Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) alumnus and Denver Public Schools (DPS) graduate Allen Smith has led a highly successful career in education administration that has taken him across the country and earned him national  recognition. Smith, who earned his MA at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) and completed the ELPS Ritchie Program for School Leaders Certificate program, credits his education at the University of Denver as a major influence in his success.

A Colorado native, Smith has served as principal at multiple DPS schools, as well as filled superintendent roles in North Carolina and California. He was honored by President Barack Obama for his work as the executive director of Denver Summit Schools where he implemented innovative community engagement efforts. Smith currently serves as the associate chief of the DPS Culture Equity & Leadership Team.

Smith says that the opportunities in the ELPS program helped to establish a larger career trajectory and enable him to more effectively create a lasting impact. To this day, he translates the tools and lessons acquired in the program into his work.

Career Achievements

Smith founded the Skyland Community High School which serves at-risk students in Denver and graduated its first senior class with 100% graduation and 100% college acceptance rates. He also worked at Barrett Elementary School, where he reduced discipline rates and increased student achievement and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College (MLK), which, under his leadership and a turnaround initiative, improved from one of the nation’s lowest-ranked schools to one of the top schools in DPS. The MLK Early College was also recognized with two Distinguished School Awards from the Colorado Department of Education. Smith acknowledges the support of fellow ELPS graduates, who served as assistant principals at the school, with helping to make a lasting impact on the environment.

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 (LIS) student Anna Kongs is refurbishing an ambulance into an interactive bookmobile to serve the greater Denver community; it is expected to officially launch in summer 2016. Kongs plans to establish a presence—similar to food trucks—at many of the area’s local farmer’s markets and festivals and will provide an interactive experience for patrons through light and sound as well as by hosting events for artists and writers. In addition, the bookmobile will serve high-need and less-resourced areas of Denver as a mobile library, bookstore, and book donation center.

Kongs started the project because of a lifelong love of books and interest in stories, and she “didn’t want to wait until graduation” to begin applying the lessons of her studies to the outside world. She came to the University of Denver (DU) from an accounting career—wanting a change to a creative field—and joined the Library and Information Science program because of the versatility that graduates have in their careers, choosing to focus on public librarianship, outreach, and programming. With the bookmobile, Kongs wants to give back to the community and carve a place in the local literary community.

The project has gained awareness on campus and in the literary community; Kongs has benefitted from support from her peers at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE)—many of whom have offered assistance—and advice from literacy nonprofits in Denver such as the Lighthouse Writers Workshop and Burning Through Pages.

Kongs successfully applied for 501(c)3 non-profit status, which she says was in and of itself a learning experience. She completed a test run of the bookmobile this spring, and will attend her first events in Denver this month. She has created a digital presence for the project, which can be found here.

Recent Child, Family, and School Psychology program graduate Brittany Greiert focused her academic research and dissertation on sex and relationship education for individuals with autism, a topic that has seen little research or development of guidelines until recently.

Prior to enrolling at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE), Greiert worked with a nonprofit reproductive health organization and noticed the lack of resources available for individuals with disabilities. This inspired Greiert to continue her education in order to address the resource gap, and she chose MCE because of the college’s support of her research interests. Greiert says that historically there have been extremely limited resources for comprehensive sexual education for those with autism, and that while there has been progress in the past few years, there are few guidelines on the topic.

Her work has led to a variety of opportunities for collaboration and sharing in the community and on a national level; in 2015, she collaborated with a colleague at Emerge: Professionals in Autism, Behavior, and Personal Growth to present a workshop at the Autism Society of Colorado titled “What happens in Vegas…Autism Style! Sex, dating, and intimacy.” Nationally, Greiert presented her findings on data, resources, and gaps in research at the 2016 National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) annual conference.

Greiert’s dissertation research resulted in the development of the Guidelines for the Development of Sexuality Education Curricula for High Functioning Adolescent Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The guidelines are intended to be used as a tool to guide future sex education curriculum development, address the unique needs of students with autism, and provide suggestions to modify existing curricula so that their needs are met. Furthermore, the guidelines function as an advocacy tool to increase awareness of the unique needs of high-functioning students with autism.  Greiert says that being proactive in creating a structured approach and presentation of information would be of huge benefit to individuals with autism as well as to school psychologists and parents of children with autism.

Teacher Education Program (TEP) student Krystal Giles participated in a round-table discussion with Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock as part of the Make Your Mark campaign. The round-table, hosted by Denver Public Schools (DPS) Acting Superintendent Susana Cordova and Mayor Hancock, focused on the important role teachers of color play as advocates and role models for students of color.

The Make your Mark Campaign is an initiative dedicated to diversifying the faculty population working in Denver schools by recruiting educators of color. Mayor Hancock, DPS, six charter school networks, and several foundations have teamed up to lead this campaign. Their goal is to assure that the faculty working in Denver schools better reflects the diverse student population.

Diversifying teacher demographics is especially important in Denver. Statistics from Make Your Mark show that—in DPS—while over 75% of Denver students are of color, teachers of color make up less than 25% of the regions educators.

As part of the TEP field experience requirement, Giles, a Dual Degree Teacher Education candidate at MCE, works as an Apprentice Teacher at Barnum Elementary School in Denver. She was invited to participate in the round-table through the connections she developed during her field experience.

MCE promotes inclusive excellence and diversity in all of its programs, and recruits students who have a passion for inclusivity. Students like Giles are trained to become ideal candidates for schools looking to employ teachers dedicated to serving diverse populations.

Several Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) alumni, all of whom lead schools in DPS, are banding together to create an “innovation zone.” Chalkbeat Colorado reports that this zone will consist of several innovation schools which already operate in Denver. Innovation schools are defined by the high level of autonomy given to school leaders. This autonomy allows leaders to create unique and effective learning environments.

Ashley Elementary School became an innovation school in 2013 after principal Zach Rahn (MCE class of 2010) was hired as part of a turnaround effort. Since then, Ashley has seen progress in academic achievement as well as in school culture. Rahn strives to “inject joy into each day” at Ashley Elementary.

The Denver Green School is co-led by MCE alumna Prudence Daniels and serves students in K-8. This innovation school has its own produce garden, where each class tends a plot. The school uses solar panels for energy, providing unique learning experiences for students.

The Cole Arts & Science Academy, which is led by MCE alumna Jen Jackson, has focused heavily on early literacy. The school’s Kindergarten through third-grade currently ranks among the top in the state for literacy.

The leaders of these three schools – along with the leader of Creativity Challenge Community – are seeking the creation of this innovation zone, governed by a new nonprofit organization. This proposed zone will provide the innovation schools with even more autonomy, further allowing them to meet their separate needs while sharing in the common goal of promoting individualized learning. It’s all about “going from good to great” says Rahn.

The ELPS program specializes in training individuals capable of implementing positive change in the institutions they lead. Graduates like Rahn, Daniels, and Jackson learn to apply their skills, transforming low-performing schools into effective learning environments.

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 department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) at the Morgridge College of Education hosted a colloquium on November 30 that focused on the challenges and experiences of turnaround schools in the greater Denver area. The event featured a panel discussion between principals of current turnaround schools as well as district administrators working with turnaround schools.

The colloquium’s panelists, all of whom have graduated from, or are current students of, the Turnaround Success Program, included:

  • Peter Sherman, Executive Director of the District & School Performance Unit at the Colorado Department of Education
  • LaDawn Baity, Instructional Superintendent and former principal of Trevista at Horace Mann
  • Ivan Duran, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education, a graduate of Denver Public Schools, and a current EdD candidate at the Morgridge College of Education
  • Nick Dawkins, principal at Manual High School
  • Lisa Mahannah, principal at Oakland Elementary
  • Julie Murgel, principal at DCIS Montbello
  • Jésus Rodríguez, principal at Trevista at Horace Mann and current doctoral candidate at the Morgridge College of Education

The panelists held a discussion about the realities of providing leadership in turnaround schools and the many factors, internal and external, which can contribute to a school requiring turnaround services. Pre-conceived notions about communities, the difficulty of providing adequate mental health services, and disparities in low-income and disadvantaged communities all contribute to a lack of student success.

Culture was an important theme of the discussion; panelists talked about how important it is to create a structure and provide high expectations and accountability to change students’ perceptions of learning.

A second, and significant, theme of the evening was innovation. The ability to innovate varies between each school due to differences in priorities. Despite this, panelists all agreed that having the ability to take initiative to get results in schools is of the utmost importance.

After the panel discussion, attendees engaged in a design thinking activity in collaboration with the Daniels College of Business. Jennifer Larson, a student at the Daniels College, led a brief presentation describing design thinking – the experience of “how” rather than just “what,” and asking “what if we?” or “why can’t we?” – in relation to solving a challenge. The activity included participants breaking out into groups to learn from each other about unique experiences with challenges in their educational work.

Susan Korach, the ELPS Department Chair, closed the event by asking what the audience heard and did not hear from panelists and fellow participants. Attendees noted that they did not hear discussions about test scores or practicing for assessments, nor did they hear pessimism or excuses from their colleagues about the work they do. They did hear an emphasis on relationship-building in their communities, honesty about equity and oppression, and hope and optimism regarding the future.

On Saturday, September 26, Share Fair Nation (SFN) hadShare Fair Nation another successful year with more than 500 teachers and education leaders and hundreds of families in attendance. This annual event brought together innovators in STEM education and offered engaging, hands-on teaching strategies designed to ignite the imaginations of today’s diverse PreK-12 students.

SFN which began in Denver in 2009 was created by John and Carrie Morgridge, philanthropists leading the Morgridge Fami
ly Foundation (MFF) and longtime ambassadors for the University of Denver. It was designed to provide PreK-12 educators the opportunity to discover emergent technologies and discover firsthand the most effective approaches to delivering 21st Century education.

The morning kicked off with an exciting art performance and presentation by key note speaker, Erik Wahl, an internationally renowned graffiti artist and best-selling author. Erik encouraged audience members to tap into their passion for lifelong learning by exploring the power of creativity to achieve superior performance.

The remainder of the day was filled with engaging interactive sessions for families and educators. At the Ritchie Center Magness Arena, STEMosphere was at full capacity as exhibitors showcased innovation and creativity and guests participated in STEM-oriented interactive exhibits that were hands-on, minds-on adventures for all. With more than 15 exhibitions on the floor, exhibitors ranged from The Denver Zoo to SeaPearch, The Denver Museum of Nature and Science to KEVA Planks.

At the Morgridge College of Education, teachers and education leaders had an opportunity to participate in 20+ hands-on Classroom Intensives. These sessions were filled with thought provoking and interactive activities and discussions on topics such as Design Thinking, Heart Lab, Game-Based Learning, and Problem-Based Learning. Attendees were able to receive University of Denver Certificates of Completion for Contact Hours for sessions they attended.

Lessons learned at SFN extend beyond the event as attendees carry back to their schools, fellow teachers, and classrooms the new and creative education methods they learned, propelling schools across the country toward even greater 21st Century learning opportunities. “Share Fair Nation exemplifies Morgridge College of Education’s commitment to life-long learning through professional development. We believe that as a College, our responsibility to teachers extends beyond pre-service to ongoing teacher development and support through innovative, hands-on learning.” Said Karen Riley, Dean of the Morgridge College of Education.

The exciting day came to a close at the Morgridge College of Education with attendees joining Share fair Nation founder, Carrie Morgridge, outside for prizes, which included Ipads, Chromebooks, Kindles, STEM kits, subscriptions, and much more.

The Morgridge College of Education (MCE) has received a substantial donation in support of its Library and Information Science Program from Ruth D. Klein. The donation will go to scholarships for this year’s incoming Master’s students. Ms. Klein is a graduate of DU’s LIS Program and served as a librarian in the Denver Public Schools for over 30 years.

Ruth Klein was honored by the Morgridge College of Education and DU’s Office of Advancement at a luncheon on March 4th, where Dean Karen Riley (MCE) and Dean Nancy Allen (Anderson Academic Commons) joined LIS students and faculty members to thank Ms. Klein for her contributions to the field of library information science.

The University of Denver Morgridge College of Education (MCE) is screening the film TEACH by Davis Guggenheim, on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. Teach follows the struggles and triumphs of America’s education system through the eyes, minds and hearts of its most essential resource: teachers.

The film is hosted by Queen Latifah and directed by Oscar®-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, who also created the documentary, Waiting for “Superman.” Guggenheim focuses on how to develop and retain great teachers in the United States; Morgridge’s Teacher Preparation Programs (TPP) are a part of this movement. A  Morgridge Alum, Matt Johnson, is featured in the film.

The screening is being held for educators from across the Denver metropolitan area. It will also feature a special Q&A session with two of the film’s featured teachers, Matt Johnson (McGlone Elementary School-Denver) and Lindsay Chinn (MLK Early College-Denver), as well as an administrator from each school. Because we’ve had such a positive response from community members/educators, there will be a separate screening for MCE students, faculty and staff.

TEACH by Davis Guggenheim

TEACH by Davis Guggenheim

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.


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