Impact Award Winners - Spring 2016

Left to Right: Elizabeth Burrows, Tracy Halgren, Superintendent Bruce Messinger, Fran Ryan (CEO of Impact on Education), Samara Williams, and Traci Schoeneweis. Not pictured: Chris Mueller.

Elizabeth Burrows, Counselor, Summit Charter Middle School

It is not often that a single person can be identified as the “heart of our school,” but Summit Middle School’s Elizabeth Burrows fits that moniker. The parents, staff, and students who contributed to her nomination all agreed that she is much more than a counselor, with her impact felt in every part of Summit Middle School from classroom to living room. She transcends the conventional norms of counseling work by not only working with students in the social and emotional realm, but also working one-on-one on non-cognitive skills, running small groups at lunch, leading the student council and student ambassador club, coordinating the school’s parent council, and even guest teaching the 8th grade health class! Summit Middle School’s principal said it best, “Her limitless compassion, her graceful selflessness, and her infectious smile embody all that is good and possible in education.”

Tracy Halgren, Volunteer, Crest View Elementary School

Does she ever sleep? It’s a common question asked of Tracy Halgren thanks to her tireless volunteer efforts in support of Crest View Elementary. A Crest View student astutely noted, “I see her at school a LOT!” One day she is in her boots and covered in mud in the school garden, the next day she is in the classroom helping kids create holiday crafts, and the next day she is fundraising to get iPads in every classroom and writing grants for teachers to attend an annual Google Summit. As a volunteer at Crest View for over seven years Tracy Halgren has done a little bit of everything, ranging from co-chairing the PTO, to creating the Garden-to-Table program, to leading the school’s recovery efforts following the 2013 flood. Her nominator summed it up simply: “She’s unstoppable.”

Chris Mueller, First Grade Teacher, Escuela Bilingüe Pioneer

After years of volunteering as a parent and being told, “You’re so good at this, you should work here,” Christine Mueller made a decision that would change not only her life but those of hundreds of her students over the past 13 years at Escuela Bilingue Pioneer in Lafayette. She quit her job as a geologist and began working at Pioneer in 2002 and became a teacher in 2008. Simply put, she found her passion in teaching and it shows. As a lifelong learner herself, currently working towards a second Master’s Degree, she strives to instill a deep love of learning in her students by personalizing instruction for each student. Whether it’s meeting with a family in August before school starts, spending time with a struggling student after school on a Friday, or hosting a Japanese tea party to bring learning to life, Christine Mueller sparks the flame of learning in each of her students. As one of her nominators put it: “The expectations are sky high, but so is her belief in her learners.”

Traci Schoeneweis, Director of Executive Office, Peak to Peak Charter School

To say that Traci Schoeneweis is the “life support” to Peak to Peak’s community would be an understatement. Her front office position, as Director of the Executive Office, offers her a 360-degree perspective on the entire school, giving her the opportunity to interact and share life with students (from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation), staff, administrators, parents, and guardians. Her days can include everything from a second grade hoedown, to a middle school spelling bee, to a high school pep assembly, and she has yet to miss a day of work in her ten years at Peak to Peak! Her nomination asserted that, “Like the root network of an aspen grove, she nourishes our educational community just below the surface: solid, strong and deep.”

Samara Williams, Principal, Emerald Elementary School

From visiting every classroom in her school each day, to providing positive messaging about having tenacity and embracing the challenge of learning in her daily announcements, Samara Williams leads Emerald Elementary School with a zest for learning and compassion for her students and staff. She always knew she wanted to make the world a better place when she grew up and her belief in the power of education, especially for children with economic challenges or learning barriers, drove her to become an educator. Ms. Williams is an authentic, natural leader and over the past four years her infectious energy, positivity, and passion have made Emerald a place that is cherished, celebrated and sought out.

Descriptions are from the Impact on Education website at, where you can view videos about each of the recipients, too!