Becoming Adaptable

Thursday, July 2, 2020 - 9:15am
Hilary Wimmer article

Hilary Wimmer finds lessons to be learned in unpredictable times

Hilary Wimmer receiving recognition from the Colorado Department of Education in early March 2020

Hilary Wimmer was stunned when she was named Colorado Teacher of the Year in October 2019. 

The Mountain Range High School Career and Technical Education (CTE) Instructional Leader didn’t anticipate that being named the Five Star Schools Certified Employee of the Year earlier in 2019 would put her on a path to being honored as the state’s top educator.

But the surprise pales in comparison to what has transpired since she received the honor.

As Colorado Teacher of the Year, Wimmer represents teachers across the state at various functions and has the benefits of incredible experiences such as visiting the White House and attending Space Camp. Unfortunately, those opportunities are now on hold. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in the experience as the teacher of the year,” said Wimmer, “but I’m more sad for our seniors as they did not get the send off we all wished for them.” 

Not all of the experiences are on hold. Wimmer was able to visit Google and honored in-person by the state prior to the COVID-19 impact. She has also participated in various virtual events and will give keynote addresses this summer, including one on the importance of career and technical education at the Colorado Association of Career and Technical Education (CACTE) for fellow CTE colleagues across the state. Her message to that group will focus on the importance of teaching students the skills of being flexible and adaptable in how they learn and succeed. Current times serve as an even better teacher.

“My students this year, same as many of us, have learned real-life lessons about being able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances,” Wimmer explained. 

In May, Wimmer was recognized by the MoneyWi$er Financial Innovation Award for her innovative teaching of financial literacy through the use of gamifying personal finance and delivering the content through interactive, realistic simulations. In addition, three of Hilary’s students were awarded scholarships by the organization based on their ideas to make financial literacy available to students. 

Hilary Wimmer visits Google headquarters as Colorado Teacher of Year in February 2020

A bonus of the MoneyWi$er award was a financial gift to be used for professional development. Wimmer is hoping to gain her certification in financial planning to better be able to educate others on financial literacy. 

“I dream of being able to offer free financial planning workshops for students, family and staff in our community”, Wimmer explained. “I am committed to bridging a gap for communities that have historically not had access to financial planning tools and resources.” 

Wimmer is also on a planning committee that is working on ways to build a financial literacy course into state graduation requirements for all students.  

Despite limited opportunities as teacher of the year, Wimmer is ultimately focused on the well-being of her students. Financial literacy is important, but her primary focus this summer, as districts determine what the school experience will look like in the fall, is the mental health of the students she has not seen face-to-face since March.

“As teachers, we are in a unique position to support the needs of students and report any concerning situations that students may be experiencing,” she said. “This pandemic has not allowed us to remain in close relationship with students so I’m asking our community to look out for Colorado kids and families by staying connected, offering support and reporting any concerns you may have as you interact with families in your community.”