By JoAnn Laird | Pagosa Springs Rotary Club
After a combined 60-plus years of teaching in the Pagosa Springs school system, Lindsey and Mary Kurt-Mason are both now retired. What a loss for this community, but what an impact they have had.
With the hundreds of deserving Pagosa Springs residents from which to choose the Fourth of July Parade grand marshals, the Kurt-Masons set the bar by enriching the lives of thousands of students.
Following is a chance to meet the Kurt-Masons, who always have smiles on their faces and a positive “Let’s go conquer” attitude.
Before meeting in Alaska and deciding to hyphenate their last names, Mary Kurt and Lindsey Mason had already started their adventures in teaching. After receiving an environmental studies degree from Western Washington University, Lindsey taught K-12 environmental education in the Juneau School District. Mary earned her degrees in elementary education and special education from Boston College and taught in the Navajo Nation before moving to Juneau as a special education teacher.
Lindsey and Mary (now Kurt-Mason) built a cabin, had two sons and enjoyed traveling before they moved from the moist northwest to the sunny southwest. Originally planning to move Durango, they fell in love with Pagosa Springs instead, where each dedicated more than three decades to education.
When he first moved to Pagosa and saw the weed-infested land behind the elementary school, Lindsey persuaded the principal, Henry Smith, to help him build athletic fields there. Lindsey then started the Pagosa Sting Soccer Club, which he ran for many years before becoming the high school soccer coach for both the boys’ and the girls’ teams. Lindsey also coached the high school ski team to second place in the state.
Lindsey started out teaching science classes at the high school. After earning a master’s degree in health, physical education and exercise science, he was happy to receive a “promotion” to become the elementary school coach.
As Coach Kurt-Mason, Lindsey taught his elementary students the importance of “fitness for life” with boundless joy and energy. He understood that physical health is directly linked to emotional well-being and academic performance. Over the years, Lindsey created many special programs for his students, including swimming, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and a school-wide Olympic festival held every four years. He could often be found on the school roof, in the persona of Captain America, leading the student body in exercises to help prepare them for the academic day ahead. As a result of Lindsey’s commitment to physical health, Pagosa Springs Elementary School was named one of Colorado’s Healthy Schools and was touted as a school “doing it right” in the film “Let Them Play.”
Mary taught third and fifth grades from 1985 to 2004, starting each year with an exciting theme to wrap lessons around. For example, when she traveled to the Virgin Islands, she brought back books, costumes and art to share with her students. As the culmination of the year, her students wrote and performed a choral reading on the Caribbean, then danced a merengue in front of a Caribbean-inspired quilt which they had designed. “Hot! Hot! Hot!” was one of 14 student-designed quilts that were featured in national shows, AQ Magazine and was on display in the Colorado Capitol.
In 2004, Mary was given the opportunity to create a class for students with significant support needs. She named her class the Special Talents Class and worked with parents, colleagues and the community to create an award-winning program focused on educating the “whole child.”
Like Lindsey, Mary knew that physical activity improved academic performance and emotional health. In addition to time spent on academics and job skills, the Special Talents students “walked” across America, mastered lake kayaking, backpacked along the Piedra River, hiked in the desert and experienced multiday raft trips. With each challenging activity, the students’ confidence and self-esteem grew, leading to more success in school.
The Special Talents program was featured in films by Teachers Change Lives and People Magazine. In 2013, Mary was honored with the Colorado Joe Todd Service Award and was named Teacher of the Year by People Magazine.
Since her retirement, Mary has started Mesa Canyon Art with her work in fused glass. She is also teaching adaptive art to adults through the Pagosa Arts Initiative. Lindsey plans on coaching boys’ soccer in the fall and offering his continued support to the elementary school. Both plan to spend more time rafting, hiking and sharing adventures with their four grandchildren.
Because of the continuing McCabe Creek/6th Street construction, the parade route has a change this year. The staging area will be on the vacant parcel to the south of Bank of the San Juans, on Hot Springs Boulevard. This will also be the area for checking in at the registration desk, and the start and end of the parade. The parade will proceed north to the stop light, making a right onto Pagosa Street/U.S. 160, right onto 2nd Street, right onto Hermosa and making a left onto Hot Springs Boulevard back to the staging area.
This is your last reminder for those wanting to enter the parade. Applications, maps and general information are now available at Town Hall or at pagosasprings.co.gov. You can hand-deliver your application to Town Hall or download, scan and email to email@example.com. The deadline is Friday, July 1, at noon and entries will not be accepted after this deadline.
Getting back to the Kurt-Masons, they have led a life of adventure and creativity and will continue to do so in their retirement. Pagosa Springs Rotary Club has had the honor of nominating and bestowing the grand marshal of the Fourth of July Parade for over 40 years. They have arranged rides for the grand marshals on wagons, in convertibles, atop horses and even in airplanes. Those adventuresome Kurt-Masons have their own way of doing things. Get ready, Pagosa!