Longtime teacher at Gilpin School heads west
By Esmee Halsted
Sam Wardell, longtime teacher at Gilpin County School, just ended his sixteenth year. He has taught high school and middle school since 2003. Initially drawn to the school because of the mountains, Mr. Wardell is moving to the Western slope in order to live a simpler and less crowded lifestyle. Beloved by students, Mr. Wardell taught Language Arts.
His lessons were like no other teachers. Commonly known as the “death” teacher for his morbid taste in literature, he inspired students to think differently. In fact, Gilpin students Aucklynn Sacco, Destaney Garcia, and Sasha Sonsino describe Mr. Wardell’s lessons as “out of the box,” “easy to understand and fun to do,” and “influential and interesting.” Throughout the years he taught a book series called Maus, by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman. It is about the experiences of a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor where Jews are depicted as mice, Germans as cats, and Poles as pigs. He also taught a book called Slaughterhouse-Five, an anti- war novel by Kurt Vonnegut. All of his lessons were tailored to his students and mind pondering.
Perhaps the best thing about Mr. Wardell is his personality. Known by most students as quirky, he always made class fun. Destaney Garcia, Gilpin student, characterizes Mr. Wardell as “outgoing, kinda, and genuinely funny.” Destaney goes on to explain how he treated his students professionally, but with a friendly and encouraging demeanor.
Reflecting on his time at Gilpin, he has plenty of good memories. He vividly remembers “any moment in which I had shared a laugh or tear.” For example, he explains a hilarious moment of laughter, “I once had a student write a letter telling me that Kirk Douglas was responsible for killing Jesus. Ha!” The biggest change Wardell has seen is how technology based the school has become and how the students have become more open minded. As a farewell, Mr. Wardell says “I would like to thank all the staff and students for giving me experiences and friendships that will last a lifetime.”