Finding the Perfect FitJulie McMorris | School of Education & Human Development Dec 1, 2023
Before CU Denver students majoring in teacher education start their internship, there is some matchmaking involved. The School of Education & Human Development’s Office of Partnerships is the launch pad for the next generation of teachers to receive motivational, on-the-job experiences before entering their own classrooms. The Office seeks to find the perfect match between each future teacher and school in the hopes that the teacher candidate’s strengths and needs during their internship will fit with the school’s offerings and opportunities. The person behind making these puzzle pieces fit together is the Office of Partnerships & Teacher Education Manager, Rachel Cornelius.
“The ultimate goal of my work is to help produce high quality teachers,” Cornelius said. Cornelius started work with the University more than 20 years ago and had a variety of roles before starting this one in December of 2017. She enjoys being the person behind the scenes who makes sure that students who are looking to become teachers get the best internship placement possible.
Cornelius and the Office of Partnerships work closely with several local school districts including Aurora Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, Cherry Creek School District, Jefferson County School District, St. Vrain Valley School District, and Mapleton Public Schools. CU Denver teacher education students get to have their student teaching experience in one of these six districts.
“I just love puzzles and that is how I describe placing students,” Cornelius said. “I take all the needs and preferences of the student into account and find the perfect placement, where the school gets the type of person they know they may want to hire, and the student will get the most out of their experience at the school. You know how they say if you do something you enjoy, you’ll never work a day in your life? I am essentially working on a puzzle every day I log in!”
Cornelius works closely with the Teacher Education Leadership Team, the Teacher Education & Administrative Team as well as the Office of Partnerships & the Teacher Education program. “I love that I work with such wonderful women who are educated, strong and who inspire me. I also appreciate the flexibility I have to be a mother and to volunteer in my community,” Cornelius said. Working with Cindy Gutierrez the last 16 years has been wonderful and working for the School of Education & Human Development has been an amazing experience,” she said.
Cornelius also fosters internship opportunities for students in the school’s Human Development and Family Relations program. Students in this program get placed in a variety of nonprofit and community organizations that fit their learning goals including Precious Child, Sister Carmen, The Family Tree, The Gathering Place, and Project VOYCE.
Cornelius’s love of her work shines through in everything she does. In 2020, Cornelius received the University of Colorado Staff Council Staff Excellence Award for the CU Denver campus. The award goes to a staff member who has gone above and beyond their job duties, has surpassed expectations and embodies what makes CU Denver excellent. Cornelius steps up each time the team needs her and enjoys taking on extra work. “I love having a lot to do. I’m always volunteering for more work because having a lot of work helps me stay motivated.”
“Rachel is one of those rare, exceptional colleagues that makes working at CU Denver a true gift,” said her supervisor Cindy Gutierrez, director of clinical teacher education and partnerships in the School of Education & Human Development. “She’ll always say that she’s the ‘behind the scenes’ person on our team; but, honestly without Rachel’s unmatched attention to detail, creating and managing complex systems, and supporting students and colleagues alike, we would not be the nationally recognized teacher education program that we are in preparing the next generation of teachers for Denver and beyond.”
Her driving passion behind doing this work is to make sure that the next generation of teachers is well-prepared and ready to meet the challenges of the job, especially amidst the current teacher shortage. “Being a mother of two young children and knowing that their school is struggling to hire teachers is one of the reasons I do what I do,” Cornelius said. “I want to make sure we are producing teachers that my children, or any child, can look up to.”