Morgridge College of Education (MCE) alumni serve in every school district in the greater Denver area. MCE grads are in approximately 300 leadership positions in the Denver Public School District (DPS) alone. Those positions include 82 principals, 107 assistant principals, and 4 instructional superintendents from the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program (ELPS). That number doesn’t even include the hundreds of MCE alumni who have graduated from the Teacher Education Preparation program (TEP) and now serve in high-needs and high-achieving schools across the front range and beyond.

With such a long list of educators, it became something of a challenge to determine the best way to recognize them during the annual Teacher Appreciation Week. That’s when University of Denver’s (DU) Vice Chancellor for Advancement, Armin Afsahi, MCE’s Director of Alumni Engagement, Megan Stribling, and TEP Field Coordinator, Betsy Leonard, joined forces to create an extended two-week long Educator Appreciation Event in conjunction with DU’s Alumni Weekend activities.

According to Stribling, “At MCE, we love our teachers so much, we couldn’t show our appreciation in just one week – we had to do two! With Teacher Appreciation Week and DU’s Alumni Weekend back to back, combining them just made sense.”

The Appreciation Blitz kicked off during the traditional Teacher Appreciation Week and culminated with a visit by MCE Dean Karen Riley and Vice Chancellor Armin Afsahi to Carson Elementary School. At each school, recipients were presented with a basket of DU appreciation items, along with a Distinguished Partner certificate.

“Morgridge College is intentionally community-focused. We place upwards of 600 students in schools, mental health clinics and non-profits throughout the Denver area. We created the MCE Distinguished Partner designation this year, as a way to recognize those key organizations with whom we work. It’s a very symbiotic relationship,” said Dean Karen Riley.

Principal, Anne Larkin, seemed to agree with that description, “We love getting DU students and hiring them as teachers. They are so prepared when they come to us!”

Carson Elementary was selected as the final stop on the Appreciation Blitz due to the high number of MCE alumni that currently serve there, including Assistant Principal Valecia Von Weiss and School Lead for Teacher Mentoring Natalie Jacobsen.

Like many schools, Carson is not just home to MCE alumni, but also to current TEP student teachers. While touring the school, Riley and Afsahi made stops at each classroom where a mentor teacher was providing leadership to an MCE student educator. Mentor teachers, most of whom are MCE alumni, included Corey Broker, Natalie Jacobsen, Cynthia Smith, and Whitney Adams.

At one stop, Dean Riley was invited to participate in an impromptu sign language conversation with students in Ms. Diniro’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program (DHH) classroom.

This visit was the highlight of my day. It reminds us all of why we do what we do, and the profound impact our teachers make every single day,” said Riley.

 Armin Afsahi seemed to agree with that sentiment, as upon returning to the DU campus, he asked, “So, can we do that again tomorrow?!”

Although the senior leadership will probably not be making daily school visits, they will be hard at work raising awareness around the critical advances that DU alumni and all teachers are making to create more possibilities through access to quality education.

Dr. Hitoshi Sato, associate professor at Fukuoka University in Japan, visited MCE this week as part of his government-funded research on teacher preparation in the U.S.

Sato selected MCE due to its CAEP accreditation and track record of teacher residency success.

“The University of Denver, Morgridge College of Education has one of the best and largest teacher preparation programs in the US, so I am really interested in how the program assesses the outcome of teacher candidates and assures the quality of programs, including how to respond to the requirement of CAEP standards,” Sato said.

Sato spent the day at Morgridge College interacting with faculty, staff and students around the topic of internal quality assurance and assessment within teacher preparation programs.

“It was great to visit with Dr. Sato and share some of our experiences building our teacher education program here at Morgridge,” said Dr. Jessica Lerner, Associate Professor of Practice and Director of Teacher Education. “I hope sharing what we have learned can improve the educational experiences of students in Japan, as I know we are grappling with some of the same issues.”

“Through this study, I am trying to lead some suggestions for Japanese teacher preparation especially at the level of teacher preparation program,” Sato said. “In Japan, the competition rate of our current hiring examination is decreasing, so the role of assuring the quality of teachers will be changed to teacher preparation level.”

Sato explained that of particular interest to the Japanese government is the teacher residency model.

“We have traditionally focused on teacher knowledge without a lot of emphasis on teaching practice and experience,” Sato said. “Japan is experiencing a growing achievement gap that is making teacher preparation a primary area of focus.”

Sato’s stop at MCE is part of his third year of research into the teacher preparation challenge. His fourth and final year will involve summarizing his findings into a report, which will be presented to the Japanese government to help inform their state-funded teacher education model of the future.

View photos from the visit in our Flickr album.

Drs. Doug Clements and Julie Sarama are co-directors of the Marsico Institute of Early Learning at the Morgridge College of Education. Clements,  previously a preschool and kindergarten teacher,  has conducted funded research and published over 500 articles and books in the areas of the learning and teaching of early mathematics and computer applications in mathematics education. Sarama has taught secondary mathematics and computer science, gifted math at the middle school level, preschool and kindergarten mathematics enrichment classes, and mathematics methods and content courses for elementary to secondary teachers. The dynamic team sat down with a Media Planet Education and Career news reporter to give advice on how to make sure your child’s trajectory is one moving towards success.


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