Cherry Creek teacher gets seat on state panel advising education commissioner

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Cherry Creek High School teacher hopes to use her new spot as one of 20 educators on Colorado Department of Education Commissioner’s new Teacher’s Cabinet to work toward finding long-term solutions to issues facing K-12 education in the state.

Cherry Creek math teacher Jocelyn Nguyen-Reed was one of more than 170 teachers from across the state that applied for a seat on the new cabinet. Nguyen-Reed and the other 19 teachers in the group will meet with CDE Commissioner Katy Anthes on a regular basis with at least four meetings scheduled with the potential for more.

The group will advise on how best to implement education policy and legislation, the direct impact of policy on the classroom and provide a bridge between statewide policy decisions and the teachers who will be implementing those directives. Members of the committee will serve a two-year term beginning in August.

“I think this will be a great opportunity to get involved and look at ways to affect education on a  larger scale,” Nguyen-Reed said. “I think ultimately the big thing for me is to focus on long term gains and changes we can make. A lot of times we see a band aid approach to problems which only solve them for a few years at a time.”

The number of applicants led the CDE to expand the number of members of the cabinet from an original 15 to 20.

“Teacher Cabinet members will brainstorm solutions, serve as a sounding board and provide valuable feedback to help us tackle some of the challenges facing Colorado’s educators,” Anthes said in a press release about the cabinet. “Hearing directly from educators will give us a better picture of the impact new laws have on teachers and students.”

The cabinet is made up of teachers from across the state, both rural and urban school districts, as well as from both public and charter schools. Nguyen-Reed said she hoped the group would be able to provide a perspective that might not always have a place at the table in policy discussions.

“I think having a lot of different perspectives is important and that’s where I’m excited about the committee,” Nguyen-Reed said. “Teachers are from all different walks of life. There are teachers from public schools, charter schools, urban districts, rural districts and online. There’s teachers with experience ranging from as little as 4 years and as much as 32 years in education. Having all those hands on the table provides diversity of opinions.”

Nguyen-Reed said teachers can provide an on-the-ground perspective to discussions about education policy. One thing to be gained from that is not only seeing what policies and ideas work in classrooms, but also why a system that works in one school district have with little success in another district.

“Part of this journey is to see how this system works and hopefully facilitate discussions on how to bring new solutions and make that change in the long term outcomes,” Nguyen-Reed said.  “One of the major challenges in solving problems like these is some people have a tendency to look at it as what’s the magic solution to solving issues like these. I don’t believe in a silver bullet. These are complex problems and we need to approach them with an open mind.”