Terri Ward is so modest that she honestly doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.
Everyone around her does, however. Her peers, students, former colleagues and former players easily comprehend why Ward will be named the first ever recipient of the Lifetime Leadership Award from the Silver Creek Leadership Academy on Tuesday night.
"Humbling is the first word out of my mouth," Ward said. "And the fact that it's the first one, the inaugural one, I was thinking 'why me?'"
Why Ward? The reasons are numerous for the longtime St. Vrain legend teacher and coach, with quality and longevity at the top of the list. Fittingly, the presentation will occur at halftime of the Silver Creek-Niwot girls basketball game. Ward was part of Niwot's inaugural freshman class in 1972, graduated in 1976 and came back for two stints of coaching the Cougars -- most notably a two-decade run from 1990-2010.
Ward, who remains the president of the Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports and serves as a mentor to Silver Creek students Valarie Allman and Anthony Emberley, is a St. Vrain-area legend for her coaching prowess, her stability and her affability.
Also a longtime helper for Ceal Barry and University of Colorado women's basketball team -- "I essentially was director of basketball operations before that title existed," she said -- Ward is a slam dunk for the Leadership honor.
"I'm very honored by it," Ward said. "It's kind of crazy."
Ward is mentoring Allman and Emberley on the shoe project Soles for Souls, in which the seniors are collecting as many pairs of shoes as possible and providing them to disadvantaged communities in the U.S. overseas. The communities can either wear the shoes or distribute them for profit to help spur their local economy.
"It has been absolutely incredible," said Allman, a record-setting discus athlete for the Raptors. "I was kind of nervous going into the project and there were a lot of different variables we weren't sure of, and she brought in this new passion and energy. It was honestly like we had a third person in the group."
Ward has gotten the students in touch with big retailers, foundations and businesses and helped them network to cultivate their shoe-acquiring capabilities.
"It's been so great, because everything we've asked for, she's done -- and then some," said Emberley, a key defensive member of Silver Creek's 3A-champion football team. "She's been so much help. It's been a blessing so far."
Ward is closely in touch with the students, texting and email them throughout the week to keep the project rolling.
"They want to raise 10,000 pairs of shoes, and we're not quite there," Ward said. "We're working on it."
Ward didn't take note of it throughout her career, but when reflecting, she realized the significance of spending so much time in one place.
"You look now in the coaching and teaching world, there's a great deal of turnover, especially on the coaching end of it," Ward said. "People just don't stay at the same high school for 20 years."
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