GREENWOOD VILLAGE - Among the nomination forms that come into 9NEWS, this one stood out: "The 9Teachers Who Care award has 'Janet Sammons' written all over it."
Sammons has taught at Cherry Creek High School for the majority of her career. Her principal, Ryan Silva refers to her as a "Creek icon."
"After 43 years of teaching U.S. History, American government and human diversity, she still has the same passion for her students and her craft," Silva said.
That excitement comes naturally and without effort to her. "You walk in to the classroom and it's a bunch of new faces every year," Sammons said. "The content totally changes with the way these kids react versus another group of kids. That's what makes it special. That's what keeps you young."
Sammons admits it takes some creative thinking to get her upperclassmen hooked at the start of each school year. For those who struggle, her door is always open.
"When I walk by her office, there are always students in there with her on her off periods or after school," fellow social studies teacher, Michael Kraft said. "Cherry Creek is a big place with about 3,6000 students. Kids need to find their niche here in order to be comfortable and successful."
Cherry Creek senior Emma Koob is looking forward to attending Colorado State University. Before she met Mrs. Sammons, she struggled.
"It was so easy learning with her," Koob said. "She helped me memorize all of it. I still remember it today. That's how good she was."
Sammons is thrilled when she sees a student like Emma Koob "get it." She was just like them. She grew up in a small town in Kansas and admits she never learned how to write an essay.
"When I took western civilization in college, I flunked my first test," Sammons said. "My parents could not afford for me to go to college without a scholarship. I went to my teacher and he walked me through the whole thing. He showed me what I did wrong and it clicked. I think that's why I work one-on-one with kids. If he hadn't done that for me, I would have flunked out of school. I don't know what I would have done with my life."
Sammons also learned a huge lesson early on in her teaching career. She realized the need to understand and respect what was going on in the lives of others.
"My first year in 1969, I had all the training but walked into a school in Topeka, Kansas and we had a race riot that year," Sammons said. "The school was set on fire." Sammons also remembers two girls who were bullied because they were lesbians.
"You can know the most content possible but if you don't know the issues your kids are faced with, if you don't start learning about their backgrounds, minority history and all of that, then, you are not going to be a good teacher."
That determination to have acceptance for a diverse school culture lead Sammons to start the Diversity Task Force at Cherry Creek High School. It has grown in popularity over the decades as has the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference. At the 20th annual conference earlier this year, thousands of students from high schools across the state gathered to talk about how to make their campuses more tolerant and respectful of differences.
Kevin Le, co-president of the Diversity Task Force, says Sammons' influence on him has been enormous. "Growing up Vietnamese, it feels strange to be different.. to be Asian in a mostly white community. Having Mrs. Sammons in charge of the task force is great. She lets us know we're great."
"Janet has devoted her life to making CCHS a place that is accepting of all," Principal Ryan Silva said. "Janet will keep doing her work with or without this wonderful honor because it is ingrained in who she is."
We hear you Cherry Creek! 9NEWS agrees!
Janet Sammons is the perfect choice to be the April recipient of the 9Teachers Who Care award.
To learn more about the program and/or nominate a teacher, visit 9News.com:
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