Rural Colorado Road Trip: Lessons Learned

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I hit the road to visit the PEBC Teacher Residency’s three rural Colorado cohorts. Despite the somewhat harrowing drive through the “Disappointment Valley” of Western Colorado, it was worth every snowy mile to spend face-to-face time with our residents, teachers of record, and local staff. As I watched a PEBC Teacher Resident lead instruction at Manaugh Elementary School, I realized how much I missed being part of the action and learning from these dedicated professionals!

Following are a few key takeaways from my journey around the Centennial State.

Colorado’s education leaders care about kids.
In Durango, I met with a group of Southwest Colorado education leaders and was struck by how deeply they care about students. Yet in today’s polarized climate, every decision these education leaders make is met with resistance. I left the meeting wishing every Coloradan could see first-hand that this is a group of people tasked with a job that feels impossible. Tears were shed, hugs were exchanged, at one point we even took a break for a moment of guided mindfulness. This is a group of people that care deeply about kids, and for that, I am grateful.

Like the state itself, Colorado’s students are diverse and amazing!
In Aspen, I visited a PEBC Teacher of Record who was leading a Spanish for Heritage Speakers class. Being in a classroom of native Spanish speakers was a wonderful reminder of the richness that diversity brings to my home state as well as the funds of knowledge that a diverse student demographic brings to a learning community. Whether it be the students in Durango learning about trout species from a local fly fishing guide, or teenagers in the San Luis Valley learning the structure of Haiku, Colorado is a remarkable place to teach and learn.

PEBC Teacher Residents are some of the best in the business!
For years, children growing up on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation had to take a bus to Cortez to attend school. This year, the Kwiyagat Community Academy (KCA) opened on the reservation and welcomed a kindergarten and first grade class. PEBC Teacher of Record Eddie Louhran relocated from his home in a Denver suburb to serve as one of two full time teachers. During my visit to the Reservation, it was clear that Eddie is 100% dedicated to his students who are engaged, happy, and extremely curious.

As a former teacher myself, I know that it is important to be able to put what you’ve learned into action. Here are three concrete actions I learned about to support Colorado educators right now:

  • Stay informed. Continually building awareness through researching, listening, and questioning can help us to better understand what support our teachers need most.
  • Get involved. One way we can support school leaders is by participating in community and school board meetings in constructive and supportive ways.
  • Volunteer to help. Even if classroom volunteer opportunities are limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, there are plenty of other meaningful ways to help local schools. Gardening, helping with building maintenance, and fundraising are just a few examples.

Finally, you can make a real difference by referring a future teacher. We are always seeking talented individuals to join the teaching profession. If you or someone you know would make a great teacher, please send them my way! We are currently accepting applications for the 2022/23 school year.

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