A rare moment of silence fell over the assembly at Dillon Valley Elementary Monday afternoon. The gathered children, kindergarten to fifth grade, 390 in all, sat hushed as Hollyanna Bates was led blindfolded into the gym.
Moments later, principal Cathy Beck whipped off the blindfold to a loud cheer from the students, and a surprised expression from Bates.
Bates recently placed third for the prestigious Colorado Teacher of the Year award, and her entire school turned out to congratulate her. The Teacher of the Year is an annual award given by the state of Colorado to recognize an inspirational and dedicated teacher, active in both school and community. Bates placed third out of 63,000 teachers statewide.
"Obviously, it's a tremendous honor for her and for us to have a teacher of that caliber," said Beck
After the cheering died down, Bates was presented with a commemorative award as well as several bouquets of flowers.
Lynn Banberry of the Colorado Department of Education described the steps Bates had to go through to apply for the nomination, including a rigorous interview process.
"It was really clear that Mrs. Bates loves teaching," Banberry said.
After several more speeches, including one from Beck and Summit County superintendent Dr. Heidi Pace, Bates was given the microphone.
"There is nobody here who is not learning every day," she said, obviously touched. "I think every teacher in here should get this award."
The second surprise of the day involved the students as well - an impromptu ice cream party hosted by Blue Bell Creameries. If the silence earlier had been impressive, the following roar was deafening.
Throughout the resulting chaos, both colleagues and students came up to congratulate Bates.
"She's the hardest-working person I know," said Crystal Miller, principal of Summit Cove Elementary.
Miller cited a bike tour she had gone on with Bates earlier in the year, during which Bates had stayed up until midnight each night in the tent, working and planning for her job as president of Colorado Council International Reading Association.
"If you work as hard as you talk," Bates said, "you get things done."