Scholars give thanks to influential teachers

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By The Staff



Ten outstanding students have been awarded the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation scholarship. 

Each student demonstrated a balance of academic excellence, extracurricular participation and community service throughout their high school careers. 

Winners chose an educator of distinction, an education professional that had a positive impact on the student’s time in the Los Alamos Public Schools. 

Here are five of the 10 students honored. 

Kristen Haertling was awarded the Rynd Award, named for Ed and Betty Rynd, a couple with a passion for public education, who left a legacy of service to our community and our schools. The Rynds donated the bulk of their estate the LAPS Foundation. Haertling was selected by the scholarship selection committee as most meritorious recipient. 

Haertling chose Cheryl Smith-Ecke, her fourth grade through middle school orchestra teacher. Haertling said of Smith-Ecke, “She is one of the most enthusiastic people that I know; she gets so excited over the things that she loves, such as teaching orchestra classes or talking to some of her former students. She told me recently that what really mattered to her wasn’t how much talent one has, but rather how much enthusiasm and passion one has towards learning.” 

Haertling will attend Texas Tech University to study economics with plans to pursue a career in economics education and/or music. She is the daughter of Michael and Trudy Haertling. 

Haley Bridgewater chose Stephanie Mitchell her Honors and Advance Placement Biology teacher at LAHS. 

Bridgewater said of Mitchell, “I remember telling my parents before the Parent Night during my junior year that they were going to like Ms. Mitchell the best because she ‘just knew how to teach.’ Ms. Mitchell can explain the same concept in 10 different ways just so that every student understands.” 

Bridgewater will attend Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington to study biology and plans to pursue a career in biomedicine. She is the daughter of John and Katie Bridgewater. 

Lauren Burr chose Kathryn Vandenkieboom, her fifth grade teacher at Mountain Elementary. 

Burr said of Vandenkieboom, “Mrs. Boom showed me that learning can be enjoyable. She knew that there was a huge difference between an instructor and a teacher. Without lacking in instruction, Mrs. Boom managed to be a role model, guiding me when confusion emerged but allowing my own character to independently develop.” 

Burr will attend Colorado State University at Ft. Collins to study economics and international studies and plans to pursue a career working for a humanitarian organization.

Ethan Clements chose Scott Johnson, his third grade teacher at Barranca Elementary School. 

Clements said of Johnson, “In Mr. Johnson’s classroom, students were engaged in every aspect of learning. He challenged us to use our imaginations and our own creativity to help us learn. He used multiple techniques to help us cement our reading skills and abilities.” 

Clements will attend Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota to study education and theater with plans to teach K-12 and collegiate music and theater. He is the son of Brad and Jane Clements.

Justin Dunn chose Nancy Baiardo his second and third grade teacher at Aspen Elementary School. Dunn said of Baiardo, “Mrs. Baiardo gave me the power to dream and follow my dreams. I knew from a very young age that when I grew up, I wanted to be involved with commercial aviation, and hopefully, become an airline pilot.” 

Dunn will attend the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks to study commercial aviation with plans to pursue a career in the field of commercial aviation. 

He is the son of Mark and Chikako Dunn.