Educators of the year showcase hard work and innovation

By Ryan Fitzmaurice

Big Horn District No. 1
Title 1 Elementary School teacher Lynne Ann Sanders and Big Horn District No. 2 Curriculum Director were recognized as the educators of the year Friday at the Chamber of Commerce Banquet.

Ryan Fitzmaurice photo
Lynne Ann Sanders helps third graders Carson Mauch and Layla Cariveau design logos for their straw rockets, which would be designed and launched later that day on Friday. 

High School principal Scott O’Tremba rose to present the award to Cerroni during Friday’s banquet. Cerroni has been put through the wringer time and time again, O’Tremba said, in her successful efforts to meet state standards in crafting the Lovell School’s curriculum, but this year was a feat even more impressive than usual. Cerroni balanced remodeling the district’s acceditation and consolidated grant monitoring methods, and adopted a new state system to present the the state report card to the public. O’Tremba said all three tasks were done with such quality, they all received recognition from the state.

It’s representative of all 30 years she’s worked in the district, O’Tremba said. 

“I believe in successful organizations there are those who are extremely talented, hardworking, intelligent and very humble people who often go unrecognized, but are the glue that makes a system complete. They never ask for attention to themselves or ask for any credit; they epitomize the old cliché that there is no I in teamwork,” O’Tremba said. “Nancy Cerroni is that person in Big Horn School District No. 2.”

David Peck photo
Nancy Cerroni thanks the community of Lovell and Big Horn School District No. 2 for supporting her as an educator during her long and fruitful career in Lovell schools.

Cerroni has served as the school district’s curriculum director since 2001, the first person ever appointed to the position for the school district. It was one of the most demanding roles the district could have given her. She could not have done a better job in meeting those requirements, O’Tremba told attendees of the chamber banquet.

“She started her current position as the No Child Left Behind act was put in place and our state implemented the body of evidence system. Curriculum became the focus of our state and nation, and Nancy had the enormous task of implementing all these requirements. Countless hours were spent working on state committees, and working with staff and administration,” O’Tremba said.
“As state and federal requirements have changed, she’s continued to lead us in meeting these requirements and she’s done an excellent, actually phenomenal job, leading our staff, administration and board, as our district has received many accolades during her years, and ultimately our students have benefited from the best education possible. 

“Nancy, if you know her, it’s her heart, not just intelligence,” O’Tremba continued. She loves students. She has a passion for education.”

O’Tremba said Nancy played a vital role in securing Lovell High School’s 2013 recognition as a blue ribbon school, secured additional grant funding for the district’s welding program and her work led to the highest advanced education accrediation scores “the state has ever seen.”

“In all this work, you can only imagine how much pressure there is, but if you’ve ever spoken to Nancy you will never guess she’s under any stress or pressure,” O’Tremba said.  “Her attitude is always upbeat, always positive, always helpful. She’s one of the most wonderful people you will ever meet.”

It’s actually the second time she has won the award, Cerroni noted when she came up to accept it. The first was in 1994, when she was an elementary school teacher.

“Back then, I was just a new teacher. I got up here, and my eyes were this big and I said nothing. I said ‘thank you’ and I sat back down,” Cerroni said.  “I’ve got to do a better job this time.”

Nancy said she thrives in doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes. 

“I’m really a behind-the-scenes kind of gal in the world of education. I’ll give an example of a tree. You have to have a sturdy set of roots that nobody really sees and that’s kind of how my work is; I just sit there and I get ‘er done,” Cerroni said. “Right now we are in an age of accountability in education and for us who have been there a long time, we know that’s a difficult transition, but we have to do it, so that’s what we do. I know God has given me some gifts, so I can do some mundane tasks that make sense to me but maybe not to others, so that’s what I do, I carry on.”

Cerroni said since 1994 she has learned that success in education is dependent on the support of others, leading her to “share” her award with all the Lovell educators and students in the room, past and present. She also paid homage to her family, her grandmother, and her mother and father. She had both parents as teachers growing up. Her father managed to teach while also serving as a superintendent in his North Dakota district. Her mother’s work as a third grade teacher inspired her to become a teacher later on in her life, Cerroni said. 

“I find It so ironic and interesting that I’ve come full circle to ranching and education, the very roots I come from,” Cerroni said, reflecting on her own life. 

Cerroni ended by again thanking the community.

“Finally, in conclusion, (there’s) that old African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it also takes a village to raise an educator, and I thank you my community, my village,” Cerroni said. 

Lynne Ann Sanders

Lynne Ann Sanders was given the task of taking her position as a Title 1 teacher and using it to teach math and reading in a more hands-on way, focusing on real life applications.

According to Rocky Mountain Elementary
School Principal Karma Sanders, since beginning the task three years ago, Sanders has excelled, and has
expanded the approach to not only focus on reading and math, but also STEM education, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

“She’s taking what the teachers are taking in the classroom, and she’s trying to help students apply that to real life concepts,” Principal Sanders said. 

This has led to several immersive projects that have allowed Rocky Mountain Elementary students to explore learning in an entirely new way. 

“One example would be in math. We teach a lot about measurements, fractions, geometry. What she’s doing is she’s having students take those skills, she’s having students take a model of a tiny house, and building it to scale,” Sanders said.  “They have to understand scale, they have to understand measurement. They have to understand geometry and the concepts discussed in class.”

The tiny house models are essentially tiny versions of tiny houses, with half an inch equaling a foot in scale, but the process resulted in new understanding of the concepts for Rocky Mountain students.

Other projects included students having to build rollercoasters, or models of the human hands with materials such as paper, straws and cardboard. Lynne Ann Sanders has also taught the students about civic engagement, Karma Sanders said. One project had students researching about what it would take to create a dog park locally, and the project culminated with the students writing local mayors about the idea. 

Every project includes a writing portion, Karma Sanders said, as the students are required to document their research.

As a Title 1 teacher, Karma Sanders said Lynne Ann Sanders has had to tackle these projects while facing unique challenges. 

“As a teacher, she’s constantly trying to balance where kids are at during the projects she’s working on. As a classroom teacher she doesn’t have the same students every day,” Sanders said.  “As she develops these projects she has to account for not having the same students every day.”

Lynne Ann and Karma Sanders were unable to attend the banquet Friday.