Partnership for Impact
District Partnerships Provide Students and Professionals Opportunities for Achievement and GrowthJulie McMorris | School of Education & Human Development Dec 1, 2023
Is your school district searching for new ways to connect high school students, paraprofessionals, and educators directly to local and online professional development and career growth opportunities that build to degrees? CU Denver works with school districts to codevelop learning and mentoring opportunities that are affordable, useful, transformative, and available 24/7.
A shining example of this type of partnership can be found in St. Vrain Valley School District in Longmont, Colorado. The district has partnered with CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development (SEHD) since 2018 to customize and expand learning opportunities for both its students and employees. St. Vrain high school students, paraprofessionals and teachers all have access to classes that are offered at low cost to them. These courses can build toward bachelor’s, master’s, principal licensure, and doctoral degrees, making it incredibly affordable for the district community to gain credentials. For high school students, the partnership is called P-TEACH. It is a pathway to earn dual enrollment credits that count toward both their high school diploma and transfer to CU for a bachelor’s degree in education. Additionally, St. Vrain offers professional development through CU Denver for their staff members that also counts toward advanced credentials such as teacher and principal licensure and master’s or doctorate degrees.
“Our partnership with CU Denver has allowed us to dramatically expand the opportunities that we’re able to provide for our staff and our students,” said Diane Lauer, the Chief Academic Officer at St. Vrain Valley School District. Her district has more than one hundred high school students in the P-TEACH program and over 50 paraprofessionals earning bachelor’s degrees with teacher licensure. There are 41 college credits that high school students or adult professionals can take at no cost while employed at St. Vrain or attending high school there. “We see this as an investment in our students and staff,” said Lauer. The program is supported in part by Apple. “Without our partnership with CU Denver, we would not have the breadth of professional growth opportunities that we have today,” Lauer added.
The partnership with St. Vrain has been customized to meet the district’s needs by faculty members at CU Denver. Everything has been designed specifically for St. Vrain’s population, from the content of the programs to the timing of the classes. “We spent quite a bit of time meeting with district leaders, especially at the beginning of the partnership, to get a sense for the district’s needs,” said Amy Ferrell, associate professor of special education at CU Denver. As a result of the meetings, a master’s in Literacy Education is offered to district educators to enhance literacy instruction for all types of students including students with special needs as well as for students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Throughout the literacy courses, CU Denver continues to adapt based on feedback received from teachers and district leaders. “Being a site-based program, we were very mindful about how to be responsive to what teachers need, and we listen,” said Lucinda Soltero-Gonzalez, associate professor of literacy education at CU Denver. “This includes whether they want onsite or online classes and how they want to build capacity. We now have district staff members co-teaching some of the courses and that helps us be responsive to the content that the district needs. In addition, we included instruction on how to use an assessment tool preferred by the district.”
“What we end up with is a really nice set of learning opportunities for school district community members that are closely aligned to the district initiatives and priorities and that build toward earning college credits and degrees,” said Shannon Hagerman, executive director of SEHD’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education. “CU Denver is committed to ensuring the health of the teacher workforce now and in the future, as well as helping school districts reach their goals. Cultivating district partnerships, such as the one with St. Vrain, is a logical way to expand the teacher workforce, meet the instructional needs of students, and expand the knowledge and credentials of adult professionals in the education field,” said Hagerman.
Is your school district interested in partnering with SEHD’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education to custom design programs to meet your goals and needs? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.