‘He definitely deserves it’: D-49 middle school teacher nominated for state award

CIMARRON HILLS, Colo. (KKTV) - Tying knots, building rope ladders and making zip lines.

William Yerger stands in front of a group of eighth graders in his health science class at Horizon Middle School.

That’s what eighth graders in William Yerger’s health science class are learning to do.

“It’s my favorite one, honest. Like 100 percent honestly, it’s my favorite class to come to,” said Sarah Keller, an eighth grader at Horizon Middle School.

Mr. Yerger teaches forensics to seventh graders and health science to eighth graders. But he didn’t start out as a teacher.

“Actually, I was a nurse for ... eight years,” Yerger said. “I worked in a PICU, in a children’s emergency room, for about six years, and then I was actually in a nurse practitioner school.”

He decided to make the switch to teaching and has been at Horizon for about six years.

“He’s really fun, and super helpful,” Sarah said. “So if we’re ever having problems in the class, even if he’s showed us 100 times how to do it, he’ll show us again, and he’ll support you if you say you’re stressing out about it.”

Yerger’s classroom is centered on project-based learning, which means his students are doing something hands-on every day.

“Kids, they go to school thinking, ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ This gives them purpose again,” Yerger said. “Project-based learning gives you a purpose behind everything you do.”

On Friday, his eighth graders were scheduled to participate in a mock disaster drill, using the skills they learned in class.

“We’ll have some search and rescue components to that,” Yerger said. “Kids will be intubating, doing CPR, hanging blood products, and the volunteers will be changing conditions to see how our kids respond.”

Yerger’s unique teaching style is being recognized. He’s one of seven teachers who have been nominated for Colorado Teacher of the Year.

“It’s an honor,” he said.

His students think he should win.

“I think that he definitely deserves it,” Sarah said. “I think that he’s worked hard and gone to so much school for this job, and he’s definitely doing his best at it.”

Yerger isn’t the only teacher from D-49 who’s been nominated for the state award. Erika Siemieniec at Sand Creek High School is also one of the seven finalists.

“It means a lot,” Yerger said. “We’re talking 45,000 teachers in the state of Colorado. To have two picked from our Sand Creek Zone from District 49, it tells you that we’re doing some good things here in District 49.”

The Colorado Department of Education is set to announce the Teacher of the Year on Nov. 1. That person will go on to represent Colorado in the National Teacher of the Year competition.