By Carrie Click

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Colorado Mountain College teacher education student Leanne Richel found great relief in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s visit to CMC’s Morgridge Commons in downtown Glenwood Springs on Friday, May 25.

The governor was in Glenwood Springs to sign two Colorado higher education house bills into law that Colorado Mountain College initiated during the 2018 legislative session. The signing of one of those bills, House Bill 18-1002, was especially important to Richel, a Silt resident who’s attending classes at CMC Glenwood Springs. The bill will give her the support she needs to complete her education and help her secure a teaching position locally.

At the signing Friday, Richel joined a group of fellow teacher education students taking classes in Glenwood Springs and at CMC Vail Valley at Edward. Also attending the governor’s signing ceremony were a number of school district leaders, elected local and regional government officials, and CMC employees and friends.

‘Grow Your Own Educator’

Photo of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and CMC students

Gov. John Hickenlooper, center, met with Brent Curtice, Re-2 superintendent plus CMC students Tiffany Simonson, Diana Hernandez, Sarahi Perez-Marin, Leanne Richel, Mary Wright and Ana Chavira at a bill signing supporting student teaching at Morgridge Commons. Photo Doug Stewart/Colorado Mountain College

Teacher education students such as Richel, who is a mother of four, are often balancing families, work and the high costs of housing while earning their teaching degrees. Richel will begin her student teaching this fall, which is essentially a full-time job.

“Before this law passed, I was stressed,” she said. “I wondered how I was going to do it all. Now, a burden has been lifted.”

Led by Colorado Mountain College and carried by Colorado Representatives Millie Hamner and Bob Rankin, and Senators Don Coram and Nancy Todd, the bill is part of the “Rural Colorado Grow Your Own Educator Act.” The bill supports high-quality student teachers and transitions them into teaching jobs in rural school districts and charter schools in certain areas of the state that are experiencing teacher shortages.

‘Stronger communities’

Beginning in fall 2018, the bill will provide each student teacher in designated rural school districts statewide experiencing teacher shortages with a $10,000 stipend to use during their fourth fellowship year of teacher education and student teaching. The stipend provides a way for student teachers to focus on their education classes as well as their classroom preparations and teaching experiences.

As an incentive to stay and work where they were educated, students who turn down teaching positions with the district where they completed their fellowship must repay the amount of the stipend.

Barbara Johnson, director of CMC’s teacher education program, explained that the bill can help break the cycle of teachers coming from outside the area, staying for a year or two, then leaving. Educating teachers where they live helps the community as a whole, Johnson said.

“By ‘growing our own,’ we are creating stronger communities,” she said.

Stxio Vazquez, who is a teacher education student taking classes at CMC Vail Valley, agreed with Johnson.

“Giving support to student teachers is a great help for our communities,” she said.

Options for land use

The other bill the governor signed on Friday, House Bill 18-1366, will give CMC more flexibility to enter into lease-purchase arrangements for capital improvements such as affordable housing for the college’s employees and student body.

Also led by Colorado Mountain College, the bill was carried by Representative Dylan Roberts and Senator Kerry Donovan, and passed both houses unanimously. It enhances the ability of local district colleges like CMC to sell or lease district property.

“These bills create a robust pipeline of teachers into our rural schools as well as allow the college to use its resources to improve facilities throughout the district,” said Carrie Besnette Hauser, CMC president. “We are grateful for the leadership provided by the sponsors of these bills – Representatives Bob Rankin, Millie Hamner and Dylan Roberts, and Senators Kerry Donovan, Don Corum, and Nancy Todd – for making Friday’s celebration possible.”