denver, CO 80202, or the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 1560 Broadway, Suite 1050, Denver, CO 80202.


Special Education records which have been collected by Douglas County School District related to the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of special education in the district, must be maintained under state and federal laws for the period of five (5) years after special education services have ended for the student. Special education services end when the student is no longer eligible for services, graduates, or completes his/her educational program at age 21, or moves from the district. This notification is to inform parents/guardians and former students of Douglas County School District's intent to destroy the special education records of students who exited special education services as of June 30, 2016. These records will be destroyed in accordance with state law unless the parent/guardian or eligible (adult) student notifies the school district otherwise. After five years, the records are no longer useful to the district, but may be useful to the parent/guardian or former student in applying for social security benefits, rehabilitation services, college entrance, etc. The parent/guardian or eligible (adult) student may request a copy of the records by requesting the records at this link ( Douglas County School District Transcripts and Records Requests ).