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The Spark - June 2023
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Spring is finally here. Graduates have tossed their caps into the air; most classrooms and desks have been cleaned out; and summer is at our doorstep.
First, I want to wish you all a good summer and hope you get the rest and rejuvenation you need after this last school year. Second, I want to take this opportunity to tell you how much you all have meant to me as your commissioner.
This will be my last letter for The Spark. As you may remember, I announced my resignation in December, and the State Board of Education just last week announced their finalist for the next commissioner. These past seven years have been intense for me, to say the least, so I’m looking forward to taking a much needed break after I leave this position in July, and then I’ll think about what will come next.
As this chapter closes, I find myself reflecting on the remarkable journey we have embarked upon together. Throughout these years, I have witnessed firsthand your unwavering commitment, relentless dedication and boundless passion for shaping the lives of our students. Today, I write this letter to bid you a heartfelt goodbye and to express my deepest appreciation for your extraordinary resilience and hard work.
As commissioner, I have worked to elevate your voices. I created the first-ever Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet to add your important perspectives to the work being done at the state level. The cabinet is filled with teachers from throughout Colorado – rural, urban, big districts, little districts, kindergarten through high school. The cabinet has kept it real with teachers giving me first-hand reports of what is happening in the classrooms. Frankly, the cabinet became one of my most important reference points, providing me with insight into the hardships that many of you have been experiencing.
You were on the front lines during one of the worst events in our world’s history, having to deal directly with the educational calamity that occurred when our schools shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Your resiliency through the challenges that came with the shutdown and going remote still leaves me in awe and with the utmost respect.
Wherever I go and whatever role I take, I will never forget the bold and fearless spirit of Colorado’s teachers. It will never cease to inspire me and push me to never let up even when faced with daunting odds. The work you do is often taken for granted. More than anything, I understand that you need more resources and higher pay. This is something I will continue to push for in whatever job I move into.
Nevertheless, even with these setbacks that have frankly caused many people to leave the profession, I salute those who have remained standing tall, never wavering in your belief that every child has the potential to succeed. Your dedication to meeting the diverse needs of our students, regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances, has been nothing short of remarkable. You have embraced the challenges of our time, learning new teaching methodologies and technologies, ensuring that no student is left behind in their pursuit of knowledge.
Your impact extends far beyond the classroom walls. You have been mentors, confidants, and guiding lights for countless young minds. Your ability to foster a sense of belonging and empowerment has created safe spaces where students can not only learn but also discover their true selves. The seeds you have sown will continue to bear fruit for generations to come.
As I bid you farewell, I assure you that your efforts have not gone unnoticed. You have been the bedrock of our educational system, working tirelessly to shape the future of our state. Your dedication and passion have ignited countless dreams, guiding students toward lives filled with purpose and meaning.
I wish you all the very best in your future endeavors and trust that your light will continue to shine brightly, illuminating the path for generations to come.
With heartfelt gratitude,
Education bills establish teacher degree apprenticeship programs, investment in math learning, interstate teacher mobility compact
The Colorado legislature wrapped up its 2023 session last month by passing a myriad of education-related bills, including several that will be relevant to the state’s educators, including these:
S.B. 23-004 Employment of School Mental Health Professionals – This bill authorizes districts and BOCES to employ school-based therapists who are not licensed by CDE but hold a Colorado license for their profession. These professionals would coordinate with licensed special service providers on mental health support for students.
S.B. 23-070 Mandatory Training for School Resource Officers – This bill requires the Colorado Department of Public Safety to annually convene a training meeting for school resource officers and school officials to discuss best practices in responding to Safe2Tell reports, including defining roles and communication about a report.
S.B. 23-087 Teacher Degree Apprenticeship Program - This bill creates a Teacher Degree Apprenticeship Program as an alternative teacher licensure pathway. The program is modeled after elements of current alternative teacher licensure programs and includes requirements for applicants to have obtained a bachelor's degree, participate in training programs approved by CDE, and receive structured on-the-job training.
H.B 23-1064 Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact - This bill enacts the "Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact,” which must still be developed and adopted in coordination with other states. The compact is designed to make it easier for teachers, especially active military members and eligible military spouses, from one member state to receive a teacher's license from another member state.
H.B. 23-1198 Teacher Externship Program for STEM Disciplines - This bill establishes a teacher externship program to allow K-12 public school teachers to participate in experiential learning opportunities with employers, outside of the school environment, to gain knowledge and expand their curriculum in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines and other disciplines that may be of value to a particular school district.
H.B. 23-1231 Math in Pre-Kindergarten Through 12th Grade – This bill makes several investments in K-12 mathematics education. It requires CDE to create free optional training in evidence-informed mathematics designed for both elementary and secondary school mathematics educators. It also requires candidates for an elementary education endorsement, a middle school mathematics endorsement, or a secondary mathematics endorsement to be trained in evidence-informed practices in mathematics. Finally, the bill includes developmentally appropriate early numeracy as part of the continuing professional development requirements for teachers employed by a preschool provider.
Are you the next exceptional educator who will represent the teaching profession in the state? Apply by Friday, June 16, to be the 2024 Colorado Teacher of the Year. Applicants don't have to be nominated to apply.
Each year, the Colorado Teacher of the Year Program honors an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled K-12 classroom teacher to represent the profession. The selected teacher will automatically become Colorado's nominee for the National Teacher of the Year competition and receives many professional development opportunities. Along with the country’s other teachers of the year, Colorado’s Teacher of the Year will be honored at a special ceremony at the White House and will spend a week at NASA’s Space Camp. The teacher also becomes a member of the Colorado Education Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet.
The Educator Recruitment and Retention Program provides up to $10,000 in financial assistance toward licensure program fees for alternative teachers, Temporary Education Eligibility educators, paraprofessionals and Career and Technical Education instructors who commit to teaching in a shortage area for three years. The application for the 2023-24 school year will open Saturday, July 1. CDE will implement several shortened application windows throughout the school year to streamline the timeliness and efficiency of application processing and to improve communication about timelines. Dates for these windows, as well as updated guidance, forms and shortage list, will be posted on the program webpage by late June.
Email questions to email@example.com.
The eligibility for the Temporary Educator Loan Forgiveness Program has been expanded through recently passed legislation from just licensed teachers and counselors to include principals and special service providers. Additionally, House Bill 23-1001 broadened the requirements for the program. The Colorado Department of Higher Education is accepting applications through Thursday, June 15. To apply applicants must meet the following criteria:
Applicants must be an educator: defined as a teacher, principal or special service provider in a qualified position*, and must have a qualified Federal Student Loan. *Qualified position is defined as:
- Hard-to-staff educator position in a rural district or rural School, or in a facility school that is in a rural school district, identified by CDE.
- A hard-to-staff educator position in a content shortage area in a Colorado public school, a school operated by a board of cooperative services, or a facility school
- An educator position in a Colorado public school, a school operated by a school operated by a board of cooperative services or a facility school.
All applicants with a Federal Student Loan will be qualified using the following priority list:
- Applicants who have contracted for a qualified position in a rural district or rural school.
- Applicants who have contracted for a qualified position in a content shortage area.
- Applicants who have a contract for a qualified position in a Colorado Public School, A school operated by a board of cooperative services or a facility school.
In approving applications for each pool of candidates listed above CDHE will first consider Colorado licensed teachers and the length of time employed under the license – beginning with those who have been employed the shortest amount of time. For more information, contact EdLoanForgiveness@dhe.state.co.us.
A successful collaboration between the Colorado Rockies, TEACH Colorado and CDE provided discounted tickets to more than 3,500 teachers, support staff, administrators and volunteers during the Rockies six-game homestand against the Phillies and the Reds in May in conjunction with Teacher Appreciation Week.
On Saturday, May 13, the Rockies honored current Colorado Teacher of the Year Jimmy Day and his family with a pre-game ceremony.
For each Teacher Appreciation Week ticket sold, the Rockies donated $2 to TEACH Colorado. CDE, the Colorado Rockies and TEACH Colorado thank everyone who bought tickets and hope you had a great time.
- How the 2023 National Teacher of the Year uses stories to connect, Chalkbeat
- Gypsum teacher becomes one of the few to ever complete Triple Crown of Hiking in 1 year, Denver 7
Aspen Ridge teacher receives art award, Colorado Hometown Weekly
Educator Preparation Program Search Engine
CDE launched an updated Educator Preparation Program Search Tool to provide both potential and current educators and others with detailed information on Colorado’s traditional and alternative teacher preparation programs. The updated search engine is easier to navigate than the previous version and, with additional search fields, returns more applicable results.