The Institutions We Keep

Running a program for one year is something to talk about. Running one for two years is a trend. After three years, even the laggards start to take notice. Doubts fade after four years. And if you are running a program into your fifth year, well then you are an institution.

The Denver teacher residency is in its fifth year. That is mind-blowing in terms of school reform efforts. My favorite thing about it, though, isn’t that it’s been going for five years or that they have held fast to a single vision throughout that time. Rather, my favorite part is that they aren’t afraid to try new things even after establishing themselves as an institution.

Julie Rottier-Lukens is the Manager of Program and Curriculum for the DTR and I am really glad that she is. She knows not only where the program is going but where each school is going within the program and where each teacher is going within a school. She sees how all of those pieces fit.

And I don’t think she would say it was magical or that  it has been up all fun and games. But, I do think that she would say that it is been worth it. Her passion shows through the program in each teacher that takes part.

To still be expanding out into new schools where new teachers gain exposure to a residency model in their fifth year is a testament to just how well it works. But, we should never take an institution like the Denver teacher residency for granted. When I met with Julie and she said that some of the teacher residency members had been with them since the beginning and were starting their “super senior” year, I found it amazing. To have something that others want to be a part of five years after its inception, defies gravity.

But, she is still learning new things. She is still reaching out for different ways of helping teachers to teach. Whether in looking for ways to create a digital repository of resources for her teachers or in giving timely feedback, she runs with her vision in hand. And we should all be so lucky to see the future of education so clearly.

We should all be so lucky to work on something we know is going exist five years from now. We should all be so lucky to believe in something so whole heartedly and pursue it each and every day. We should all be so lucky to work with people like Julie and the rest of the folks involved with the Denver teacher residency, whose mission is clear and the work itself has made it into an institution.

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