Children in rural America face a unique set of health and education disparities.  In comparison to urban students, rural youth demonstrate higher levels of mortality; suicide; obesity; tobacco, alcohol, and illegal substance use; drinking and driving; teen births; and carrying weapons. They also have lower rates of school readiness, proficiency on standardized tests, and math performance.

Tailored solutions are needed to address these challenges particularly since more than half of US school districts are located in rural settings. These and other challenges fueled MCE’s decision to launch the Center for Rural School Health & Education to be led by rural expert, Elaine Belansky, PhD.

Belansky is a community-based participatory researcher who has been working in rural, low-income schools for 19 years.  She studies how universities and communities can work together to make schools healthy places. Her team developed a strategic planning process called “Assess. Identify. Make it Happen.” (AIM) which helps schools implement school-based environment and policy changes that support physical activity, healthy eating, mental health, and school engagement and decrease bullying, high risk sexual behavior, and drug use. Currently, her team is partnering with rural schools in Colorado to create comprehensive health and wellness plans that ensure students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.

Belansky has received over $13 million in grants from the CDC, NIH, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and The Colorado Health Foundation. She will begin her duties at Morgridge College May 1. Her six-person team will join her June 1. The research team includes:

  • Shannon Allen – Research Faculty
  • Ben Ingman – Research Faculty
  • Shirley Berg – Business Manager and AIM Facilitator
  • Jerry Jones – AIM Facilitator and Community Coordinator
  • Carla Loecke – Director of Curriculum and Training
  • Susan Portner – AIM Facilitator

The team of rural experts will engage rural school and community partners in Colorado and beyond to identify and address the most pressing issues facing rural education. The goal of the Center for Rural School Health & Education is to be the catalyst for achieving health and academic equity in rural communities across the nation.

The Educational Leadership Policy Studies (ELPS) Program at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) is a nationally-recognized leader in the field, and is ranked in this year’s Top 20 programs for Educational Administration and Supervision by U.S. News and World Report.

According to Susan Korach, Ed.D.—ELPS department chair—“Our systems of support and coursework embedded in school and district contexts prepares transformative leaders who positively impact the educational outcomes for all students. Institutions of higher education across the country have consulted with ELPS to redesign their programs and to build partnerships with schools and districts.” The infusion of turnaround leadership into coursework and the drive of students, faculty, and alumni to innovate propel program success.

One leading example of the program’s innovative impact lies in Denver Public Schools, which has approved the creation of an Innovation Zone called the Luminary Learning Network where educators have more autonomy to influence student success. Three of the schools in the Network—Denver Green School, Ashley Elementary School, and Cole Arts & Science Academy—have been founded by, or are currently run by, ELPS alumni. Denver Green School, founded by alumni Mimi Diaz (2008), Craig Harrer (2008, current Ed.D. candidate), and Andy Post (2008) and currently co-led by alumni Prudence Daniels (2007), is unique in this group for infusing project-based learning and environmental sustainability into its curriculum.

This story is featured in our 2016 Dean’s Report, which you can read in its entirety here.

Library and Information Science program (LIS) graduate Marta Pardo was featured in the Elbert County News recently for her work updating Elizabeth Middle School’s Library. Pardo, a Colombian immigrant with an impressive career history as a Medical Doctor and cancer researcher, found herself working in Colorado libraries in 2005. After several years working as a para professional she received a scholarship enabling her to pursue a Master’s degree in LIS at the Morgridge College of Education.

In 2014 Pardo began working at Elizabeth Middle School. “I wanted to work in a small library. Its important work” says Pardo who is firm believer of making a big impact in small communities. In her year at Elizabeth Middle School she has been able bring library technologies forward a decade and turn the library into a paradise for students.

Pardo advocates that her students – especially the female ones – “just do it, get into school, get an education.” She uses her own daughters, who are away at Yale on scholarships, as shining examples of what young woman can achieve.

Elbert County News is a part of Colorado Community Media. Colorado Community Media is a joint venture between MetroNorth Newspapers, Mile High Newspapers and Community Media of Colorado. Colorado Community Media’s authority on the 24 local communities it serves is unparalleled.

Students Kimmie DePinto and Jane Nelson from the Library and Information Sciences program have been working to archive materials from the family of Marlon Green, the African-American pilot whose employment discrimination lawsuit against Continental Airlines led to a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1963 and a victory for Green and the Civil Rights Movement.

Marlon Green was an Air Force veteran who, despite extensive flying experience, was unable to obtain employment as a commercial pilot in the 1950s; he secured an interview with Colorado-based Continental Airlines only after leaving the “race” box on the application unchecked. Green was ultimately passed over for employment at Continental in favor of white pilots with much less experience than he, leading to a complaint to Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Commission that he was discriminated against due to his race. The case was not resolved until the U.S. Supreme Court became involved and ruled in Green’s favor. Green went on to fly for Continental until his retirement in 1978.

Paula Green, Marlon’s daughter, contacted DU in 2015 about processing materials that came into her possession after the passing of her mother, Eleanor, and was able to begin working with DePinto and Nelson during the fall of 2015. Students from another university had processed some materials in 2004; however, Paula had since been in contact with the Smithsonian Institute about a possible donation of the collection and she wanted to renew progress on creating an organized collection in order to bring her father’s story to greater national prominence.

The project began as an independent study for DePinto, who was later joined by Nelson to assist. DePinto was interested in this opportunity because of her interest in working with minority collections to provide a voice for groups who would otherwise go unheard. “The hands-on involvement in a project of such importance allows students to put theory into action, provides a richer experience in the program beyond academic coursework, and prepares students for future employment” said LIS faculty Heather Ryan, Ph.D.

Nicolle Ingui Davies has been named the 2016 Library Journal Librarian of the Year, marking the first time a Colorado librarian has been recognized for the honor. Davies became the Executive Director for Arapahoe Library District in 2012. A District which runs eight libraries and recently received a budgetary increase of $6 million, bringing the total annual budget to $30 million. She began teaching at MCE for the Library and Information Science Program in 2015; Davies taught the Public Libraries course and is scheduled to do so again in the near future.

After becoming ALD’s Executive Director, Davies worked with the library board and staff to create a strategic plan and rebrand the library’s operations by establishing four pillars – deliver very important patron experiences, surprise and delight, make every experience matter, and strive for simplicity – to move ALD from “nice to essential” as a community resource and to ensure memorable experiences for every patron.

In addition to prioritizing high-quality patron interactions, Davies’ transformation of Arapahoe Libraries into essential community centers has included access to technology. Under her leadership, ALD is a local leader by taking on the costs, risks, and rewards of adopting and providing access to products in early development – sharing technology that is in its beta phase has proven to be extremely popular with patrons. Notable products ALD has procured include Google Glass, Go Pro camera, and 3-D printers.

MCE extends its congratulations to Nicolle and the Arapahoe Library District in obtaining national recognition for providing exemplary community leadership and resources. Read the full article here.

About Library Journal
Founded in 1876, Library Journal (LJ) is one of the oldest and most respected publications covering the library field. Over 75,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries read LJ. Library Journal reviews over 8000 books, audiobooks, videos, databases, and web sites annually, and provides coverage of technology, management, policy, and other professional concerns. For more information, visit
www.libraryjournal.com. Library Journal is a publication of Media Source Inc., which also owns School Library Journal, The Horn Book publications, and Junior Library Guild.

About Arapahoe Libraries
Arapahoe Libraries serve 250,000 patrons and include eight community libraries, a jail library and a Library on Wheels in Arapahoe County, Colorado. For more information, visit arapahoelibraries.org.

The Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy (MIELL) is assisting the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) in conducting a state-mandated study. This study centers on the development, delivery, and administration of comprehensive early childhood care and early childhood education in North Dakota. Dr. Carrie Germeroth, Assistant Director of Research at Marsico and the project director, works closely with a State Advisory Committee to provide insight on early childhood needs. The Marsico study “has really given us a roadmap, I think last session we didn’t have enough information to really make some changes,” said Senator Michael Nathe in the Grand Forks Herald. The state funding would cover approximately half of the cost of pre-kindergarten education for an estimated 6,000 children through annual grants of $1,000 per student. “With just 36 percent enrollment among 3- and 4-year-olds, the state ranks fifth from the bottom in early childhood education,” said Kirsten Baesle, State Superintendent. Under the legislation, communities would have to organize coalitions of early childhood education providers, both public and private. Dr. Germeroth also works closely with the State Advisory Committee developing a state Early Care and Education Framework and Parent Brief to support further legislative efforts.

Good day gold star 2We’d like to send a special congratulations to recent Teacher Education Program (TEP) graduate, Nina Jarnot. Nina has bas been awarded the Fox31 Good Day Gold Star Award, by Fox31 Denver. This monthly award goes to teachers who go above and beyond their call of duty.

With one week to go before the start of the 2014/2015 school year, Coyote Creek Elementary School in Highlands Ranch, CO, was in need of a second grade teacher. Nina quickly arrived to the rescue. She interviewed in the morning and by afternoon received a callback from administrators offering her the job, “It was a quick turnaround, but I was really thankful and excited,” Nina explains. The Good day gold star 3administrators aren’t alone in their approval of the new second grade teacher expresses one parent, “With her youth and enthusiasm, I think it really shines through, and I just think she’s a great asset to the school.”

The Morgridge College of Education and Teacher Education Program are proud of our very own, Nina Jarnot!

To see the Fox 31 segment highlighting Nina, follow this link:  http://www.covideo.com/p.php?s=51302bcd8b

This quarter, the Morgridge College of Education welcomed Dr. Diana Howard as the new Interim Director for the Ricks Center for Gifted Children. Dr. Howard is a nationally recognized leader in the field of gifted education and brings a wealth of experience to this new position.

Diana Howard photo

The Ricks Center is a pre-eminent program that provides gifted education to about 250 advanced learners ranging from three years of age to eighth grade and serves as a model demonstration site for graduate students. Its mission is, “to provide a dynamic and challenging educational environment that anticipates and responds to the individual, intellectual, social, emotional, physical, aesthetic, and cognitive needs of gifted children.” Dr. Howard’s commitment to gifted education and strategic vision will move the school forward in furthering this mission throughout the remainder of the academic year.

As a University of Denver alum, Dr. Howard graduated with a Ph.D. in Gifted Education and Administration in 1994. Her 24 year career includes studying in Ghana as a Fulbright scholar, a Peace Corps volunteer in Uruguay, and serving as a librarian and facilitator for advanced learners in both private and public schools thought Denver. She has also aided in opening and/or leading schools such as Challenge K-8 in Cherry Creek, Douglass Elementary in Boulder, Polaris at Ebert in Denver and Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy K-12 in Denver. In addition, Dr. Howard has been honored as outstanding Elementary Principal for the State of Colorado with the Wright Way Award in 2004, Colorado Art Education Association’s Award for Distinguished Leadership in the Arts in 2009 and the Gully Stanford Award for Arts Leadership in 2011.

In addition to her current position, Dr. Howard teaches college courses in Arts in Education, Young Gifted Children, Girls and Mathematics, Children’s Literature and Curriculum Integration. Her community involvement includes serving on the boards of VSA/Access Gallery, which serves youth with disabilities, and The Globeville Community Center, which provides education to people in need in the local community. She has also worked with the Denver Art Museum’s Creativity Resource website for teachers, and assisted with launching El Sistema Colorado at Garden Place Academy, which transforms the lives of children living in poverty through music.

This month, the University of Denver will launch a national search for a permanent director for the Ricks Center, with the goal of instating the new director by June 1, 2014.

Healthy Eaters, Lifelong Movers (HELM)

Healthy Eaters, Lifelong Movers (HELM)

The Morgridge College of Education’s Dr. Nick Cutforth is furthering his work with the Healthy Eaters, Lifelong Movers (HELM) Project. Dr. Cutforth’s interests focus on school-based interventions related to physical activity and healthy eating.  Funding for HELM has been extended for three more years, in the amount of $3.1 million through the Colorado Health Foundation. The funding will allow for a continued partnership between the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center, Colorado School of Public Health and the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver.

Colorado had the second fastest rate of increase in obesity in the United States in 2007. In 2003, Colorado ranked 49th in the United States with 22% of 10-17 year olds recognized as overweight or obese. By 2007, this group had increased to 27%.

The partnership between the Morgridge College of Education and the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center will allow for increased opportunities for healthy eating, physical activity, and high quality physical education in forty-six K-12 schools in the San Luis Valley and expand the program’s reach to 73 schools in Southeast Colorado.

After the first three years of the HELM Project, the San Luis Valley Physical Education Academy, co-founded by Dr. Cutforth, resulted in a  66% increase in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in elementary school physical education classes. The project also provides a Morgridge College of Education student the opportunity to gain InContext experience. The student will work part-time with the project by assisting with field research.


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