What comes to mind when you want to pass on a smile? At Morgridge College of Education, we thought coffee was a good way to make people smile. And then we thought some more and thought helping rural education could make children and educators across Colorado smile. And then connected the two ideas.

From August until November, Morgridge College admissions team members traveled across Colorado and parts of the Western United States to attend graduate recruitment fairs and conferences. At each conference our recruiters had one goal, to attract potential students to learn more about Morgridge. Learn about our programs, learn about our history, learn about our commitment to social good. After their chat, the potential student received a coffee card with a catch.

The coffee card was a gift card to a local coffee shop in that town. It included a gift so the potential student could go get a cup of coffee on us and digest their options for higher education; and it included an extra voucher so the individual could give away a cup of coffee to someone else to make them smile. Give the card to anyone, we said. Give it to your mentor, your friend, someone you met on the street, the person who held the door for you, just make someone’s day. Then, please tag us on social media using #MCEgiveahand and let us know why you gave away your coffee.

Now, we make the connection.  For each coffee card redeemed, Morgridge committed to making a donation to the Colorado Rural Schools Alliance to fund advocacy. Rural schools have unique challenges in education and we want to give them a voice and the tools to advocate for their students and educators.

We had some success on social media. We had some phone calls from small coffee shops who thanked us for supporting their small business. We had some individuals who loved getting their coffee. And at the end of it all, we got to donate $2,500 to rural schools in Colorado. Because if we don’t invest in leaders today, we can’t expect leaders of tomorrow.

December 11th, 2017—Why should the activity of giving thanks be confined to one day?  What about a season of Thanksgiving?  Why confine gratitude for others, your calling, the Earth, to one day during the year? Thanksgiving is many things to many people– it is known as a time to gather with family and friends to express thanks for the gift of deep relationships.  To gather with colleagues and honor a shared sense of professional calling.  Even to sit silently and express to the universe an appreciation for the experience of being alive.  In the field of education there are many aspects of teaching that are thankless and are so onerous that being grateful is beyond the realm of possibility.  The must do activities that have little intrinsic reward constitute the work of teaching.  But every teacher knows that teaching at its best is more than a to do list of life-draining tasks. Most of the time, good teaching is filled with many life-renewing experiences that deserve special treatment, to be named and to be thanked. Giving gratitude for the work of teaching can be a daily practice.

There is good reason to practice gratitude, to think of it as something more than just Thanksgiving Day.  For instance, the research is clear that the act of gratitude for physicians can reduce the symptoms of burnout by bringing joy into their work. The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) offers this rationale for incorporating gratitude into the practice of medicine:

“Gratitude can add joy and meaning to their work. It can strengthen doctors’ social ties and commitment to generous helping and compassion, and help to meet their psychological needs for autonomy, competence and connectedness.

To add to the CMAJ report, Dr. Dike Drummond makes an argument for the physical, psychological, and social benefits of gratitude including: stronger immune systems, less bothered by aches and pains, better sleep, positive emotions, more optimism and happiness, more compassionate, more forgiving, and less lonely.

But what about teachers? What is the role of gratitude in their professional life?  With so many instructional and curricular constraints and the nearly constant criticism of teachers, what is there to be grateful for?  My short list includes: students who help me refine the elements of my teaching center—my calling, colleagues who help me see when I’m right and who are willing to challenge me when I’m wrong, a teaching context that allows for a degree of curricular and pedagogical freedom, and unexpected moments when the classroom dissolves away to reveal the mystery of learning.

Many of the best educators I know have rituals, practices, and traditions that anchor their teaching. Do you have any gratitude rituals?  Are there any regular activities that you engage in around giving thanks when teaching?  I know teachers who keep a gratitude journal, use a gratitude app on their phone, write notes to students thanking them for showing up every day, or welcome students to class with expressions of gratitude.  My favorite example of a gratitude practice occurs at the end of the day when a teacher, just before falling asleep, names three things that happened during the day that are worthy of thanks.  This simple practice can bring joy, contentment, increased feelings of connectedness, and better sleep to a teacher.

I’ve been paying attention to my gratitude practices lately, some I knew about (thanking students for asking deep questions) and other rituals that I was less aware of.  For instance, I now realize that at the end of the week, after I’ve straightened up my office, after I’ve checked to make sure I’m taking the right work home to be prepared for Monday, after I’ve watered by plants, I do one last thing.  I pause for just a moment before closing my door and I thank my office for all the big and small acts of teaching it facilitated during the week.  I picture the ways my office, as sacred instructional space, enabled me to bring forward the fullness of my calling to teach.  I think the poet Mary Oliver has it right when she states: “Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”  How are you blessed where you stand today as a teacher?  What act of teaching today deserves your gratitude?

The University of Denver’s (DU) Morgridge College of Education’s (MCE) Ricks Center for Gifted Children has received accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The accreditation comes from the largest nonprofit association in the United States representing early childhood education and reflects the highest professional standards for quality young children programs.

“Ricks Center for Gifted Children is committed to the accreditation process, which provides a framework for continuous improvement according to the highest standards of school performance.  NAEYC accreditation ensures top performance in our education of young children, including family support, teacher training, student safety, and community engagement.  Accredited by both NAEYC and AdvancEd, Ricks supports all of its students in realizing their full potential,” Anne Sweet, Ricks Center Director said.

Achieving NAEYC Accreditation is a four-step process that involves self-study, self-assessment, candidacy, and meeting and maintaining accreditation over a five-year period. Directors, teachers, and families all participate in the process. Programs are required to meet standards grouped into 10 areas: relationships with children, curriculum, teaching approaches, child assessment, nutrition and health, staff qualifications, relationship with children’s families, relationship with the community, physical environment, and program leadership and management.

“The Morgridge College of Education represents distinction in early childhood; from the Marsico Institute to the Fisher Early Learning Center to our Early Childhood Special Education programs, MCE serves as a leader,” said Dr. Karen Riley, Dean of Morgidge College of Education. “As such we want to ensure that we are meeting the highest standards for the children and families that we serve and that we are engaged in continual improvement.  NAEYC is the gold standard in this area and provides a framework to ensure exceptional quality and a means for thoughtful reflective practice.  This accreditation assures the families that we serve that we meet or exceed the highest of national standards and provides our graduate students with a model of excellence in the field.”

The Ricks Center for Gifted Children is operated by the Morgridge College of Education and is an extension of the College’s renowned work in the area of gifted education. In addition to providing a rigorous educational experience for gifted children from preschool to 8th grade, the model school also serves as an on-campus training and research facility for graduate students across the college including but not limited to school psychology, early childhood, curriculum and instruction and educational leadership.

The Office of the Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education at the Morgridge College of Education is pleased to announce Dr. Marcia Gentry as recipient of the 2018 Palmarium Award, an annual award given to an individual who most exemplifies the vision of the Office of the Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education. The office seeks a future in which giftedness will be understood, embraced, and systemically nurtured. Recipients of the Palmarium Award demonstrate the vision through understanding of giftedness in the areas of:

  • Practice by impacting graduate education, pre-service, and P-12 community
  • Outreach through advocacy at a variety of levels (local, national, international)
  • Publications informing teachers, children, parents, policy makers, and academia
  • Research influencing theory, practice, and policy

“Through the generosity of the Considine Family Foundation, the Palmarium Award provides professional acknowledgment and tangible support to eminent leaders in the field of Gifted Education,” said Norma Hafenstein, the Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education. “We are pleased to recognize Marcia [Gentry] for her visionary work in understanding the needs of this population and advocating for gifted children traditionally unrecognized.”

Gentry is a Professor of Educational Studies and directs the Gifted Education Resource Institute at Purdue University. Her research interests include student attitudes toward school and the connection of these attitudes toward learning and motivation; the use of cluster-grouping and differentiation to meet the needs of students with gifts and talents while helping all students achieve at high levels; the use of non-traditional settings for talent development; the development and recognition of talent among underserved populations including students with diverse cultural backgrounds including Native American youth, and children who live in poverty. She actively participates in NAGC and AERA, frequently contributes to the gifted education literature, and regularly serves as a speaker and consultant. She was the 2014 recipient of the prestigious National Association for Gifted Children’s Distinguished Scholar Award and has received multiple grants worth several million dollars in support of her work with programming practices and underrepresented populations in gifted education.

Gentry will receive her award and present the lunchtime address at the 8th Annual Gifted Education Symposium and Conference, “Talented Voices: Diversity and Equity in Gifted Education” at the University of Denver on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Please visit the conference link for registration and other conference details. For more information about this award, visit the conference webpage.

Dr. William Cross’ co-authored book, “Meaning-making, Internalized Racism and African American Identity”, was recently re-released in paperback as part of the State University of New York (SUNY) Press series in African American Studies. One of America’s leading theorists and researchers on black identity development in particular, and racial-ethnic identity development in general, Cross has been in the field since 1963.

“Research on black identity has typically centered on personalogical variables such as self-esteem, anxiety, etc.,” he said. “The new text explores the value of shifting the discourse to more philosophical and meaning-making outcome variables.”

His co-author, Jas M. Sullivan, a political scientist at LSU, studies race, identity and political behavior. The collaboration allows the research to incorporate different views on black identity for a well-rounded view on social identity.

On page 332 of the conclusion section, Sullivan and Cross make the following point.

“ . . . identity, especially racial-ethnic identity, represent a search for meaning and purpose and while many – perhaps the majority – of black people incorporate elements of race and ethnicity into the construction of their social identity (sense of blackness), such a tendency, while ubiquitous, is not prescriptive – not a requirement.  The studies in this volume expand our understanding of the range of social identities black people adopt in their search for meaning, purpose a personal well-being.”

Cross holds a joint appointment at Morgridge College of Education in Counseling Psychology and Higher Education.


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