When you walk into Steven Nye's classroom, you are immediately welcomed by the sound of children toying around on different keyboards or singing as a group. He teaches at Shelton Elementary in Golden.
One of his fellow teachers remarked that his enthusiasm is contagious to the rest of the staff. "He brings this energy every day and he's been teaching for 37 years!"
When you pass along a compliment to him, Nye just smiles.
"I feel like every day I'm running through the sprinkler on the front lawn," Nye said. "Only instead of being watered, these kids shower me with love every day."
Nye is able to peak the interest of his students from the moment they walk in. The theme of Nye's room changes every 30 days, depending on the holiday of the month. For our visit in early March, he had decked out the room in an electric shade of green in honor of St. Patrick's Day. He walked from group to group dressed in green. He even wore green eyeglasses.
The kids notice and appreciate his enthusiasm. As one sixth-grade girl offered up that day, "you get to experiment and be creative in Mr. Nye's class. You get to write your own song."
After years of learning how to read music and play instruments, the sixth grade class is challenged to write their own song from lyrics to melody and rhythym.
"One of them is writing about birds, another one about birthday parties. However, we also have one student who is writing about Afghanistan," he said.
Nye went on to say why this project is so important: "They need to be fertilized. This isn't something that every kid just does; helping them along the journey is great. So much of what we do in education is absorbing information and music let's these kids explode and give."
Nye first met the children in the sixth-grade class when they were kindergarteners. He arrived at Shelton seven years ago and during that time, the spirit of the school has changed for the better.
"Nye stepped into a floundering music program. He inherited a school full of students who had never heard of choir and had little respect for anything to do with music. It took no time in winning over even our hardest students," Susie Kester, a teacher at Shelton Elementary said.
Nye has also worked with the students to increase their concern for each other, their community and the world.
In the last six years, Nye has helped the Student Council organize the Shelton Has a Heart program.
"We have raised $88,900. This year, we fully expect this year to surpass $100,000," he said.
Over the years, Shelton Has a Heart has provided funds to rebuild an elementary school library after Hurricane Katrina, build a Habitat for Humanity home in Denver and help those suffering in Haiti following the earthquake.
This year, the children are painting "Endangerocks." Each grade level spent time painting rocks to make them look like endangered animals. The rocks will be sold over the course of two weeks. The money raised will be given to The World Wildlife Fund.
Nye is impressed with how Shelton Has a Heart has taken off.
"What's most important is... these kids are developing a habit. Families are developing a habit of helping the kids help others," he said.
Nye has also worked with various theatrical groups in town including the Wolf Theatre Academy at the Mizel Arts & Culture Center. Steven Wilson, the Executive Artistic Director at Mizel was one of the many who nominated Nye for the 9Teachers Who Care award.
"He demonstrates that music is not just for play," Wilson said. "He teaches it as a craft that must be nurtured, honed through rehearsal and performance and respected as a way to inform and beautify our human experience. He is always gently nudging students toward the best they can be."
When complimented, Nye turns the praise to those with whom he spends every day.
"It takes a village to raise a child. It sort of takes a village for each of us to do our work. I've been blessed to work for many years with children who are supportive and colleagues who can go in the direction of a vision. Receiving an award is a humbling experience because everyone shares it," he said.
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)