Angevine counselor Lisa Cech received Blake Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award
Humor, compassion and advocacy fueled Cech’s career in education
By Shay Castle
When Lise Cech still remembers the career advice her high school counselor gave. It was the same thing every other girl heard during their once- or twice-yearly visit.
“They would pretty much say, you can be a nurse or teacher,” Cech recalled. “No personality tests, no, ‘What do you want to do?’”
Thankfully, despite the bad advice, education turned out to be the right career for Cech,this year’s Blake Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award winner. The Angevine Middle School counselor has spent more than half of her 30-plus years in education with Boulder Valley School District, after working with colleges in Illinois, California and Colorado.
Her time at BVSD has been marked by her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; leadership in creating a welcoming environment; and fierce advocacy for her students and peers.
“Tomes could be written on the positive and immeasurable influence that she has had on kids,” wrote Angevine teacher Kylie Pyatt in one of 14 recommendation letters Cech received for the Blake Peterson award. “Lisa has supported, motivated, mentored, coached, counseled, laughed with, cried with, fed, listened to, encouraged, educated, helped, pushed, and deeply, deeply inspired me.”
Cech’s resume is as full and lengthy as the letters of support for her. The include creating Angevine’s Ally-Cat bystander intervention club and the school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance; serving as chair of the school climate committee; working as a lead equity trainer for BVSD; coordinating Safe and Drug Free Schools; and leading a year-long staff and faculty book study of Paul Gorsky’s “Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty,” in addition to training educators state- and nationwide in anti-bullying, mental health and DEI work.
“Lisa Cech has been an educator well beyond the walls in which she has formally served,” wrote Angevine school psychologist Chrissy Lohn.
“You would be hard-pressed to find a student who doesn’t have a story of how Lisa helped them or their family,” wrote Centaurus High School teacher Beth Bogner. “She is a legend!”
“Even though she is not my son’s school counselor, she could see he needed help,” recalled BVSD parent Christy-Schneider Little. “She provided him a safe place, techniques to help him work through some issues and continued to follow up with my son over the next few weeks to make sure he was okay. What even more impressed me was how she reached out to me, the worried parent. She let me know how he was doing and provided some thoughtful insights on how we can further support my son.”
Cech “provides a home away from home” for students, said Anna Gamble, Cech’s co-counselor at Angevine and one of five people who nominated Cech for the Blake Peterson award.
Beyond her extraordinary efforts for students, Cech is just as supportive of her peers, they said.
“She really helped me become who I am in the field,” Gamble said. “She was able to help with my self-esteem and self-confidence, and lift me up.”
Cech’s first experience with education was coaching girls basketball as a teenager. She loves working with people, and has a special heart for middle school-aged kids and the struggles they face. She herself was bullied as a gay youth, an experience she drew on as she moved into DEI work.
Cech notes that it was “a journey,” one she never fails to be honest about when instructing kids or adults on racism.
“Talking about my own journey and the mistakes I made (let’s people know), ‘Oh, it’s a process,’” Cech said. “If you can disarm and let people see you, I think it breaks down some of those walls people might have. It cuts through that tension and fear.”
Her dedication to equity is driven by a deep empathy for those experiencing oppression.
“Injustice, it gets to my core,” Cech said. “My whole career in Boulder, seeing the inequities (made me question): Can you be part of a system and change it? That’s what I hoped to do and tried to do.”
“I was always saying, I’m still saying, ‘What are they going to do, fire me?’ I’m going to call stuff out in the hopes that things change.”
Gamble noted that it was Cech’s advocacy in large part that resulted in more mental health resources for Angevine, BVSD’s biggest and most diverse middle school.
“She’s not always the most popular voice in the room, but she is heard, and she is listened to,” Gamble said. “She’s got some fire.”
“Lisa is representation and love in action,” wrote Elizabeth Barcheck, assistant principal at Southern Hills Middle School. “She seems eternally unfearful to shine light on the needs and complexities that middle schoolers face. Lisa is always willing to do what is right over what is easy.”
A little humor helps, too. Gamble noted Cech’s “flawless” presentation skills, whether to educators, parents or students.
“She always has people laughing,” Gamble said.
Cech’s resume also includes stand-up comedy.
“When I turned 30, my wife got me a standup comedy class as a present,” she explained. “As your final exam, you go on stage and do your 5-minute bit. I did really well, and it got into me. I did it for a couple years. I made money at it, but I’m usually in bed by 9, so lifestyle-wise, it didn’t quite fit.”
These days, her comedy is limited to the classroom — “If I can make my students laugh or laugh with them, we have a shared experience,” Cech said. “It creates connection.” — but she wouldn’t rule out a post-retirement career as a daytime comedian.
“I’ve got 40 years of material,” she joked. “Keep an eye out for me on the circuit.”
More likely is continued coaching and playing of pickleball, “my current passion.”
Cech has one year left in her decade-spanning career. She’ll spend part of it back on the district’s equity cohort, which she helped create, training teachers and administrators in equity and cultural proficiency.
In a high-burnout and turnover industry, Cech attributes her staying power to regular meditation and self-care, and her wife of 33 years, B.K..
“A good, solid relationship has really gotten me through most of it,” Cech said. “Having somebody as a steady, loving presence who really helped me through things.”
Cech was surprised to be recognized with the Blake Peterson Award. She’s enjoyed hearing from teachers who she had trained over the years, and students she worked with.
“It feels good to get acknowledgement, which in education we don’t always get a lot of,” she said. “It feels like a good note to almost-end on.”