Dear DPS Community,
This has been an emotional and inspirational week for me. We learned a week ago, on Nov. 15, of the passing of Marie L. Greenwood — the first African-American, tenured teacher here in the Denver Public Schools. She lived to the age of 106, taught first grade in DPS for three decades, and will forever be a shining inspiration to our students and educators.
Including me. As a student at Barnum, I can still vividly remember Ms. Bernice Juarez Johnson, the kindergarten teacher who was marching down the trail that Marie blazed back in 1935. People like Marie Greenwood and Bernice Juarez Johnson helped me to see myself on that trail of teaching and leading. And that became my life’s work, 30 years ago when I started my career as a sixth-grade teacher at what was then the Horace Mann Middle School.
When I think about my trail to becoming the first Latina superintendent in Denver, I see a straight line back to Marie Greenwood and her pioneering service and leadership to our city.
And as the leader of a school district serving about 70,000 students of color, I owe my gratitude to Marie and have an unending appreciation for the nearly 7,000 employees of color we are lucky to have working in Denver today. In fact, on Wednesday night, we hosted our educators of color to celebrate their contributions and create a space to network and connect on what continues to motivate us to work in public education.
We need more educators of color in our schools. It can be absolutely life-changing for students to see someone who looks like them standing in front of the classroom, providing not just an education but a living example of success, professionalism and service. And it’s part of our equity focus to work harder at keeping our educators of color and recruiting more to come to Denver’s schools.
Seeing our educators of color assembled together on Wednesday brought so much joy to my week and even deepened my gratitude and appreciation for Marie and every single educator who has followed on the trail she blazed, to educate and inspire our children. I take those wonderful feelings with me into next week’s holiday, and I want to extend my warmest wishes to you for a relaxing and joyful Thanksgiving with your friends and family.