Crystal Apples to 2 Westside teachers: Alan Combs

       Coronado High School band director Alan Combs and Holmes P.E. teacher Leslie Barthlow are two of District 11's six Crystal Apple Teacher Award winners this year.
       Both are long-time teachers, with Combs having served 8 of his 26 years at Coronado and Barthlow 9 of her 15 years at Holmes.
       Sponsored by the El Paso Council PTA, the awards “honor teaching excellence and recognize outstanding examples for young people who want to be teachers.” Other recipients this year were from Doherty High and Rogers, Penrose and Fremont elementaries.
       The presentation will be at a ceremony May 5.
       The Crystal Apple Awards nomination process includes preparation of a book including letters from colleagues, parents, students and former students. Judges are from outside the school district.

Alan Combs

Posing in favorite spots in their schools are the Westside's two Crystal Apple award-winning teachers this year. ABOVE: Coronado High band director Alan Combs stands with his favorite instrument, the saxophone, in front of the large trophies won by his musical groups in March at the Heritage Music Festival in Anaheim, Calif.
Westside Pioneer photo


       Receiving the award was “shocking to me and real humbling,” Combs said. “It's a great honor. There are teachers that are more deserving, I'm absolutely sure.” He added his gratitude to everyone who wrote letters on his behalf.
       Combs also deflected credit for the continuing successes of his musicians in state and even national-level competition - including this year when his groups dominated the annual Heritage Music Festival in California. “My music students are motivated,” he said. “They always want to work hard.”
       Still, he conceded, it's not necessarily easy to convince already hard-working musicians that they could play better. “Everyday I'm talking with kids about how to improve their abilities,” Combs said.
       If he does anything well as a teacher, he said it's because “I try to pattern myself after successful teachers I've seen or had.” He particularly noted Doug Downey, who preceded him at Irving Junior High (Combs was there from 1975-'85) and Richard Kusk, Coronado's band director before him.
       Combs was a music education major at Colorado University, which included training in all instruments - though his specialty was and is the saxophone.
       He doesn't have an all-education (or all music) background since then. After Irving, he trained to become a pilot who would fly missionaries in and out of hard-to-get- to places. But when the school sponsoring the program closed, he changed direction and worked in advertising for seven years before teaching again at a Christian school in Sacramento, Calif. Returning to Colorado Springs in 2000 he wound up being hired to replace his friend Kusk at Coronado.

Westside Pioneer article