Increasing diversity among Colorado’s K-12 teachers will be part of the equation this year for Glenwood Springs High School math teacher Madison Hays.
Hays, a second-year teacher at GSHS, was selected as one of 16 teachers to be part of the fourth Colorado Teaching Policy Fellowship Teach Plus project.
Teach Plus is a national nonprofit with a mission to empower teachers to lead improvements in policy and practice during a nine-month fellowship.
“Our group decided to focus on recruitment and retention of teachers of color,” Hays said. “Hopefully we can create something tangible to give to school districts to help achieve that goal.”
It’s an issue that she said is particularly relevant to the Roaring Fork Schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.
“When you look at the demographics of our district, and the small number of teachers who are Latino, you can see how it can be challenging for students who don’t feel like they have someone to represent them and share cultural values with them,” Hays said.
A similar dynamic exists in the Denver metro schools where there is a small percentage of black teachers in relation to the student population, she noted.
“I was excited to discover the Teach Plus Fellowship, as I was feeling frustrated and unheard by the large system that is education,” Hays added. “I want to learn more about how teachers can be advocates and how we can share our stories with others.”
According to a school district press release, Teach Plus Fellows are selected to work on state-level education issues and, through that experience, “learn how to advocate for policies that will better serve Colorado teachers and students.”
Before coming to GSHS, Hays taught in the African nation of Kenya.
“Madi is super smart and brings missionary zeal to the work of using education to change students’ real-life chances,” GSHS Principal Paul Freeman said in the release.
Last year’s cohort of Teach Plus Teachers included Glenwood Springs Elementary School’s Erin Gallimore and Kendall Reiley.
Their group provided recommendations on legislation to eliminate suspensions and expulsions for younger students in pre-kindergarten through second grade.
In addition, they were able to successfully advocate for the state to fund full-day kindergarten, which was approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Jared Polis. The group also provided opportunities for teachers to micro-pilot ideas on teacher evaluations.