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2023 CEA Awards Recipients

Every year, we honor amazing educators and allies of public education at our Delegate Assembly. Congratulations to our 2023 CEA Awards winners! 🎉 🎉

Congratulations to our 2023 CEA Awards winners! 🎉 🎉

Thank you for all that you do for your fellow educators, your professions, and public education!

🏆 CEA Award: Susan Banning – Center Education Association

🏆 Columbine Award: Keely Kuehl – Lake County Education Association

🏆 Education Support Professional Award: Andrea Cisneros – Jeffco Education Support Professionals’ Association

🏆 Golden Apple Award: Jaclyn Roberson – Colorado Springs Education Association

🏆 John Chase Political Action Award: Kathey Ruybal – Brighton Education Association

🏆 John Chase Political Action Award: Melanie Potyondy – Poudre Education Association

🏆 John M. & Gladys N. Bates Award: Jerry Pinsker – Boulder Valley Education Association – Retired

🏆 Lion Advocacy Award: Yvonne Bradford – Central Adams UniServ Unit

🏆 Mary Harris “Mother Jones” Organizing Award: Wendy Bergman – Poudre Education Association

🏆 Mickelsen Diamond Award: Aspen Education Association – Executive Board and Bargaining Team

🏆 Robert H. Johnson Jr. Memorial Scholarship: Cheri Cahill – Jefferson County Education Association

🏆 Silver Apple Award: Gail Knowles – Jefferson County Education Association – Retired

Susan Banning
CEA Award

The CEA Award recognizes an Association member who has given outstanding service to public education at the state level. This is the highest award that CEA gives to a member.

Susan M. Banning has taught for 36 years, which includes 30 years teaching at Center Consolidated Schools in the San Luis Valley. During her second year at Center, she was elected president and told that she was required to go the Council meetings. On her very first council meeting she was elected as the SLUU Membership Cadre representative to the CEA. The election occurred while she in the restroom.

Over the years, Susan has served the union through the Center EA, SLUU, CEA, and NEA. Susan went to her first NEA RA in 1996 as a rural representative and continued to attend. In CEA, she was elected to the CEA board of directors in 1998. Her greatest accomplishment was the successful bylaw change creating board alternates when she missed 3 board meetings due to a devastating car accident and SLUU was unrepresented. While serving on the CEA resolutions committee for nine years, she represented Colorado at the NEA resolutions committee for total of six years. Susan has been Center EA president, head negotiator, grievance advocate, secretary and treasurer. This year she helped her negotiations team secure a 15% raise in each cell. She has served as SLUU chair or co-chair for the past twelve years.

Keely Kuehl
Columbine Award

The Columbine Award recognizes an Association member for leadership in member recruitment and retention resulting in significant membership growth.

Keely Kuehl is a First Grade teacher at Lake County Elementary School in Leadville, CO. She has six years of experience teaching special education and two years teaching first grade. Keely is the current President of the Lake County Educators Association.

Keely is a powerful force in the workplace and uses her positive attitude and tireless energy to advocate for better working conditions and wages for all educators. She is originally from Grand Island, NE where she earned her teaching degree from Doane College in Crete, NE. Keely loves hiking and hot springing with her husband. She enjoys singing, dancing, reading and playing board games with friends and family in her spare time.

Keely spends a lot of her summer on the boat, joining her parents at Lake Okoboji, IA for relaxation. You may also find her visiting her sister on the beaches of California to escape from the long Leadville winters.


Andrea Cisneros
ESP Award

The ESP Award recognizes an education support professional (ESP) member whose activities demonstrate the contributions of education support professionals to public education. The ESP Award winner is CEA’s nominee for the NEA ESP Person of the Year.

Andrea B. Cisneros is a proud member of JESPA, CEA, NEA, and a long time employee of 23 years for Jeffco public schools in Food and Nutrition Services. She is also a proud mother of three daughters, grandma of two grandsons, and blessed wife of 33 years.

She is an educator who serves lunch. Lunch is where she teaches students the love and respect for their health through the lunch programs. At the elementary level, students have learned the importance of their health over their love of junk food by implementing eating the colors of the rainbow. Her school has recently boycotted the selling of junk food. This has resulted in students buying more lunch meal items and eating healthier food. Also, composting is a daily event at her school. This teaches the students the importance of recycling, which creates less food waste. Andrea believes education of health is the “Shield of Protection” for our students from the consistent bombardment of advertising of junk food they find in all our local schools.

JESPA, Jefferson Employee Support Professional Association has been Andrea’s savior. JESPA members and the leaders in her staff have enabled her to grow into this person you see today. Their knowledge and love for students has helped give Andrea an avenue to teach and feel justified in standing up for the health and safety of our students and our school staff. To Andrea, JESPA members are amazing humans in a sea of greedy humans, all doing the work to protect our future generations. She is proud to be part of this amazing group of leaders and to accept this award on behalf of all them whom helped her through this wonderful year of learning.

Jaclyn Roberson
Golden Apple Award

The Golden Apple Award honors those who have developed and implemented programs and/or activities to enhance the teaching profession and public education.

Jaclyn has been a science teacher in the Colorado Springs area for 19 years. As a career teacher, she chose to teach in D11 because of the strength of their Master Agreement through the collective bargaining of CSEA. She soon became an AR in her building and last year joined the CSEA Board of Directors as the Palmer Region Director. With the changing climate towards public educators, Jaclyn decided to share the realities of our great public school systems through speaking at board meetings, attending community meetings and offering professional development in teacher advocacy through classes and a book study. She regularly informs teachers about district issues and organizes speakers to attend board meetings who share positive stories about their experiences in public education.

In addition to advocacy, Jaclyn has volunteered with the UCCSTeach team to improve the pre-service teacher curriculum by developing common language and expectations between mentor and pre-service teachers to ensure success within the classroom. Through this experience, she has hosted pre-service teachers in her classroom to practice developing and teaching inquiry based labs.

Jaclyn’s service extends beyond the classroom. She spends her summers volunteering to coach women and children mountain biking through WMBA and Kids on Bikes. She also helped launch a new trail nonprofit, COSMBA in February, serving on their Board of Directors and as the Member Experience Chairperson.

Jerry Pinsker
John M. & Gladys N. Bates Award

This award recognizes outstanding contributions in the areas of human relations, multiculturalism, and/or diversity in the field of education. The Bates Award honors an educator, lay person or group who has worked to promote collaboration and harmony among diverse groups.

Jerry Pinsker spent 31 years as a middle school educator, five in the NYC public school system and 26 in Aurora Public Schools. Since retiring, Jerry has been a trainer for the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference program working with public school students throughout Colorado on anti-bias and diversity education.

Jerry became involved with Anti-Defamation League in the 1970’s when he filed a lawsuit against Aurora Public Schools over lack of religious leave days. As a middle school counselor, he helped students resolve many conflicts. As the building AR, Jerry represented members when grievances or conflicts with administration occurred. Protecting civil rights for all people led Jerry to his active involvement in AEA Board, CEA Committees, CEA-R Council member, DA and RA delegate many years and V.P. BVEA-R.

In 2002, after retiring, he became a founding member of the Boulder Steering Committee-Trainer for World of Difference Institute and oversees ADL’s No Place for Hate program in 9 Boulder Valley schools. He saw the damage bullying does in schools and how the school climate changes when students are involved in the ADL’s No Place for Hate program. He helps young people create a future in which hate is not acceptable, in a world where we respect each other and embrace our differences. Jerry believes enabling students to undo stereotypes and prejudice towards not just Jews but all people is vital in our culture today. He helped Manhattan Middle School in Boulder become the first school in the state to earn the Anti-Defamation League’s designation as a No Place for Hate campus in April 2009. For over 15 years, Jerry continues as a facilitator for ADL’s World of Difference Institute, sits on its Board of Directors, Co-chairs Bonai Shalon’s response to Racism Committee and facilitates trainings throughout the metro area.

Jerry has lived in Boulder for over 45 years with his wife of 50 years, Marilyn. He has two children, Rachel and Aaron, one son-in-law Ryan and one grand daughter Daliah.

Dr. Melanie Potyondy
John Chase Political Action Award

The John Chase Political Action Award recognizes a member or group of members who have made major contributions to public education in the political arena and whose efforts have impacted significantly the Association’s political action program.

Melanie is a graduate of Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado who lives in Fort Collins with her husband, two school-aged children, and cat. She is a school psychologist in Poudre School District, board member for the Colorado Society of School Psychologists, member the Colorado Department of Education’s Mental Health Advisory Committee, Association Representative for the Poudre Education Association, and member of the PEA Fund. She is a 2021 alumnus of the Colorado Education Association’s Leadership Fellowship program and completed Emerge Colorado’s Educator Bootcamp in February of 2023.

Melanie is a fierce advocate for public education. Her advocacy includes pairing with former State Representative Jeni Arndt on a 2019 bill that procured annual stipends for nationally certified school mental health professionals, being the top canvasser for a recent Mill Levy Override that raised Poudre School District staff salaries, and managing social media for a candidate in one of 2021’s hotly-contested PSD School Board races. She currently serves on a district-level committee concerned with reworking strategies for recruiting and retaining school mental health professionals. At the school-level, Melanie is a consistent supervisor of graduate students in school psychology and for colleagues who aspire to enhance their skills through becoming Licensed Psychologists.

She serves as a precinct organizer and the House District 53 Chairperson for the Larimer County Democrats, is managing social media for a local affordable housing re-zoning initiative, and is a member of the League of Women Voters’ election reform committee. Finally, Melanie completed a stint as an interim Fort Collins City Council member in 2021 and is now campaigning to regain her Council seat in the November 2023 municipal election.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing board games with her family, doing crossword puzzles, playing the ukulele and violin, trying out new restaurants, and fixing up her house.

Kathey Ruybal
John Chase Political Action Award

The John Chase Political Action Award recognizes a member or group of members who have made major contributions to public education in the political arena and whose efforts have impacted significantly the Association’s political action program.

Kathey Ruybal is finishing her 29th year in education and despite its many challenges, she still believes it is the most important and rewarding profession to be in. She is very proud of the 23 years she taught English at Brighton High School where she also served as department coordinator and held National Board Certification in English Language Arts. Kathey has held local association positions as a building AR, bargainer, Treasurer, and Vice President. She has been serving as the President of the Brighton Education Association for the past six years. Kathey lives in Brighton with her husband who teaches middle school science in 27J and has two daughters who attended 27J schools.

Kathey has been actively involved in elections in District 27J Schools since 1994, including the passing of a $750,000 Mill Levy Override and Bond in 2000. Since then, as a BEA Executive Board Member, Kathey has worked behind the scenes on several school board and bond elections, and eight Mill Levy Override elections. The two most current elections, Kathey, along with Uniserv Director Yvonne Bradford and the district’s communication department created and implemented a district wide “I Believe in 27J Schools” campaign to highlight and promote the positive work happening in 27J Schools to its electorate. This campaign and continual strong participation from hundreds of amazing BEA members finally led to the passing of the second ever MLO in 27J in November, 22 years after its first. The majority of the MLO money will go directly to increasing educator salary in 27J. Kathey’s political work also includes active involvement in both issue and candidate campaigns at the state level and mobilizing and mentoring BEA members who want to be more involved in political organizing for educators.

Kathey was lucky to have worked several years with Uniserv Director, John Chase, and wants to convey that it means so much to her to receive an award that was created in his honor.

Yvonne Bradford
Lion Advocacy Award

The Lion Advocacy Award recognizes individuals or groups who have made outstanding contributions as advocates for education employees and public education and is named in honor of James Reynolds, Rights who was recognized by CEA in 1980 for his human and civil rights contributions.

Yvonne Bradford has spent almost 40 years in public education. Her experience includes Junior High and High School Special Education teacher, elementary 3,4,5, and 6th grade teacher, full-time release leader for District Twelve Educators’ Association, and UniServ Director for Central Adams UniServ.

When she was a young girl, her dad took her and her three sisters to a Wyoming Cowboy football game and told them they were going to graduate from high school and then attend the University of Wyoming. His wish came true and she was the first family member to go to college and earn a college degree. Go Pokes!

Teachers in her small, rural town were instrumental in her life. They taught her strong academic skills, introduced new ideas and ways of looking at the world, and encouraged her to find her voice. Her first teaching job was at the very junior high school she attended as a student. She had found her passion and her voice, and immediately began working to improve learning conditions for her students.
Moving to Colorado and accepting a teaching position in a school that had 100% union membership was a game changer for Yvonne. Her union kept asking her to speak at school board meetings, attend lobby days, be a building rep, volunteer for candidates, walk for mill and bond elections, and more. Her strong desire to make things better for educators and students made it easy to say yes and put her on a path that eventually led to union staff work.

Raising two sons while being a full-time teacher and active union member meant that many times the boys were brought along. They grew up to be advocates in their own professions: Garrett is a high school language arts teacher and Matt is an airline pilot and National Guard flight instructor.
When she is not working, Yvonne has lots of fun with her husband, Ray, a retired middle school math teacher, and her two dogs Maggie and Murphy.

Wendy Bergman
Mary Harris “Mother Jones” Organizing Award

This award honors a CEA member who embodies what it means to be an organizer, through the actions they have taken to organize internally or externally to increase capacity and build coalitions to enhance and protect public education.

Wendy Bergman is a Social Studies Educator and member organizer in Fort Collins. Originally from Gillette, WY, Wendy has been advocating for members of various organizations since her time at the University of Wyoming. Serving as a College of Education Senator and staff member for the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming; Wendy elevated the voices of students. She identified issues for student teachers around housing and began organizing for a housing support program through ASUW and the College of Education. As an office associate, she worked to support other senators and executives in advocating for students at all levels. After three years in ASUW, Wendy was awarded the Sara L Axelson Medal of Meritorious Service to the Student Body.

In January of 2020, Wendy began her teaching career at Rocky Mountain High School teaching US History, World History, and Economics. She advises the Gender and Sexuality Alliance and advocates for acceptance and elevation of LGBTQ+ people and their histories’ in public education. In her time at Rocky, Wendy has built power with her co-workers to create inclusive classrooms and begin to interrogate and address systems of injustice and oppression. Wendy is most proud of the school garden she has been facilitating with her students and other classes at Rocky. This interdisciplinary effort will see its first harvest this spring and she hopes it will bring joy, curiosity, and food to a community she loves.

Wendy found fellowship and power with the Poudre Education Association and CEA. For the last few years, she has been learning from and organizing with the Educators, ESPs, and Association Staff in Colorado. As an Association Representative and Committee Chair, Wendy helped organize site and district-wide collective actions and planned joy-filled events for members and their families. As a bargaining action team lead, she works with an incredible committee of powerful educators to engage rank-and-file members in the negotiation process.

Aspen Education Association Executive Board and Negotiations Team
Mickelsen Diamond Award

The Mel Mickelsen Diamond Award recognizes an Association member or a group of members for outstanding service to education through collective bargaining and represents the four objectives of collective bargaining: employee rights, salary and benefits, working conditions and operational procedures.

Aspen Education Association was chartered in 1960 as an affiliate of the Colorado and National Education Associations. Current president, Stephanie Nixon, has served in the position since 2020; she previously served as Vice-President and Association Representative for Aspen High School, where she is an art teacher. She is the leader of the Negotiations Team and works on state-wide issues in her role as President. Marnie White is the Vice-President of AEA and teaches music at Aspen Elementary School; she has been on the Negotiations Team since 2021, as has AHS math teacher Josh Anderson, the AEA Treasurer. Tonie Richards also served on the team in 2021 and 2022, representing ESP members. They have been assisted in all negotiations by Eric Hansen, Ski Country Uniserv Director. In 2021, the Negotiations Team also included Cassie Harrelson, and Kerri Kimmel. The Team in 2022 also included Dana Berro, Bente Doolan, Ada Friedman, and Malia Kelly.

The Aspen Education Association (AEA) Negotiations Team has worked tirelessly over the past 3 years in negotiations with the Aspen School District (ASD) to serve and represent members through bargaining. In 2020, at the height of lockdowns and budget cuts, AEA’s negotiated settlement with ASD ensured that no employees were laid off and even provided a small salary increase. In 2021, the team took on the heavy lift of creating, writing and negotiating a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), ratifying it with a unanimous vote by members and the Board of Education in June. Aspen had never had a CBA before and this win created a far more equitable, safe, and protected working environment for staff at ASD. Last year, in 2022, the team worked to negotiate an entirely new salary schedule that provided for significant raises for all staff with a 20% average raise, ensured equity among like positions across the district, and gave some staff raises as large as $20,000. In addition, AEA created an entirely updated supplemental pay schedule, which provided significant stipends for staff for various additional certifications and raised salaries for coaches and mentors.

Cheri Cahill
Robert H. Johnson Jr. Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship recognizes an Association member who is committed to improving his or her professional skills. The scholarship is named for Dr. Robert H. Johnson, Jr., CEA Executive Director from 1968 to 1974. It is given each year in his memory from a fund administered by the Board of Directors.

Cheri Cahill will be finishing her 18th year teaching middle school math at The Manning School of Academics and Arts in Jefferson County. She grew up in Longmont and attended St. Vrain Schools.

While attending Front Range Community College (FRCC) she had a teacher steer her towards mathematics. As a member of Alpha Mu Psi, she was awarded a scholarship to continue her education at Metropolitan State College of Denver (MSCD) now Metropolitan State University (MSU). She used that scholarship to pursue a Bachelor’s degree. While at MSCD, she decided to become a teacher of mathematics and had great mentors here as well. In 2004, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with minors in History and Secondary Education.

Although it took Cheri longer than expected to graduate, when she did, Cheri was ready to jump into the teaching field. While at MSCD, she became a student member of CEA. At the time, it was something to add to her resume and somewhere to get information about what was happening in education. When she was hired in Jefferson County School District, the first thing she did at new teacher induction was to join JCEA and by extension CEA and NEA. Little did she know then how much this organization would be a part of her life both professionally and personally. As Cheri, personally got more involved in the union, it became apparent that this organization was her hope for the future of education. She became a building representative, attended Delegate Assembly, attended NEA representative assembly, lobbied at the Capital, and last year, was a CEA Fellowship Ambassador.

Sheri has always wanted to continue her education, but was never able to get a Master’s degree. Thanks in part to this scholarship, she is attending Metro State to pursue a degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Gail Knowles
Silver Apple Award

The Silver Apple Award recognizes a retired Association member or a group of retired Association members for outstanding service to the Association, public education, and/or the profession.

After teaching elementary school in Michigan for two and a half years, Gail moved to Colorado. When she was hired at JeffCo Public Schools, it was as a part time teacher. The next year as a full time teacher, she opened a new school and became the Association Representative. She also was on the JCEA Political Action Committee. As an Association Rep and a member of the PAC, Gail met many educators who were role models and mentors. When Gail retired in 2002, she stayed politically active and was the JCEA-R liaison to the JCEA PAC/Small donor committee for several years.

As a retired educator, Gail has been involved in many activities. She was on the
Pre-Retirement Committee for several years. She was chair of the committee for five or six years. She was involved in Read Across America for many years. She started out as a reader. Then she became coordinator in the North Area which involved getting readers for the elementary schools in the Arvada and Pomona areas. She continued as a reader for several years. In about 2007, Gail was President of JCEA-R for two and a half terms. She was Vice-President for several years. She is now Membership Chair.

In 2006, Gail was appointed to CEA Advisory Council as the Region 3 Representative. It was at this time that the Advisory Committee decided to create the CEA-R Representative Council. Gail served on the Advisory council until it became the CEA-R Representative Council. She was then elected to the CEA-R Representative Council as the Region 3 Rep for three terms. She is now serving as the alternate. As long as she is able, Gail will continue to be involved in the Association.