All 7 finalists for Colorado’s 2024 Teacher of the Year award teach middle school

Headshots of seven Colorado teachers.
The 2024 Colorado Teacher of the Year finalists from top left: Rawa Abu Alsamah, Danielle Cerna, and Ivy Dalley. And from bottom left: Miles Groth, Kimberly Kane, Jessica May, and Tiffeny O’Dell. (Photos courtesy of Colorado Department of Education | Illustration Elaine Cromie / Chalkbeat)

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Middle school teachers swept the contest this year to become the 2024 Colorado Teacher of the Year, according to an announcement Friday.

All seven finalists for the honor teach middle school or junior high in districts spanning the state from Loveland to Denver to Mancos.

The Colorado Department of Education will choose a winner in October. That educator will become Colorado’s nominee for the National Teacher of the Year competition.

“I’m thrilled to introduce this exceptional and worthy group of educators,” Colorado Education Commissioner Susana Córdova said in a statement.

“Each finalist has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to his or her practice, and they have made a profound impact on their students, schools and communities,” she said. “Any one of them would make Colorado proud as our 2024 Teacher of the Year.”

The 2023 Colorado Teacher of the Year is Jimmy Lee Day II, the band director and instrumental music teacher at East Middle School in Aurora Public Schools.

The 2024 finalists are:

Rawa Abu Alsamah, a middle school special education teacher at Rocky Mountain Prep, formerly STRIVE Prep, on the charter network’s Sunnyside campus in Denver Public Schools.

Danielle Cerna, a sixth grade math and science teacher at Trailside Academy in Mapleton Public Schools, a district north of Denver.

Ivy Dalley, a sixth grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Mancos Middle School in the Mancos School District in southwest Colorado.

Miles Groth, who teaches sixth-grade Mountain Academy of Arts and Sciences, a curriculum he created that focuses on experiential learning and environmental stewardship, at Ute Pass Elementary School in Manitou Springs School District 14 in southern Colorado.

Kimberly Kane, a sixth grade English language arts teacher at Delta Middle School in Delta County School District 50J on Colorado’s western slope.

Jessica May, who at the time of her application taught a course focused on social emotional learning, life skills, and reading in the real world to all sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at Conrad Ball Middle School in Loveland’s Thompson School District. She now teaches family and consumer science at Turner Middle School in Berthoud.

Tiffeny O’Dell, a junior high science and CTE health teacher at Byers Junior-Senior High School in Byers School District 32-J east of Denver.

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, covering Denver Public Schools. Contact Melanie at

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