Verne Shelley was a firm believer in lifelong learning.
Shelley, who served as the director of personnel for the Cherry Creek School District until his untimely death in 1984, saw education as an unending effort, a commitment that continues long after graduation from high school, college or graduate school. It's a philosophy that's lived on in the scholarship that bears Shelly's name, a fund set up in 1985 by former CCSD teacher Terry Todd and his fellow members of the Optimist International volunteer organization.
The scholarship now operates entirely through the Cherry Creek School District. Every year, the Verne Shelley Scholarship Fund committee selects recipients who personify a commitment to continuing education, and this year was no exception. During the Cherry Creek Board of Education's regular meeting held May 11 at Buffalo Trail Elementary School in Aurora, Todd announced the 2015 crop of recipients.
"This scholarship doesn't change much, except for the winners' names," Todd said before formally presenting the scholarship checks. "I would like to thank Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull and the Board of Education for the opportunity to recognize the winners."
This year's trio of teacher recipients had specific plans to use the money to help hone their craft in the classroom. Susan Moynahan from Sunrise Elementary School spoke about her commitment to use the funds to implement more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum in the classroom. Smoky Hill High School Teacher Kathleen Sheil revealed that she would use the scholarship to earn her certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Yingxin Liu, who wasn't present for the formal ceremony, will use the scholarship award to further her curriculum as a Mandarin Chinese teacher at Overland High School.
The trio of scholarship recipients aren't the only teachers in the district looking to continue their education, Todd explained. When the scholarship launched in 1985, they received seven applications. This year, they fielded 84 applicants.
The spike in interest speaks to a distinct need in the district, one that's become all the more vital as school funding from the state becomes more and more uncertain. Todd, along with the rest of the committee that includes current or retired CCSD employees Dr. Judith Hilton, John Buckner, Jim Daum, Tamara Gaffney and Bobbie McIntire, are committed to continuing the scholarship, despite dwindling resources.
"There's a concern, because we are running low on funds," Todd said. "We are always looking to try to expand the amount and number of scholarships," he said, adding that donations can be sent to the Verne Shelley Scholarship Fund, c/o Brad Arnold, Cherry Creek Schools Office of Fiscal Services, Auxiliary Services Center, 4850 S. Yosemite St., Greenwood Village, CO, 80111.