Tamara Rhone is the April 9Teacher Who Cares winner.
Tamara Rhone is the April 2010 Winner.
Rhone went to high school in the late 1960s and says during that time, she encountered segregation and isolation.
"I went to an all-white girls school so I dealt with a lot of subliminal racism like not getting invited to the slumber parties and not being in the crowd. It will either break you or make you strong and I hope that I am strong," Rhone said.
She is the April 2010 winner of the 9Teacher Who Care Award.
She says she has overcome those memories and struggles by learning about her family's history. Rhone's father, aunt and cousin have served in the Colorado and Wyoming state legislatures and her stepfather was the first black astronaut trainee.
"I had so many examples of contributions that African-Americans have made. I have had great role models to make me feel very positive about who I am and where I came from and I want everybody else to feel that way," Rhone said.
That is one reason why Rhone has been teaching for 33 years, the majority of that time, at East High School.
During her tenure, she single-handedly developed an Honors African American History curriculum.
She says she wants her students to realize that great leaders have come from all communities and students should have role models from history to help them grow and develop their cultural identities.
"Everybody needs to know they came from a group of people who have contributed so it has become a passion for me," Rhone said. "You know, whether you're white, black, purple or green, you should be excited about your culture."
In addition to helping students become aware of racial and cultural barriers, she has high expectations for them when it comes to respect.
"It's a give and receive type thing and if you mess up, I'm very blunt and honest, and I'm going to get on you. I have high expectations," Rhone said. "It's going to be my way and you are going to lose if you don't because I want what's best for you. I have been there and I set a standard for them to follow and I am so happy when they achieve."
In addition to pushing students to achieve in the classroom, Rone has led the Black Student Alliance in several community projects including a drive to collect food and clothing for women in shelters.
After three decades, she says she is still amazed and surprised by her students.
"They come up with ideas you never thought of in a million years," Rhone said.
The 2010 school year is the last year that Rhone will be teaching. She plans retire at the end of the school year in May.
"I'm going to miss the kids a lot. I think it won't hit me until September, when I would usually be going back to school," Rhone said.
She says she will visit East High School from time to time, when she gets the itch to teach.
"When it gets to be too much I'll just come back and visit a classroom and get my fix," Rhone said.
She is hoping that when she leaves the classroom, students will remember her lessons of hard work, respect and tolerance and use what they have learned to build a better future.
"It's a lot of responsibility because you can make a statement one day and you just blow it off, you know, it's just part of the day and they come back ten years later and say they remember and quote that sentence and you have no idea," Rhone said.
Some of her students have already gone on to extraordinary things. She says she has one former pupil working the Obama Administration, a school board president, teachers and several business and community leaders.
"I've got kids who are doing amazing things," Rhone said.
Although she is still finalizing her plans, Rhone hopes to start a non-profit that services low-income minority communities when she retires.
(KUSA-TV © Multimedia Holdings Corporation)