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The Spark - November 2023

The Spark. A newsletter filled with information and inspiration for Colorado teachers.

A message to you from Education Commissioner Susana Córdova

Portrait of Commissioner Susana Córdova


Last Friday, we announced the 2024 Teacher of the Year Jessica May in a raucous ceremony at Turner Middle School in Berthoud. You can read more about Ms. May in a profile below, but she is a fierce advocate for her students and colleagues. 

For me, the best moment of the ceremony occurred when Ms. May was receiving her award and her students in the stands started to get a little rowdy. Her 21 years of teaching experience (and being a mom to four boys) kicked in. She used the most effective tool a teacher has – her laser glare – to cast the nonverbal command that every teacher develops. Her eyes quickly and quietly told them to behave. And they did.

“I tried not to do the teacher side-eye,” she said later. “But it's in my DNA.” 

Every fall, the Colorado Department of Education designates one exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled K-12 teacher to be the Colorado Teacher of the Year and represent the profession for the year.

This was my first time as commissioner bestowing the deserved honor to one of Colorado’s great teachers. And, I must say, I love this award. In Colorado, as with the rest of the nation, we don’t do nearly enough to recognize what you all do. Teaching is a calling. People who take on this profession know there will be long hours, grading papers into the night, lesson planning, professional development and all of the other challenges that come with teaching in the 21st century. They know that the pay will never be enough. But they also know their influence can transform lives, inspire tomorrow’s leaders and foster a love of learning that can last a lifetime. 

The Teacher of the Year takes one of our best and gives them a spotlight to become an advocate for students and colleagues. They join my teacher’s cabinet, where I rely on them to tell me what is going on in the classroom and how our policies and laws are affecting them and what we must change to get better. The teachers are entered into the National Teacher of the Year contest, go to the White House in the spring for a special celebration and attend NASA’s Space Camp. 

A few years ago, we invited Denver 7 to partner with us on the Teacher of the Year program. The channel helps promote the program to get more people to nominate teachers and for teachers who are nominated to apply. They also boost the teacher’s profile through interviews and appearances. Their reporters also are part of the committee that selects the teacher and emcee the ceremony. 

This year the Boettcher Foundation partnered with us, serving on the selection committee and providing a $5,000 no-strings attached award for the Teacher of the Year. The Boettcher Foundation is also contributing an additional $5,000 investment to help us elevate the Teacher of the Year’s voice. I’m so grateful to them for their support which acknowledges not only the contributions our Teacher of the Year has already made in their classrooms, but also their potential to have a greater impact statewide. 

Every Teacher of the Year we’ve had in Colorado has been an amazing example of the high quality teachers we have in Colorado. It is my hope to grow the program in the coming years, elevating the Teacher of the Year’s voice to increase awareness of how amazing our teachers are in Colorado and inspiring a whole new generation of teachers. 

Warm regards,


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Berthoud teacher Jessica May named 2024 Colorado Teacher of the Year

Jessica May Photo

For Jessica May, her guiding principle in life has always been to give others a voice.

May, who has taught for 21 years in the Thompson School District, was announced as the 2024 Colorado Teacher of the Year in a surprise ceremony at her Berthoud school last Friday, giving her a platform to advocate for her students and colleagues.

May has long been speaking up for others, learning that trait from her mother who was a foster parent for 19 years, raising 189 foster children.

“I got to see her be a mother and a voice for those who don't have a voice,” May said after the ceremony. “That showed me you can do that in a lot of ways, and you don't have to be related to them.”

As a middle school teacher, May sees the difficulty her students go through navigating that in-between world between childhood and adulthood. 

“They are stuck between being elementary little kids and young adults in high school,” she said. “I’m trying to help them find their voice because they still want hugs and still like stickers and playing Twister and how can they communicate with people about what they need and want.”

May says she does it through love. She wants her students to know that she loves them, expects a lot from them and wants to help them become their best selves. She teaches family consumer science at Turner Middle School, which includes courses on personal finance, child development and everyday real-world responsibilities, like folding laundry, paying the bills and how to be a good human.

“I tell them that the cooking and cleaning and everything we are learning isn’t for them, it’s so that when someone is coming home from the hospital, they have a meal to bring them, or when you don’t have any money to give a Christmas present, you give them a card that says I will wash your car once a week for a month,” she said.

May is a mother of four boys, has a master’s in education from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s in education from University of Northern Colorado. She was voted Thompson School District’s Teacher of the Year in 2020 and is known as the teacher who could find the perfect novel for any student, especially the most reluctant.

She said she is looking forward to having an influence.

“All the years I have been at the middle school level, there are shifts that need to be made for the best interests of students, and I want to fight for those,” she said. “I was always that ELA teacher who would write the letters to try to get action. Now all of a sudden, I have this title that hopefully opens more doors to change. I am super excited to move in a direction that I can be really proud of knowing that when I retire that I did something for my district and maybe even my state.”


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Public comment sought on new Computer Science Standards 

Spark Photo for Public Feedback


The State Board of Education at its November meeting is expected to review a draft of the Colorado Academic Standards in Computer Science, which will include new standards on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. The Committee for the Computer Science Standards Review and Revision recently completed a draft for the proposed revisions and additions to the current Computer Science Standards. 

The committee followed recommendations from the State Board of Education to review a benchmarking report from McREL to address gaps in our current standards.

Teachers and other members of the public will be invited to provide their comments on the draft standards after the board’s review on Wednesday, Nov. 8..

Follow along for updates on our CS Standards Review and Revision Committee page.


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Commissioner Córdova engages with Teachers Cabinet to strengthen education initiatives

Spark Photo of Teacher Cabinet 2023



On a recent Friday in October, Colorado Education Commissioner Susana Córdova held her first meeting with the Commissioner’s Teachers Cabinet, a dynamic group established in 2017 to facilitate direct feedback and guidance for the commissioner on education issues.

Commissioner Córdova shared anecdotes from her time as a student in Colorado's public school system, emphasizing the transformative potential of public education and encouraged cabinet members to reflect on their own perspectives and experiences. 

"I am a testament to what public education can produce,” she said. “We just have to figure out how to offer it to more people." 

Cabinet members spoke about their current roles and the passions that led them to become teachers. They also took the Indigo Assessment, a science-based, multidimensional tool to help people gain insights into their behaviors, motivations, career readiness skills and social-emotional perceptions.

The Teachers Cabinet is composed of selected educators who represent diverse regions of Colorado, spanning various ethnicities, grade levels and communities, including urban, rural and suburban. The Colorado Teacher of the Year automatically becomes a member of the advisory group upon his or her selection. Cabinet members volunteer their time and serve two-year terms, committing to a minimum of four meetings per year.

For additional information about the Commissioner's Teacher Cabinet and its initiatives, please visit the Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet.




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November is Family and School Partnership in Education Month

Spark Image FSCP

November is Family and School Partnership in Education Month, a time for teachers to celebrate their students’ families and work on building important connections.

Research indicates that family, school and community partnerships lead to improved student attendance, higher graduation rates and a deeper sense of belonging. CDE, in collaboration with the State Advisory Council for Parent Involvement in Education, has developed resources to help schools, districts and early childhood programs implement the P-12 Family, School and Community Partnership Framework. 

A fact sheet is available that explains why Family and School Partnerships are important and the significance of celebrating it every November. 

This P-12 FSCP Framework User’s Guide includes a corresponding free online course for district and school/program staff to learn about Colorado's P-12 FSCP Framework and associated rubrics for self-assessment. Teachers who complete the course will receive five hours of professional development credits.

Additionally, The Office of Family, School, and Community Partnerships has released its meetings and events calendar for the 2023-24 school year. The calendar is updated regularly so check back often for the most up-to-date information.

The Office of Family, School and Community Partnerships created an online learning center, which acts as a hub of online courses available for anyone to use, including frameworks and strategies for implementing best practices at building family and community partnerships in elementary, middle or high schools.   

Finally, the 2023 edition of Promising Partnership Practices is available, which highlights how schools and districts around Colorado have partnered with families and the community for student success.

If you or your colleagues have discovered innovative and effective ways to connect with families or the community, please share them on social media with the hashtag #PartnerInEd #FSCPMonth2023.  


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Additional news and resources

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Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with lessons and a professional learning series

To honor the rich and diverse cultures, histories and traditions of Colorado’s Native peoples for November’s Native American Heritage Month, CDE is sharing teacher resources about Colorado’s Ute nations, including lessons for kindergarten and first-grade about the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and fourth grade lessons about all three Ute nations and peoples on the Office of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education’s American Indian Education webpage.  

Additionally, teachers can find modules to support culturally responsive instruction for Native American students.  This professional learning series provides a framework for instruction that emphasizes experiential, active and student-centered learning. This series does not provide lessons or curricula on particular cultures, histories, or languages. Instead, the series provides the pedagogical principles to support you in creating or adjusting lessons and curricula informed by and integrating your students’ cultures. Implementing this process will pave the way for your students to achieve success, both in and out of the classroom.  For More Information, contact Georgina Owen, American Indian education coordinator, at

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