Educator Highlight Award for April goes to Rachel Kellum

Courtesy photo Rachel Kellum, Moffat School art teacher, (middle green shirt) received the Adams State University School of Education April Educator Highlight Award.

Art teacher brings ‘life and color to the classrooms’ at Moffat Schools

MOFFAT – It was pajamas day at Moffat Schools.Imagine Rachel Kellum’s surprise then when Adams State School of Education staff showed up during her middle school arts class to award her with its Educator Highlight Award for the month of April.

“I’m wearing the T-shirt,” she said, proudly displaying her Adams State top. Her request: Just no photos of the pajama bottoms, please.

“I really appreciate this honor. I’ve been teaching here for six years, and been teaching art and English going on 21 years now, and to receive an award like this really means a lot to me,” Kellum said. “We’re here because we want to be here. We love the kids and we love teaching, but to have your peers acknowledge you is extra special. I really appreciate that.”

Adams State School of Education Director Curtis Garcia, Ph.D., and staff of the teaching degree program travel around the Valley month-to-month awarding the Educator Highlight Award to deserving educators.

“Ms. Kellum has brought life and color to the classrooms at Moffat. This is the most looked-forward to class of the day. It is always full; students are always having their needs met. Ms. Kellum’s warm presence helps students feel comfortable with self-expression, confidence and pride,” read one of Rachel Kellum’s nominations.

Another nominator said, “Rachel lives and breathes art class for her students every day. She teaches all 112 students, PreK-12. She helps collaborate with the community by allowing them to paint murals among the building walls, host our own mini-art showcase and has helped over 10 students from our small town obtain art scholarships for postsecondary education.”

The Cowboy Pride Mural is striking when you first see it inside the Moffat School hallway. Designed and painted by Luke Maykowski for his senior capstone project in 2023, it serves as evidence of Kellum’s influence on her students and on Moffat Schools.

“One thing I really enjoy doing with my secondary art students is have them do independent art projects. And because we’re so small, that allows me to give them sort of the independent support, even though they’re all doing something very different,” Kellum said.

“Somebody might be painting, somebody’s sewing, somebody’s making a cup out of ceramics, or somebody could be doing digital art. And because my classes are smaller, that allows me to be able to really teach to individual students’ desires in art instead of it just being like, OK, everybody, we’re only going to always do the same type of project.”

The small nature of Moffat Schools is what drew Kellum into the San Luis Valley to teach. She spent the first part of her teaching career at Morgan Community College in Fort Morgan where she taught literature, composition, humanities, art, appreciation, painting and drawing.

“So, I’ve always kind of had my feet in both worlds,” she said of her love for the arts and humanities.

“You really get to know your students a lot better,” she said of the small school environment. “You get to, I don't know, I think you just get to slow down and get to know a little bit more about them and tune into what they want to do.”

Like painting a fabulous mural on the school hallway.

This monthly award recognizes Adams State University School of Education alumni, prominent local teachers, and other educators working within or hailing from the San Luis Valley. In so doing, Adams State University hopes to build familiarity with the community as a serious destination for future educators. To nominate and educator email Chrissy McKinney at [email protected].