With this writing, so ends the first week of the new school year at the Guffey Community Charter School. It is also the end of the first week of teaching for Stacey Knutzen, the new K – 2 grades teacher at the school.
For Knutzen, teaching is a second career, a mid-life change, she said, but she feels she is keeping up the family tradition, as her mother and grandmother before her were teachers.
Knutzen graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in horticulture, and has had a successful gardening and landscaping business in Woodland Park, where she has lived for thirty years.
Knutzen is a Colorado native who was raised in California, but she spent summers with her grandparents who lived at the base of Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs.
After moving to Lake George, Knutzen started substitute teaching. Knutzen took jobs where she could, in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Woodland Park and Lake George, teaching preschool through high school.
Knutzen also taught preschool full time for two years for the Cheyenne Mountain School District. While teaching middle and high school were OK, Knutzen really liked teaching grades K – 2 best, she said.
After getting her teaching certificate, Knutzen started looking for a full time teaching position in Park and Teller counties. Somehow, she found the Guffey School website with the open teaching position, responded and landed the job.
Knutzen is very excited about the coming school year and feels this is where she should be. Late last spring, Knutzen started attending some of the school events, and she said the students, volunteers, staff, parents and the community have all been very welcoming and supportive.
Planning on teaching at the school for a long time, Knutzen likes the idea of seeing the continuation of students from kindergarten through eighth grades. Teaching the students reading will be fun, said Knutzen, it’s such a big, life-changing event for them.
One of Knutzen’s goals for the year is getting grants and funding to build a school and community greenhouse. Children, soil and growing things seem to go together, said Knutzen. Her background in horticulture is an added bonus for the project.
The school has the land and water for a greenhouse, and Knutzen has many great ideas including proper composting, a weekly farmer’s market in the summers, and student projects like growing gourds, drying them and making birdhouses.
While Knutzen would like to move to the Guffey area, with rentals hard to find, and house prices out-of-sight, she will have to remain in Lake George with her partner of three years. Although the drive is very beautiful, she added.
Knutzen had a nice surprise this summer while getting her classroom ready for the start of school: a doe and her two fawns looked in the classroom door, she said.
It looked like mom wanted to register her fawns for the school year and was checking out the classroom first.
With eight K – 2 students registered, Knutzen brings many new, good ideas to the school and will be a great addition to the staff.
Jenny Hartman, who has taught the K – 2 grades for five years since she started teaching at the school in 2013, will be teaching the middle school classes, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, this year. Hartman is really looking forward to the change and the new school year, she said.
Lynda MacDonald will continue to teach third, fourth and fifth grades as she has done for most of her 25 years teaching at the school.