Making the Grade: Scott Sperry |

Making the Grade: Scott Sperry

HARRIET HAMILTONsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

For the last 24 years, Scott Sperry has ridden his bike to work every day, rain or shine, hail or blizzard. The Silverthorne Elementary media specialist glues his bike tires to the rims so he can deflate the inner tubes and ride on soft snow.”When I hit packed snow, I can pump them back up,” he said.Sperry’s commitment to the environment spills over into all areas of his life. Generations of High Country schoolchildren know him as a passionate defender of wildlife. For years, he took groups of fourth-graders on weeklong field trips to Yellowstone to learn about the creatures who live there. Wolves are his particular interest, and two tables in the school’s media center display his extensive personal library of wolf-related books. He invites students to consult the experts when they have questions about the world around them. His knowledge of and appreciation for the endangered predator inspired his students to “adopt” a wolf named Lorenzo in his honor through a wildlife sponsorship program.Although his efforts at environmental stewardship garnered him the Green Scene teacher award at this year’s Earth Day celebration, Sperry’s professional training was in a completely different field. Growing up in Wauwatosa, Wisc., music and band were his great loves.”I was taught to appreciate all kinds of music,” he said. “I love everything from bluegrass to Frank Zappa, and throw in some Aaron Copeland, too.” Sperry started playing saxophone in fifth grade, majored in the instrument in college, and eventually extended his musical arsenal to include flute, clarinet, guitar and bass.When he graduated from college, his goal was to be a band leader but the job market was tight and he ended up working in a residential treatment program in Wisconsin. He’d visited Copper Mountain in 1976 during spring break, came back the next year to ski and decided that somehow Summit County was in his future. When he was ready to leave his native state, he knew where he wanted to go.

“I bought a truck that had Colorado plates on it and my mom said it was an omen,” he recalled. In 1982, he packed up the truck and moved to the High Country without any particular plan.”If my money ran out, I was going back,” he said.There was no going back for Sperry, though. He got a job almost immediately as a media aide at Dillon Valley Elementary and stayed there for 12 years before transferring to Silverthorne to be the school’s library information specialist.Sperry said his position in the schools has provided him with enough challenge to keep it all interesting.”Seeing the kids grow up is a neat part of being a specialist,” he said. “One of the most rewarding aspects (of the job) is the variety.” His expertise with audio-visual media has enabled him to share his music with students. This spring, he created an after school songwriting workshop. Students wrote lyrics and music to a song which Sperry recorded and turned into a CD. Sperry is proud of the technical set-up available for student projects at Silverthorne Elementary. Because of his advocacy, the school owns 16 microphones, has a fully “equalized” gym and provides audio-visual resources that far exceed those of most elementary schools.

One of his pet projects has been the production of a DVD yearbook.”We record little snippets of kids talking about themselves, so 25 years from now they can pop it in their DVD player,” he said. Sperry emphasized that the school’s high-tech equipment is there for the students.”I teach the kids to be aware of different kinds of media,” he said. “It’s mind-blowing when you think about fifth-graders doing PowerPoint.”A Dillon Valley resident for the last 20 years, Sperry now shares his home with two malamutes: Teekona and Amorak. In his spare time, the 53-year-old bikes, hikes and reads.”The further I can get away from civilization, the better,” he said. Eventually, he plans to retire on a piece of land he owns in Montana – “at the base of the Beartooth Mountains, with my wolf and grizzly brothers.”Sperry is a regular visitor to Yellowstone and has taken classes on how to coexist in the wilderness with other species.

“If you go into bear country with respect, awe and humility, you will have a great time,” he said.Although he’s looking forward to living in Montana, Sperry’s not sure how much longer he’ll be at Silverthorne full time. If he retires as planned at the end of the next school year, he intends to be around as a resource for the next media specialist.”I still love what I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve looked at this as my family. I have 280 kids of my own here.”Sperry’s goals for his students reflect his approach to life.”I want them to be happy – to always want to learn – no matter what it is,” he said. He admits that some people think his life philosophy is a little too simple, but he disagrees.”Be respectful, not just of other people, but also of the environment,” he said he tells his students. “If they do that, no matter what else they do, they’re going to get the same amount of satisfaction.”

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