2024 Impact Awards honor dedicated BVSD educators

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We host the Impact Awards each year to honor educators across the Boulder Valley School District. Recognizing their dedication is essential, as they play a vital role in providing excellent and equitable education to students.

While we’re only able to recognize a small number of BVSD educators at the Impact Awards, we value and appreciate the hard work and dedication of every educator across BVSD.

This year’s celebration was held on Thursday, May 2 at the Boulder JCC. The energy at the event was palpable and it was a memorable occasion for all of our honorees and award winners. This year we were honored to have the event emceed by Dr. Lora de la Cruz, Deputy Superintendent of BVSD, with special remarks by Dr. Rob Anderson, BVSD Superintendent.

Thank you to our wonderful volunteers who make the evening go so smoothly and to our generous sponsors – Premier Members Credit Union, BVEA, Comcast, Corden Pharma and the Daily Camera – who make this event possible.

School Honorees

Since 1993, the Impact Awards has recognized hundreds of educators – teachers, custodians, office managers, food service employees, crossing guards, and more – from each school across BVSD. Each school across the district selects an honoree for the event, someone who is going above and beyond and making an extraordinary impact on student learning.

Each honoree received an engraved award, a personalized poster and a $100 check (thank you sponsors!). You can meet all of this year’s honorees in the graphics below.

New Teacher Award

The 2024 Imogene Maxon New Teacher Award was presented to Ash Mattys, an English Language Arts teacher at Fairview High School.

Established in 2020, the award is given to educators with up to three years of classroom experience who demonstrate the drive, stamina, and vision of a career educator. This award is inspired and financially supported by Jean Maxon, a lifetime educator who left a legacy gift to Impact on Education and whose own legacy extends beyond the BVSD classroom. We’re fortunate to have wonderful educators joining the profession, many of whom embody the characteristics and traits of a lifelong educator.

The nominator of this year’s winner — her induction mentor Chris Barnes — shared that she is approachable and real, a player and a coach, and life-affecting. He said “when you’re in Ash’s class, one is quick to forget that we’re in an English class. If you don’t keep an eye open, you’ll swear you’re in an after-school student club, self-help seminar, college literary society, and journalistic roundtable all rolled into one. Ash asks her students to think boldly and to act boldly, like she does. I’m honored and proud to teach with her.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

The 2024 Blake Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Sara McIntosh, a literacy interventionist at Emerald Elementary School.

Established in 2017, the Blake Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award honors the legacy of one of our most fervent supporters, Blake Peterson. This award recognizes and celebrates an individual who, consistently over the course of decades, catalyzes positive change within Boulder Valley School District, and whose own passion for education and learning mirrors that of the award’s namesake. This award is financially supported and selected by the Peterson family.

One of the nominators of this year’s winner shared that “she is a voice and support for the many children in our school who too often slip through the cracks because of lack of home support, resources, or other reasons beyond their control.”


Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to students across the Boulder Valley School District?

From park ranger to education advocate: Volunteer Rich Smith’s enduring commitment to empowering students

By Alison Meyer

Rich Smith, a dedicated volunteer with Impact on Education, has committed his life to educating, both inside the classroom and beyond. From his early days as a park ranger teaching the tenets of environmental stewardship to youth mentoring and coaching, Smith’s career journey reflects a profound passion for fostering learning opportunities and supporting underserved communities.

Educating and supporting every kid can have ripple effects in their family and the community.

A strong belief in education

Growing up in rural Massachusetts, Smith was surrounded by nature, igniting a lifelong love for the outdoors and a deep appreciation for education. He earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology and secondary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership and has held Massachusetts and Colorado teaching certifications.

After teaching eighth-grade science in Massachusetts, he moved to Boulder in 1980, eventually heading the Ranger Services and Education and Outreach Divisions of the City of Boulder Open Space Department. He served on the Boulder Valley School District Environmental Education Steering Committee and has led scores of classes and field trips for District students and the general public.

Now in semi-retirement, Smith consults on creating educational plans and materials for parks, open spaces, historic sites, visitor centers, nature centers and Scenic and Historic Byways. 

Giving back to the community

While always championing education, Smith found his superpower as a volunteer for Impact on Education. “Every time I volunteer with Impact on Education, I see that it makes a difference,” he said. “Some payoffs are long-term, like scholarships, but many are immediate. Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry or cold, so they meet those needs.”

During the last four years volunteering, Smith has assembled science kits, helped set up for fundraising events, delivered books to schools, stuffed backpacks with school supplies, reviewed scholarship applications, inventoried and repaired musical instruments, and that’s not even the full list. 

I believe in the transformative power of education.

Smith’s involvement with Impact on Education has given him insight into the significant needs within the school district, particularly for students from underserved backgrounds.

“Reviewing requests from teachers for supplemental classroom materials reveals the critical gaps faced by underserved students,” said Smith. “There is a real need, and Impact on Education is meeting it.”

Through his tireless efforts with Impact on Education, Smith continues to make a difference in the lives of countless students, ensuring that every young person has the opportunity to thrive academically and beyond. “I believe in the transformative power of education,” he said. “It’s impossible to talk about this without sounding trite, but kids are the future. Not just well-off kids or kids we think don’t need help — educating and supporting every kid can have ripple effects in their family and the community.”


Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Volunteer Spotlight: Cindy Arbuthnot

Cindy Arbuthnot has worked for Broomfield-based Premier Members Credit Union (PMCU) for over 32 years. She specializes in reporting and analytics that support their portfolio department and is often the first to raise her hand to support the strong partnership PMCU has with Impact on Education.

What motivates Cindy to volunteer

Helping other people and making a difference in her community brings Cindy joy. While we appreciate the time and energy she spends helping the students and staff of the Boulder Valley School District, she enjoys making them feel appreciated. PMCU regularly offers opportunities for their staff to volunteer with Impact on Education, most recently helping assemble and distribute over 900 comfort kits to students across the district who remain displaced by the Marshall Fire.

Cindy was lined up to help with the Comfort Kits, but a last-minute emergency kept her from participating. She has, however, volunteered her time helping with a number of wonderful projects, including assembling welcome back bags for every BVSD staff and educator in fall of 2020 and welcome baskets in the fall of 2021.

Welcoming staff and educators back to school

The fall of 2020 and the fall of 2021 looked very different, and Cindy supported two very important volunteer projects for back to school.

In 2020, the school year began with all students learning remotely from their homes. In order to boost the spirits of staff and educators we partnered with PMCU to put together over 5,200 welcome bags that included water bottles, pens, notepads, and some local chocolate from Lily’s Sweets! It was a huge undertaking and the bags were so appreciated throughout the district.

In 2021, the school year began with in-person learning. Everyone could feel the excitement, the anticipation, and the pure joy of being back at school. We partnered with PMCU again to deliver over 120 welcome baskets to each school and BVSD building break room, filled with snacks, stickers, dry erase markers, sticky notes and other fun items to help start the year off on a high note.

Meaningful volunteer opportunities

While Cindy’s analytical mind was key for putting together efficient assembly lines, she also enjoyed the creative element required to make the bags and baskets look special.

“I want teachers to know they’re appreciated. I could never do what they do, and it’s important for them to know other people are paying attention.” 

Cindy Arbuthnot, IOE Volunteer

Cindy says she has a lot of fun volunteering on these projects. She knows that they’re doing meaningful work and gets to broaden her network by connecting with people from other departments and branches of PMCU.

Find volunteer opportunities with us

Is your organization interested in partnering with Impact on Education to support the students and staff of Boulder Valley School District?

Your support of Impact on Education makes a difference and we’ll work closely with you to ensure the community knows you are committed to public education. Together with our corporate partners, we create opportunities to strengthen brands while building support for public education and meeting the needs of local students and teachers.

Learn more about IOE Corporate Partnerships >>

Five ways we are supporting Marshall Fire recovery for the BVSD community

Four weeks ago, the Marshall Fire devastated our community, and left many of our family, our friends, and our colleagues unexpectedly displaced. Our schools and neighborhoods are collectively grieving and working to help each other rebuild, both physically and emotionally.

We remain grateful to every individual, business and community partner who’s reached out to us looking for ways to help. Thanks to this generous outpouring of support, we’ve raised over $700,000 through our Critical Needs Fund to support BVSD students and staff. 

We’ve already distributed backpacks full of school supplies to students who lost their homes and here are five additional ways we’re supporting recovery for the BVSD community right now.

1. Providing 900 “Comfort Kits” to displaced students and staff

Thanks to a generous donation of backpacks from JanSport, we’ve been working with local volunteers to build “comfort kits” by filling these backpacks with gift cards, blankets, art supplies, journals, letters of support from students and community members and other age-appropriate items. 

This week, schools will receive enough “comfort kits” for every student that is still displaced by the Marshall Fire and included on the McKinney-Vento roster. Soon after, kits will also be delivered to each of BVSD’s over 70 displaced staff members.

We’d like to say thank you to JanSport, Boulder Book Store, Grandrabbit’s Toy Shoppe, and every individual and business that has made a donation of their time or resources.  

2. Supporting the mental health of students and staff

Families rebuilding their lives after the devastation of the Marshall Fire face a mountain of challenges, and that stress and uncertainty weighs heavily on them. In close coordination with BVSD Student Support Services, we are working to secure funding to increase the number of Mental Health Advocates available and programming that will support the emotional well-being of students and staff. The Marshall Fire’s impact on our community’s well-being is significant, and we feel strongly that we must immediately increase the mental health services available to BVSD students.

3. Transportation stipends

With students from Louisville and Superior now displaced and living all across the Front Range, getting students to and from school each day presents a new and immediate challenge for families. With the shortage of bus drivers, providing additional routes and changing current routes cannot reach all displaced families. BVSD is promoting the school pool program, in the hope that families will be able to help others who need help getting kids to school, but carpools and buses are not enough. 

The McKinney-Vento Act provides an optional reimbursement for personal transportation costs, but it’s modest and barely covers the cost of gas. Impact on Education is supplementing the transportation reimbursement so all families who now have to drive their students further can be fully reimbursed for those costs. We know it’s not the same as living in the neighborhood, but we hope it makes things a little easier for families who are struggling. 

4. Replacing instruments and athletic equipment

Working closely with our partners at BVSD, we are identifying students that are missing academic materials, including textbooks, library books, musical instruments, Chromebooks and athletic equipment. When these items can’t be replaced with a donation or insurance, Impact on Education is paying for replacements so each student can fully engage in school. From golf clubs and violins to textbooks and hockey pads, we’re making sure students can return to their learning, their music, athletic endeavors and other extracurriculars without delay. 

5. Crocs donating shoes to every BVSD student and staff member

You may have already seen that Crocs committed to providing over 30,000 pairs of Crocs to students and staff in the Boulder Valley School District. We’ve all been through a lot, and this generous donation is extra special because it will provide a little comfort to the entire BVSD community of students, educators, administrators and staff. We’re helping facilitate the distribution of Crocs in the coming months, starting with our schools impacted most by the wildfire.

What lies ahead

We’re only able to do all of this impactful work with the support of volunteers and community partners, and our work is not done. Your help allows our small staff team to continue focusing on tackling the ongoing needs of all students. 

We’re working on providing summer learning opportunities for 160 rising kindergarten students, facilitating a Career Readiness Academy for low-income BVSD high school students, and addressing economic and learning barriers that curtail student success

The importance of our mission does not change during a crisis. The students in our community rely on us to ensure they have the resources needed to fully engage in their learning. Our work to empower students and educators drives us in good times and in challenging times, too.

Alenka Žnidaršič started volunteering with Impact on Education over two years ago after volunteering with her son’s school. She first helped review grant applications before becoming more involved with our fundraising and events. 

Originally from Slovenia, Alenka received a Masters in Information Technology before obtaining her PhD in electro-technical engineering from the University of Ljubljana. She started working with artificial intelligence (AI) technology and became fascinated by the connection between people and technology.

Through her education and travels, Alenka learned four languages and is quadrilingual, speaking Dutch, English, German and Slovenian. She moved to Colorado 10 years ago alongside her husband and son. Her son was 5 when they moved which gave Alenka the opportunity to volunteer in his classroom during his early education.

Why she values education

During her own early education in Slovenia, Alenka’s school placed great emphasis on developing critical thinking skills and an appreciation for others’ differences. The latter was not something she saw being valued in the U.S. education system and one of the reasons she is so passionate about early childhood education. She would like to bring some of the values from her home country to help improve education in the U.S., particularly the awareness and acceptance of differences and diverse identities. 

Alenka’s family was another element that drove her commitment to education. Coming from a family of educators, she started helping out in her mother’s classroom as a child. She says, “technology has my heart, but teaching is a close second.” After obtaining her degrees, she taught computer science to elementary school students. She also mentored children through the Scouts of Slovenia, helping to foster a curious learning environment.

“Technology has my heart, but teaching is a close second.”

Alenka Žnidaršič

Her work with Impact on Education

Alenka first started volunteering with us two years ago, helping review applications for our Classroom Innovation Grants. These awards go to BVSD teachers focusing on instructional innovation to enhance student learning in the classroom. She loves watching these applications turn into classroom innovations. 

In addition to the grant reviews, she now supports our Fundraising & Special Events Committee, helping our staff plan and orchestrate events. Alenka’s educational and career focus of bringing people together through technology is especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, where we’ve seen a heightened need for virtual events and interactions.

A love for adventure

Outside of her work as a leadership development coach and volunteering, Alenka is passionate about spending time outside. She particularly enjoys skiing, hiking, climbing and kayaking. Alenka and her family love traveling and have an appreciation for meeting people from and experiencing different cultures and perspectives. With the pandemic making traveling more difficult, they’re enjoying playing strategic and collaborative family games, such as Settlers of Catan.

Chris Snedeker was looking for a way to serve the community when an email from Impact on Education dropped into his inbox. For Chris, serving his community is about engaging with people on a personal level and paying it forward. BVSD and Impact on Education have been ever-present entities in his life as his kids wound their way through the school system. The many challenges and great people—teachers, administrators and of course, their friends—on that path always impressed him, so it was easy to say yes to a request for help distributing food to BVSD student families.

Behind the scenes

After an online training, Chris was given a confidential list of eight BVSD student families who needed food deliveries. He showed up at Columbine Elementary School early the next Monday unsure of what to expect. The day prior he made a practice run to ensure all of the student’s homes were accessible. 

At Columbine, Chris was greeted with cheerful smiles—yes, you can see twinkling eyes above those masks—helpful guidance and kind gestures. The BVSD personnel were busy pulling cartons of food off trucks, stuffing individual bags of food and organizing gallons of milk. Despite how busy they were, they took time to walk him through the procedure: delivering one and one-half gallons of milk and a full grocery bag to each student, each week. 

“I encountered people who were energetic, conscientious and fun to work with.” 

On the road making deliveries

Setting off to make the deliveries, Chris didn’t know what to expect at the other end. BVSD advised volunteers to make contact and be friendly, but maintain distance. What he found with each and every delivery was someone who came to the door, smiled at him and said thanks with an evident depth of gratitude. This was true of each of the five households (eight kids). After a couple of weeks, the deliveries were doubled to 16 kids, but the friendly welcome and gracious appreciation continued. 

Chris continues to deliver food each Monday to make sure BVSD students have the nourishment they need to tackle their studies. He says he is struck by the consideration, gratitude and friendliness he encounters at every step of this journey. 

Paying it forward

“I’m having fun and thankful for the opportunity to engage with members of our community that I rarely see,” Chris says. By giving in this way, Chris is seeing his own horizons expand. Helping the community he raised his family in is further strengthening his ties to Boulder, Impact on Education and BVSD.

Interested in volunteering with us? Learn more or sign-up on our volunteer page.

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Impact on Education
721 Front Street, Suite A
Louisville, CO 80027

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