Photo above: Valerie Lovato in her Eagleton Elementary classroom
Eagleton Elementary teacher chosen to help inform statewide education policy matters
Valerie Lovato first received the news while she was on vacation. The First Grade teacher at Eagleton Elementary was relaxing and enjoying some down time with her mom when an email popped up from the Colorado Department of Education.
“I hadn’t actually been checking emails,” she said of that day in June, “but I knew it would be coming so I made sure to take a look on my phone.”
Sure enough, the news came through and the news was good: Valerie had been selected to represent Denver schools as a participant on the Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet, a new opportunity for Colorado teachers to share their hands-on classroom knowledge and experience with state education policymakers.
“I was really excited,” Valerie said. “I’ve actually heard from so many people reaching out. It’s an opportunity to get my school and my name out there to start making those connections and see what else I can do for the teaching community in Denver.”
According to a Colorado Department of Education press release, the Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet is made up of 20 practicing teachers from around the state representing small, medium, large, rural, suburban and urban school systems. The Cabinet serves as a sounding board for the implementation of state education policy and as a committee to brainstorm solutions for some of the challenges facing today’s educators, such as raising achievement among all students, supporting low-performing schools and increasing the number of individuals joining the teaching profession.
Valerie said the group’s first meeting in August was a chance to get to know fellow cabinet members, discuss key issues in Colorado education and learn how the group would function. Selected members are asked to commit to at least four meetings per year for a two-year commitment.
“They really tried to make certain every part of the state is represented,” she said. “I’m the only teacher that represents DPS. There’s also a teacher from Cherry Creek, Aurora and Jeffco, as well as a mix of charter, union/district and non-union district schools represented.”
Teachers were selected from across the state as well, including urban, rural and suburban areas from the Front Range, the Western Slope and plains towns. According to Valerie, the group identified three major areas of concerns during their initial meeting:
- Teacher pay
- Time and resources concerns
- Behavior and discipline issues
Valerie said the commission has topics from the state Board of Education that the group will discuss as well. Of particular interest to the Board is gathering teacher’s perspectives on the Colorado teachers shortage and how the state should address it, as well as how to increase retention and improve recruitment.
Valerie sees the opportunity as a chance to give back to the profession she loves.
“I’ve kind of been on a path self-reflection and self-exploration about all that I can contribute to the field of education besides being a classroom teacher,” she said. “I love being a teacher and I love my students. But I feel there’s a little bit more that I can provide.”