Elevating the Need for Teachers in Colorado

By Kim Hunter Reed, Executive Director

I recently listened to professors at the University of Northern Colorado

Think about it: No matter your profession, you can probably name a teacher who helped you get there. For me, two educators nurtured my learning and anchored my academic journey — Mrs. LaFleur in elementary school and my high school honors English teacher Mr. Methvin. I am grateful that they believed in me and nudged me to do my best.

My high school honors English Teacher, Mr. Methvin.

Educators make all other professions possible. Today, our teachers are helping students finish chapter books and code apps, master the five-paragraph essay and produce hard-hitting documentaries. They’re teaching our future scientists, entrepreneurs and doctors too.

Educators make all other professions possible.

While we’re deeply indebted to our teachers, and school leaders, we must do more to lift the profession and grow it as well.

Like many states, Colorado faces serious challenges in building a strong pipeline of future educators. We’ve seen a decline in the number of people studying education and joining the ranks as educators — and there’s little indication the trends will be reversed quickly in the coming years. To meet the demands of Colorado’s booming K-12 population, we need quality educators now more than ever.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education is working on solutions.

In 2016, we supported legislation that funnels new teachers to Colorado’s 147 rural school districts and supports teachers already working there. Over the last several months, we’ve introduced hundreds of new educators to teaching opportunities in rural areas and helped launch the Center for Rural Education at the University of Northern Colorado.

Teacher candidates from schools across Colorado joined me, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, Katy Anthes, commissioner of education, for a reception at the state Capitol.

We’re also recognizing young Coloradans who have answered the call to teach. We asked each of Colorado’s 22 educator preparation programs to select two top teacher candidates for our inaugural Aspiring Educator Honor Roll and hosted them at the state capitol along with Lt. Governor Donna Lynne and Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes. We were inspired by these motivated future educators who are eager to teach and excited to graduate.

As we continue our efforts to support teachers and grow their ranks, collaboration with our K-12 partners and communities is critical. Only by bringing together all of our stakeholders — parent groups, community leaders, four-year institutions, two-year colleges, K-12 and many, many others — can we deliver strategic and viable solutions to our educator shortage problem.

In the coming months, I hope you will participate in discussions on this issue. We need your thoughts and ideas.

I’m passionate about this work not only because it’s crucial to Colorado’s future. It’s also personal. My grandmother taught English in Brusly, Louisiana for 30 years and was fully committed to the academic success of each of her students and every member of our family. Colorado students deserve the same opportunities I was fortunate to receive as young woman.

My grandmother at her graduation

So this Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s commit to lifting the profession in our communities. Talk to teachers you know, thank them and ask how we can support them. And, most importantly, shine a light on teachers’ great work and share those stories far and wide. You may just inspire the next Mrs. LaFleur and Mr. Methvin in your community.

I am proud to #ThankATeacherCO. How about you?

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