Author: Boettcher Foundation

By Curtis L. Esquibel The first day of school jitters these were not. In two-plus decades of teaching, Tonya Saenz typically would greet the annual launch of another school year with the same nervous excitement of anticipation – a feeling of optimism blended with possibility. But August 27, 2020 felt different. Fear, uncertainty, even a tinge of self-doubt. These were Saenz’s emotions as the eager eyes of 29 second graders greeted her through her home computer monitor. The weight of obligation felt heavy for Saenz. A self-described “mama bear” in her classroom, her role on this day, in this time, felt different and expanded. Her responsibilities to lead, perform, and engage were more heightened than ever. You wouldn’t know it by observing her. On display were her typical expressions of positivity and patience. The pit in her stomach felt just the opposite because the virtual environment was so out of her control. “I remember calling Kari Wagner (fellow teacher and longtime friend) at the end of that first day, and we both just cried,” said Saenz, who has taught at Prairie Hills Elementary in Thornton since the school opened in 2003. “I said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this?’ So much happens on that first day. How can we be able to teach if we can’t hug them when they’re sad or need encouragement?” ____ That same morning about 10 blocks from Mrs. Saenz’s home, my 7-year-old needed definitive encouragement to get out of bed. Never a morning person, Adilene was more spry than normal yet remained tempered about the idea of remote learning. “I can’t wait to actually go to school,” she told me, her head buried under the covers. “I don’t want school to be at home and looking at a computer.” I empathized with that statement. Adilene had a front row seat to my life working from home and sitting through hundreds of hours of Zoom meetings and calls over the past six months. Though, like any parent would, I tried to spin the situation toward optimism. I referenced a new year with a teacher, Mrs. Saenz, whom she had looked forward to being a student of (my son, now 13, also had Saenz in second grade, and she remains one of his favorite teachers). I was also quick to remind her of her new desk at home and school-issued Chromebook. “It’s not the same as going to school, Dad,” Adilene said. “And you know it.” My daughter is one of those kids who idolizes her teachers and runs an imaginary classroom in her free time. Our living room is stocked full of piles of homework packets, calendars, and booklets she makes for her students as she teaches them. It’s a serious operation with a consistent theme: Adilene only teaches her imaginary students in person. Virtual learning, in particular for an introvert who doesn’t like a lot of eyes on her, was something she had been dreading. At 8 a.m., Adilene logged on to her first official Zoom class and the journey began. “Good morning, friends, welcome to second grade,” Saenz greeted her students. For the next six weeks, Saenz, like thousands of teachers across the country, would build relationships in the vast social experiment of virtual learning. About three weeks in, she found herself in somewhat of a rhythm. “It was amazing how we were able to build those connections virtually,“ she said. “I was surprised how well I got to know them over Zoom.” During the first few weeks, Adilene and I worked next to each other at the kitchen table in case she needed technical guidance or learning support. It felt like a typical school day, lots of participation, silliness, reading, and arithmetic, along with the typical virtual challenges of classroom management around microphone and camera use. There was a surplus of humorous moments, too. Early in the year, one of Adilene’s classmates wasn’t able to locate his homework packet. Saenz instructed him to ask his parents if they might know of its whereabouts. She recalled aloud that she had distributed the packet at back-to-school night. “I would ask my dad, but he’s asleep on the couch,” the boy said, matter-of-factly. Adilene and I looked at each other and erupted in laughter. Soon enough, she asked to transition to her bedroom because, in her words, she didn’t “need me anymore and wanted more privacy.” Saenz, like most educators, encouraged independence in her students. Steadily, Adilene began to express her personality to her classmates. I would secretly stand outside of her room, listening to her engage in small group activities. I would hear her laughing, being herself, and it gave me comfort – and peace of mind – that more hopeful days were ahead. On Sept. 28, Adilene and her classmates returned to school for in-person learning. It felt like the first day of school all over again, except better. Saenz said she had never been so happy because she knew her students would experience each other in a different way. Some students, like Adilene, had an instant boost of confidence from learning in person. The feeling lasted seven weeks. On Friday, Nov. 13, Adilene and her schoolmates left Prairie Hills knowing they were going remote for an extended period of time as a COVID-19 precaution. “When I had to break the news, I had two kids start to cry and about half of them just dropped their heads,” Saenz said. “They were heartbroken, and I got that anxiety again.” The anxiety would subside, because Saenz and her students, now 16 of them (a number chose to stay fully remote for the year while others opted for home school) adapted yet again. They pushed through the finish line of the fall semester knowing that a return to in-person learning in January was the plan. One of the highlights of our holiday break was Saenz dropping by for an impromptu visit and special delivery. She did this for every one of her students. By mid-January, Adilene had metamorphosed into a miniature professional. She was writing notes on Post-Its, organizing downloaded files on her computer, and uploading homework assignments without supervision. One January day, we were finishing a lunch-time basketball game of horse in the driveway when she glanced at her watch. “Hurry up and shoot because I have to be back on Zoom in three minutes,” she said. On some days I barely saw her as she focused on her learning tasks and looked forward to a class reunion of sorts. When the mid-year assessment season came, Saenz was admittedly nervous. Upon viewing the scores of her class, the students generally were performing right where she had hoped. She was shocked at the growth in their scores. “These kids amaze me with how resilient and strong they are,” she said. “They’ve almost matured a little more than they needed to at 7- or 8-years-old. I think they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished.” And they should be, as should Saenz. As a parent, I attribute my daughter’s socio-emotional and academic growth to Saenz and the other educators in her life. As an educator, Saenz has acquired new skills for teaching that will endure for future lesson planning and delivery. Her fellow teachers collaborate more around innovative teaching and curriculum ideas than ever before in her career. She is part of a group chat of teachers who message each other around everything from teaching techniques to moral support and encouragement, especially on Mondays. “All of these years I just thought of myself and my fellow teachers as doing our jobs,” Saenz said. “I never thought of us as leaders, but I guess we are.” No guessing in this case. This is an absolute truth – on the first day of school, the last day, and every day in between....

By Hannah Halusker CSU Source The Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging at Colorado State University has amassed one of the largest archives of longitudinally collected human samples of COVID-19 through their research in skilled nursing facilities. In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when other researchers were in the throes of developing diagnostic tests for COVID or assessing the virus’ infectivity in the population, the Center for Healthy Aging was thinking long-term: How does COVID-19 spread in nursing facilities, and how will the virus behave in the same nursing facility several months from now? These initial research questions prompted the Longitudinal COVID-19 Screening Study in Senior Care Facilities. Researchers working on the study have now completed nearly 40,000 COVID-19 tests in senior residential care communities throughout Colorado, poising the Center as a national leader in research on how COVID-19 affects older adults and rehab patients in senior nursing facilities. ...

Press Release Governor's Office DENVER — Governor Jared Polis today announced the recipients of the 2020 Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medals, an annual award stewarded by CiviCO on behalf of the sitting Governor of Colorado to recognize top community leaders from around the state. The 2020 recipients will be honored during a private ceremony in November with the Governor to comply with current Covid-19 guidelines regarding large gatherings. Created by Executive Order in 2015 and supported by all living Colorado Governors, the Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medal is one of the highest honors bestowed upon citizens and organizations of Colorado for their significant contributions to communities across the state. A special virtual program paying tribute to this year’s recipients will be streamed online Thursday, November 12, 2020. ...

Press Release Rep. Jason Crow WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Reps. Jason Crow (CO-06) introduced the Teacher, Principal, and Leader Residency Access Act alongside Reps. Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Scott Tipton (CO-03), Lori Trahan (MA-03) and Rodney Davis (IL-13). The bipartisan-led bill would expand Federal Work-Study funds to pay for costs associated with participating in teacher and principal residency programs, which have proven effective to improve teacher demand, quality, and retention. The bill would add teacher and principal residencies to the Federal Work-Study program ensuring no added cost to the taxpayer. “Providing our teachers with the resources and training they need should be one of the most important priorities for this country. When our teachers are supported, they succeed and their success is our children’s success,” said Crow. “Residency programs are an excellent way for teachers to gain valuable on-the-job experience before setting off on classrooms of their own.  As Congressman, I recognize this as good policy, but as a father of two school age kids, I know this is the right thing to do for our teachers and students and I’m proud to champion this commonsense bill.” ...

By Laurie Laker Colorado College "Bringing together fantastic kids with fantastic minds, in less than fantastic circumstances, it really couldn't have gone much better," says Jordan Baker, inaugural member of Colorado College's Stroud Scholars Program and a student at Fountain-Fort Carson High School in Fountain, Colorado. Named in honor of two of the earliest Black students to graduate from Colorado College, siblings Kelly Dolphus Stroud '31 and Effie Stroud Frazier '31, the Stroud Scholars Program helps prepare and engage high-promise students from across the Pikes Peak Region in pursuing their ambitions to attend college. These students, who face a range of barriers to college, will earn admission to Colorado College and receive a financial aid package that will enable them to attend once they complete the three-year program. Students are able to kickstart college-level academic work while they're still in high school, completing annual summer courses and focusing on qualitative and quantitative critical thinking skills. ...

By Don Morreale YourHub, Denver Post This column tells the stories of the people whose faces appear on “A Colorado Panorama: A People’s History,” a two-block-long tile mural on the southeast side of the Colorado Convention Center. Inspired by Howard Zinn’s groundbreaking book, “A People’s History of the United States,” the mural was created by artist Barbara Jo Revelle in 1989 to celebrate those who rarely make it into the history books, but who have nonetheless had a profound impact on the history of our state. This week we’re featuring profiles of Josephine Aspinwall Roche and Gerald B. Webb. ...

By Chris Yankee University of Colorado Boulder The PI Academy is designed to orient new faculty to campus research and creative work resources. Through a series a workshops and webinars, tenure-track faculty engage with core research topics, connect with peers from departments across campus, interact with campus leadership, and develop individualized research plans. Oana Luca, assistant professor of Chemistry and graduate of the program, notes that the workshops are “designed to be an opportunity to learn, ask questions and make connections as you begin building your academic portfolio." These connections are an important part of the program, which has grown to include more than 80 faculty members representing departments spanning the campus. In addition to forging connections with fellow early career faculty members, participants in the program have used opportunity-specific workshops and webinars to secure internal funding from programs such as the Research & Innovation Seed Grant, and external funding such as the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award. ...

By John Wenzel The Denver Post Dee Bradley Baker has squawked, snarled and squeaked his way through so many jobs that he relies on his Internet Movie Database page to keep track of them. Even that’s not always right, since his career spans hundreds of movies, TV series, and video games over the last three decades. “I was never involved with the live-action ‘Last Airbender’ movie, and I was never involved with ‘Frankenweenie,’ ” Baker said as he scanned, at The Denver Post’s request, some of his credited roles. “But it looks like most of the rest seems to be accurate.” It’s hard to be sure. Since 1995, an average of a dozen new projects each year have been released featuring his vocal talents. In some years, it’s more than 30, from well-known shows such as “American Dad!” (for which he received a 2017 Emmy nomination) and “Family Guy” to kids’ fare like “Muppet Babies,” “Steven Universe,” SpongeBob SquarePants” and “The Lion Guard.” ...

By Denver Metro Chamber Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Although metro Denver has seen COVID-19 cases decline, the region is still in the midst of a pandemic that requires a collaborative response from citizens, local governments and the business community. That was the sentiment shared by three mayors, including Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Annual State of the City on Wednesday, Aug 12, 2020. Mayor Hancock gave the keynote address at the virtual event, which had over 550 attendees. Then, Kelly Brough, Chamber president and CEO, moderated a Q&A discussion where Mayor Hancock was joined by Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet and Arvada Mayor Marc Williams. “Our goal is to bounce back better than before,” Mayor Hancock said, noting that the suddenness of this economic downturn presents different challenges than the nation experienced during the Great Recession. “We will bounce back, but it’s going to take all of us.” ...

By Jennifer Jones Paton Boulder Daily Camera Beating COVID-19 requires an unprecedented, multi-front global health care response. Colorado BioScience Association salutes the tens of thousands of health care workers and first responders on the front lines of this crisis. We also must shine a spotlight on health researchers and innovators — hidden heroes working to save lives with new tests, treatments and eventually, a COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 crisis offers a crash course on the challenges of creating new, reliable and effective treatments for a devastating disease. Biomedical research and development programs offer hope for significant, lasting medical and economic recovery. It’s no surprise that Colorado’s vibrant and growing life sciences ecosystem has such a large footprint in this critical work. Life sciences companies and organizations around the world are leading work to detect, prevent and treat COVID-19. Close to 40 Colorado companies and organizations, many of them Boulder based, are part of the global effort. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and our state’s other nationally ranked academic and research institutions are running dozens of projects to better understand how to identify and treat the disease. ...