Our Connections Teachers develop classroom content that incorporates diversity, interdisciplinary curriculum, and 21st century skills. Our talented teachers, all experts in their fields, endeavor to meet the needs and encourage the creative passions of each and every student through innovative lessons in art, foreign language, music and physical education.

  • art


    Students will focus on the technical application of materials, finding their creative voice and confidence through experimentation and persistence.

  • fl

    Foreign Language

    Students will learn to speak, read, and write in the chosen language and cultivate an appreciation for its culture and history.

  • music


    Students will learn multi-cultural music that tells a story from countries across the world through rhythm and beat.

  • PE

    Physical Education

    Students will participate in activities that incorporate physical movement and social and emotional wellness.


Meet our Connections Teachers



  • Cheri Buxman

    B.A Studio Arts, minor in Theater, University of Colorado, Boulder
    M.A. Education Psychology, University of Colorado, Denver 

    K-12 License in Visual Art 

    Cheri is an artist, community leader, and program developer with over 17 years of experience in k-12th grade art education. She is dedicated to designing innovative, student centered art programs that inspire joy, creativity, and deep inquiry within inclusive spaces. Key roles have included implementing a Reggio inspired studio art program for preschool children at Children’s Garden Montessori school, as well as leading top notch art programs for 1st through 8th grade students at St. Mary’s Academy. During her graduate studies, Cheri studied gifted and talented education as well as inquiry based approaches to learning. She completed an internship at Boulder Journey School where she had the opportunity to research and visit the famous preschools and Atliars in Reggio Emilia, Italy. 

    As a practicing artist, Cheri has exhibited her drawings and paintings throughout Denver and has won merit-based scholarships to the Anderson Ranch Arts Center. She currently lives in Centennial, CO with her husband and two children where she enjoys painting, baking new deserts, and getting lost in a good book. 


Foreign Language

  • Bouchra Rifki- French

    French Teacher
    B.A. French and English Linguistics, Caddi-Ayyad Univeristy (in Morocco)
    M.A. in Educational Psychology, Univeristy of Colorado at Denver

    Bouchra is originally from Morocco and moved to France as a young child, where she lived for seven years. Since coming to the United States, Bouchra has taught French at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She likes to help students experience the joy of learning a new language while also accumulating a strong knowledge about the French culture. Bouchra is trilingual in French, Arabic and English. In her spare time, Bouchra likes to spend time with my family and travel to other countries experience the cultures different from my own.

  • Julia Echternach- Spanish

    B.A., English, University of Colorado - Boulder, 2010>
    M.A., Spanish, University of New Mexico, 2015
    Ph.D., Cultural Studies in Education, University of Texas at Austin (anticipated Spring 2023)

    Julia grew up in Denver and developed a love of learning and questioning through her own experiences in schools for gifted children. After graduating from CU, she began her journey as a teacher at the Laguna and Acoma Pueblos an hour outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Julia has taught special education, language arts, writing, cultural studies, and Spanish to students in elementary school through college; she continues to learn from every student she teaches. She is excited to be back in her home of Colorado and to work in the unique environment of Ricks. Outside of school, Julia likes to go running on the Highline Canal, work on crossword puzzles, and enjoy every minute with her fantastically quirky children.



  • Carol Smith

    Music Specialist
    B.A., Piano Performance, Carthage College

    This will be Carol's 21st year teaching at Ricks. Along with her 25 years of music teaching experience, Carol has studied graduate level piano at Florida State University, piano and choral conducting at the Lamont School of Music, as well as gifted education through the Morgridge School of Education at DU. She is a licensed Musikgarten instructor and participates in Orff teacher training workshops. In addition to sharing her passion for music with gifted children, Carol enjoys teaching singing classes for disabled adults, providing piano performances at nursing homes, and teaching her private piano students. Carol loves to play piano, hike in the mountains, and spend time with her family.


Physical Education

  • Kevin Colon

    Physical Education Specialist
    B.A. Physical Education, Oklahoma State University; Minor, Coaching, Oklahoma State University

    Kevin grew up in the Kansas City Metro area, where he quickly found a passion for sport and education at an early age. He earned a scholarship to Oklahoma State University to run Cross Country and Track and Field. While at OSU, Kevin began his studies as a Physical Education Teacher. He accepted his first job in Seattle working and running semi-professionally before moving to Colorado for the trails and the mountain air. Kevin enjoys running, hiking, biking and playing volleyball with friends and his wife. He is excited to share his knowledge of: sports, fitness, health, and wellness with the students at Ricks Student Support Team.


Student Support

For students in need of accommodation, discover how our Student Support Team provides tailored strategies in multiple disciplines to aid in the success of our students. 

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