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Teacher-Led School on Path to Excellence

August 23, 2010

By Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President

Denver’s Math & Science Learning Academy (MSLA) was the next stop on NEA’s 2010 Back to School tour.  I was greeted by MSLA lead teacher Lori Nazareno, who took me on a brief tour and shared the MSLA story and what an exciting story it is.  In fact, MSLA has been featured at length on NEA's Priority Schools Campaign Web site.

MSLA is in its second year as a teacher-led school.  During a roundtable discussion with members of the design team for Denver Public Schools, l Iearned more about the process and challenges they are experiencing.  DCTA Executive  Director Carolyn Crowder facilitated a rich discussion in which members of the Denver design team talked about their roles and what several participants described as a “fascinating” experience. 


I had the chance to meet and work with some great kids at MSLA.

Members of the  team, teachers and administrators alike, said one of the first challenges they faced was breaking down barriers and walls between the two groups so they could more effectively focus on figuring out how they could best work together to be a great public school. 

“Our intentions are all honorable,” one participant in the roundtable discussion said, “we really want to achieve the same things for our students." 

Lori Nazareno said the effort was important enough for her  to work over the summer vacation.  “I wanted to ensure that there is an authentic voice in what teacher evaluation looks like,” Nazareno said.  “Really, it’s more than a teacher evaluation, it’s a teacher support system that helps teachers to be more effective teachers,” she added. 

All in all, it was a lively and productive discussion.  I definitely have some ideas about things to share with members in other parts of the country who want to explore teacher-lead transformative efforts.  It makes me incredibly proud to see the work of our colleagues at MSLA and DCTA .  Their work stands as an outstanding example of the work that NEA members are doing across the country to make great public schools for all our students. 


MSLA educators are committed to building an exciting new model for education.

Following the roundtable, CEA President Beverly Ingle and I went to the cafeteria and donned chef’s hats to serve lunch to an energetic group of elementary students.  I have to tell you that I was tempted to join them for lunch.  They had some delicious looking pasta. 

It was great first day — the only downside was I had to wear the chef’s hat while serving lunch.  I don’t like hats!  Oh, well.  We’re off to Missouri.

By the way, if you want to check out some radio interviews I gave while in Colorado, just click below.

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