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Meet the Peer Observers

  • Click to viewMeet Kasi Alcorn

    Kasi Alcorn

    Content Expertise: Special Education
    Grade: All

    Kasi entered the education field as a special education paraprofessional after a stint in the corporate editing world.  After just one year as a special education paraprofessional, Kasi knew she wanted to teach, and that she wanted to teach students with severe needs.  She returned to school to get to teaching credentials and her Master’s in Special Education, and she has spent eight years as a teacher and consultant in classrooms that serve students with severe and profound disabilities. In 2012 she moved into a position with the DPS Peer Observer team. 

    Her teaching and consulting work has spanned from elementary to the secondary level, and into private agencies. She brings expertise skills in data collection, Verbal Behavior, ABA, and autism. Kasi also holds endorsements in English Education and Elementary Education.

    Education is an important part of Kisi’s life, both present and past. She comes from a family of educators, and as a child she remembers “playing school” and being encouraged in every aspect of her educational experience . Her father is a retired college professor, and her mother a retired high school counselor. Kasi’s husband works for DPS, and her daughter recently joined Kasi’s sister as an early childhood teacher.

    A collaborative approach to educating students is one of Kasi’s firmly held beliefs. She works to support partnerships among families, teachers, and support specialists.

  • Click to viewMeet Tom Archuleta

    Tom Archuleta

    Content Expertise: Physical Education
    Grade: All

    As a proud graduate of the Denver Public Schools, Tom is excited to join the Peer Observer Team.

    Tom attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Texas Arlington. He earned his bachelor’s degree in K-12 Physical Education at Metropolitan State College. He earned his Master’s degree and Type D license from the University of Phoenix.

    Tom began his teaching career at the high school level at Overland in the Cherry Creek district. He then had the opportunity to teach in the Physical Education Department at Metropolitan State College working to develop future Physical education teachers.

    Over the past 27 years in DPS, Tom has served in the capacity of elementary PE teacher, curriculum specialist, administrative assistant, and administrator. While in the curriculum department, Tom assisted in writing the PE curriculum guide and interdisciplinary units for grade level content curriculum guides.

    In addition to focusing on family, Tom has coached private club gymnastics for over 25 years.

  • Click to viewMeet Jennifer Biddlecom

    Jennifer Biddlecom

    Content Expertise: Elementary
    Grade: Elementary

    Jennifer Biddlecom had many inspiring teachers from elementary through college. She studied at Universidad Blas Pascal in Cordoba, Argentina and graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in Spanish and Criminal Justice. After learning about the achievement gap she decided to join Teach for America (TFA) in hopes of inspiring students and helping diminish the gap. Jennifer relocated to Harlingen, Texas and started her teaching career as a sixth grade bilingual social studies teacher. During that time she received great support from TFA and had many reflective conversations that supported her in improving her craft. Jennifer’s TFA commitment ended after two years, but she wasn’t ready to leave the classroom. She transitioned to lower grades and spent several years as a third grade and bilingual fifth grade teacher. She really enjoyed working with younger students, and they achieved great success on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS).  She found that she had a passion for teaching reading and science and working with ELL students.

    During her time in the Rio Grande Valley, Jennifer learned the importance of communication and collaboration and was blessed to work with great teams. Through TFA she helped design regional curriculum for sixth grade social studies and worked on a team that developed an end of the year assessment. Jennifer also served on her district’s science leadership committee and vertically aligned curriculum across grade levels.

    In her last few years teaching Jennifer felt something was lacking from her classroom experience. She yearned for more feedback and conversations that would help her truly reflect on her teaching and improve her practice. She became a Peer Observer to support teachers and help them reflect and grow in their craft. She is entering her third year as a Peer Observer and is excited to continue this important work.

    In her free time Jennifer enjoys running with her dog, skiing, reading, and practicing yoga. 

  • Click to viewMeet Gary Bloom

    Gary Bloom

    Content Expertise: Art

    Gary Bloom’s journey into education began in 1979 as the middle and high school visual arts teacher in Dayton, Washington. He went on to earn his MFA at the University of Kansas. After graduate school Bloom worked as a studio artist and developed a national exhibition record. During this time he continued to teach in various workshop and class venues including as artist-in-residence at the Bush Arts Center in Salem, Oregon.  Bloom returned to the classroom as a DPS parent volunteer. Leading student art development, reading activities, and chess clubs as a volunteer inspired his return to arts education. 

    In 2004, he joined the Lowry Elementary School staff as the school’s first visual arts teacher where he taught for seven years. Mr. Bloom draws upon classroom and real world artist experiences to foster student’s conceptual understanding, formal studio skills, and content language.  Since joining DPS, Gary has worked on art curriculum initiatives, his students have been recognized in district exhibitions, and he has pursued his own learning through leading and receiving professional development.

    Mr. Bloom has been recognized by the DPS Board of Education for Exemplary Teaching. He is a Denver Teacher Award recipient, and has received the Mile High Teacher Award. This is Gary’s third year on the Peer Observer team. He is committed to elevate student learning through purposeful reflection, feedback and support in collaboration with dedicated colleagues. 

  • Click to viewMeet Mardi Boin

    Mardi Boin

    Content Expertise: Elementary, Reading Recovery/Intervention, Secondary Science
    Grade: Elementary and Secondary

    Mardi Boin knew that she wanted to be a teacher when she was 11 years old.  It was then that she began spending time in her mother’s fifth grade classroom; a classroom in which every child was honored as an individual and was given opportunities to learn in ways that best suited them. Mardi quickly came to understand the value of building relationships with all children, parents and colleagues. These values and beliefs have served as the foundation for her successful teaching career over the past 25 years. Mardi feels very lucky to be someone whose career is also her passion.  

    In 1987, she accepted her first job as a high school science teacher in California.  After 5 years, she decided to move to the elementary level where she has taught first through sixth grades in rural, suburban and inner city schools. She has served as a literacy intervention teacher and has experience teaching Every Day Math.  Mardi is also trained in Reading Recovery and piloted a Reading Recovery/classroom teaching model in Douglas County.

    Throughout her career, Mardi has enjoyed supporting teachers in a variety of ways.  She served as a staff developer for the San Jose Area Writing Project where she helped teachers learn about balanced literacy and Writers’ Workshop.  She’s also been a member of school based leadership teams, has participated in PEBC labs and has served as a mentor to student teachers.  Having reflective, professional conversations has served as the vehicle for Mardi’s growth as an educator and has nurtured her passion for teaching and learning.

    Mardi is a product of Denver Public Schools. She graduated from CU Boulder with a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Science and her teaching license. In 2003, she obtained her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix. In her free time, she enjoys walking and playing with her dogs, cycling, knitting, and spending time with her family and friends.

    Mardi is excited to continue to support teachers as a Peer Observer in DPS.

  • Click to viewMeet Brenna Brooks

    Brenna Brooks

    Content Expertise: ELA S/E
    Grade: Elementary

    Brenna Brooks-Larson has been teaching in Denver Public Schools for six years. She most recently was at Columbian Elementary School for five years teaching third grade ELA S/E. Brenna began her career in education teaching High School Spanish in Crested Butte, Colorado. She then was a paraprofessional in a bilingual classroom in Fort Collins. Her first teaching job was in Denver teaching first grade, ELA E/S. After a year teaching first grade, Brenna spent two years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua teaching Environmental Education in small multi-grade one room classrooms.

    Brenna has served on numerous committees, including the Positive Behavior Support team and the School Leadership Team.  As a teacher leader for three years, Brenna hosted learning labs and mentored student teachers as well as lead professional development.

    Brenna is a proud Denver native and she attended East High School. Brenna graduated from University of Colorado with a degree in Spanish and Business. She has a master’s degree from University of Colorado Denver in Elementary Reading and Writing. Brenna is looking forward to working with fellow teachers to support them in reaching their student achievement goals. In her spare time, Brenna enjoys the outdoors with her family. She also enjoys gardening, pottery and painting.

  • Click to viewMeet Karen Buelow

    Karen Buelow

    Content Expertise: Literacy
    Grade: Upper Elementary

    Upon moving to Washington DC and learning about the severe achievement gap within that public school system, Karen decided to do her part to end the inequity.  Karen switched careers and joined the DC Teaching Fellows in 2001.  Her first two years of teaching Karen worked as a 2nd grade general education teacher within DCPS.  Concurrently, she earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from American University.  After the program ended in 2003, Karen began teaching at DC Prep as a 4th grade humanities teacher.  Over the next nine years she taught reading, writing and social studies.  There she served as grade-level team leader, academy head, and was a lead teacher to two resident teachers.  Karen received the Spotlight Teacher Award for the highest classroom-level student achievement gains within DC Prep, an Effective Practice Incentive Community (EPIC) award winning school, for the 2008-2009 school year. 

    Karen was then promoted to lead the English Language Arts department as its Department Chair.  In this role she led the Department through curriculum and instruction changes as the school transitioned from DC state standards to the new Common Core Standards.  Karen planned and facilitated professional development sessions and weekly team meetings based on school-wide and department-specific needs. She was a consistent presence in her team’s classroom for instructional observations, support and feedback. In addition, she did intensive coaching with teachers new to her team, providing differentiated support to help them make impactful changes to increase student achievement. 

    After moving to the Denver area in 2011, Karen worked as a New Teacher Coach for first year teachers within DPS.  This rewarding position solidified her intentions and validated her decision to work outside the classroom and coach teachers in their craft.  She is honored to continue this work in her second year as an Elementary Peer Observer and collaborate with DPS teachers and school leaders to bring a high standard of teacher effectiveness to every classroom.  When not working, Karen enjoys yoga and spending time with her husband and two young boys. 


  • Click to viewMeet Sara Collyar

    Sara Collyar

    Content Expertise: Math
    Grade: Middle School

    Sara Collyar has been an employee of DPS as a teacher, facilitator, mentor, and administrator for over twenty years. She taught 8th grade math at Morey Middle School for nine years and Algebra, Advanced Algebra, Business Math, and IMP at South High School for four years.  Sara’s been a department chair, a team leader, a MATHCOUNTS coach, a cooperating teacher for many student teachers, a facilitator of summer CMP workshops for DPS, and a presenter at the annual Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics (CCTM) convention.  More recently she has mentored new teachers, coached math teachers, and evaluated math and science teachers.  She has also been honored as an Outstanding Math Teacher by CCTM.

    Sara graduated from Rockford College, in Rockford, Illinois, with a BA in mathematics.  Her master’s degree is in Information and Learning Technologies: Library Media from the University of Colorado – Denver.  She received her principal’s license through the Denver University Ritchie program.  Sara is passionate about math education and believes that all students deserve the opportunity to explore and wonder about mathematics.

    In her spare time, Sara is a runner and runs marathons.  You may see her as she runs in Washington Park.  She also likes to cook and bake, and putter around in her garden.

  • Click to viewMeet Jeremy Cooper

    Jeremy Cooper

    Content Expertise: ELA-S, Language Arts
    Grade: Secondary

    Jeremy has been in the field of education for more than twelve years.  After moving to Denver in 2001, Jeremy began working as an ESL instructor in a continuing education program run by the Aurora Public Schools. Over the course of the next year, year, he quickly developed a close connection with his students. So, when he learned that this program was slated be shut down do to a lack of funding, Jeremy became involved in effort to create an educational program for new immigrants and non-traditional English language learners which eventually became known as the New America School.

    After helping to start the New America School, Jeremy decided to go back to the classroom and accepted a position as an advisor/ humanities teacher at Skyland Community High School, a Big Picture High School located in Denver’s Cole/ Whittier neighborhood. While at Skyland, Jeremy served as a lead teacher and Big Picture Network new teacher trainer, and was the recipient of the Mile High Teacher award.  After his students graduated, Jeremy stayed on with Skyland and served as the school’s Curriculum and Instruction Coach.

    Jeremy then moved on to Manual high School where he taught for three years as an ELA-E Language Arts teacher.  While at Manual, Jeremy served as the Department Chair, a mentor teacher, and a member of the Assessment Committee. He also co-developed and facilitate Manual’s 12th grade college/ career-prep advisory program, and helped achieve a 93% college acceptance rate for Manual’s first graduating class.

    Most recently, Jeremy returned from Puebla, Mexico, where he and his life lived for two years. While in Puebla, Jeremy spent time working as a Secondary Language Arts Teacher at a Bilingual k-12 School and as an adjunct professor in the Department of Languages at the Universidad de las Americas Puebla (UDLAP).  While at the UDLAP, Jeremy was given the opportunity to develop a course called, Educational Technologies, which sparked a deep interest in better understanding the ways that teachers can utilize web 2.0 technologies to foster meaningful student learning.

    Jeremy graduated from the University of Rochester with degrees in Political Science and Spanish. He earned his teaching license from the University of Colorado, and completed his Masters in Linguistically Diverse Education from the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

    Jeremy owes a debt of gratitude to the several, outstanding professional educators who took the time to mentor him throughout his teaching career.  He is keenly aware of the fact that if it were not for them, he would not be where he is today, and thus excited to pay-it-forward as a Peer Observer. When he is not working, Jeremy enjoys traveling, cooking for friends, playing guitar, reading and spending time outdoors.

  • Click to viewMeet Silvia Curiel-Torres

    Silvia Curiel-Torres

    Content Expertise: Science, Spanish, ELA-S
    Grade: Elementary

    Silvia Curiel-Torres arrived to Colorado in 2000 in an exchange program for teachers between Mexico and Adams County. Before teaching in Denver Public Schools (DPS), Silvia taught in Mexico City 22 years, 2 years in Adams County School District #14 and 10 years in Denver Public Schools. She has had the opportunity to teach students from 1st to 12th grade.

    Silvia began her career with Denver Public Schools in 2002 as an ELA-S teacher.  She taught one year at Newlon Elementary, one year at Remington Elementary, three years at Lake Middle School, three years at North High School and one year at Bryant Webster Dual Language K-8 School. Throughout her career, Silvia has taught different content areas for students who are native Spanish speakers. At the same time, she has provided them support in their transition of acquiring a second language. Last year she was an ELA S-E peer observer and she is looking forward to work with ELA S-E teachers again this year.

    Silvia collaborated with AmeriCorps to prepare youth volunteers in supporting DPS schools with student attendance, parent communication and other projects.  Also, she has participated in AVID trainings learning strategies for English Language Learners and Science Pathways. Likewise, she has hosted student teachers from the University of Denver and Metropolitan State College of Denver.

    Silvia received her academic instruction in Mexico, earning a B.A. in Elementary Education and a B.A. in Dentistry from the Metropolitan University of Mexico.  Silvia earned her Master’s Degree in Education from the Pedagogical University in Mexico. In Colorado, she was interested in learning strategies for Second Language Instruction and earned a second Master’s degree in Bilingual Education from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

  • Click to viewMeet Melissa Curry

    Melissa Curry

    Content Expertise: ELA-S/E
    Grade: Early Education/Elementary

    Melissa Curry began her career with Denver Public Schools in 2001.  She was initially a bilingual kindergarten teacher and later taught first grade in an ELA-S classroom.  She has served students through transitional native language instruction at the primary level and also as a literacy pullout support for third through fifth grade students learning English.  Prior to teaching with Denver Public Schools, Melissa worked in a preschool classroom for Headstart programs in two different metro area counties.  Her heart is in the classroom, and that is where she’s been.  Transitioning to the role of Peer Observer during the 2010-2011 school year has provided Melissa with multiple opportunities to spend time in classrooms throughout the district.  During her work as Peer Observer, she has collaborated extensively with the Early Education department.

    Melissa has participated as faculty representative in the Principals’ Institute focused on Data Teams.  She has experienced the revitalization process in an elementary school.  She has attended Collaborative School Committee meetings and helped make difficult decisions around programming and funding.  She has served as a student teacher advisor.

    Melissa earned a Bachelor of Social Work from Northern Arizona University where she focused her studies on child welfare and Spanish as a second language.  She obtained teacher licensure from Regis University and continued on to receive a Master’s degree in Education.  Her thesis was dedicated to transitional bilingual education and language acquisition.

  • Click to viewMeet Ethan Emery

    Ethan Emery

    Content Expertise: Science, PE
    Grade: Secondary

    The 2013-2014 school year will be Ethan’s forth year as a Peer Observer. Ethan has been a science teacher in Greeley and Denver for over 10 years. He has piloted and taught numerous curricula including Interactions in Physical Science, EarthComm, Integrated Science 1 and 2, and Biology as well as various elective courses including Physical Education. Before becoming a Peer Observer Ethan was teaching at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College where he was the science department chair, student teacher host, mentor teacher, and recipient of the Mile High Teacher award.

    In addition to his work with students in the classroom, Ethan has held a variety of district level leadership roles. He was a member of the Math/Science Leadership Cadre where he helped plan and facilitate curriculum training for new users. Ethan was also on the assessment development team for high school course assessments and in 2009 he was selected as a Jared Polis Teacher Recognition Award winner for the state of Colorado.

    Ethan has been a middle school and high school football coach as well as a sponsor for school based clubs including Fitness & Weight Training and the MLK Fly Fishing Club. He is an ELA-E and ELA-T certified teacher and has been trained in AVID Science Pathways, Culturally Responsive Classroom Management, No Nonsense Nurturing, Literacy Design Collaborative, Division Of Wildlife Outdoor Instruction, and the National Fly Fishing In Schools Program to name a few. Ethan earned his Bachelor’s in Biology with an emphasis in Secondary Education from the University of Northern Colorado where he was awarded with the Education Department Scholar Award in 2001.


  • Click to viewMeet Jennifer Fuerman

    Jennifer Fuerman

    Content Expertise: ELA-S, Literacy
    Grade: Elementary

    Jennifer Fuerman began her teaching career with Denver Public Schools 12 years ago. During her time teaching 1st grade ELA-S at Castro Elementary she fell in love with the process of instructing children to become successful readers and writers. After three years in the classroom she was trained in Reading Recovery in Spanish. Through that experience she had the unique opportunity of sharing her classroom with other Reading Recovery teachers. It was a very transparent process that helped her to grow into the educator that she is today. She is motivated when facilitating students’ accelerated progress and it is the success that her students achieve that has motivated her to explore best practices in literacy instruction to support struggling readers.

    Jennifer earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with an endorsement in bilingual elementary education at UNC in Greeley. She continued her education at CU Boulder where she completed her Master’s degree in Education, Equity, and Cultural Diversity as well as additional credits for Reading Recovery certification.

    Jennifer has formally mentored many teachers during her time in the classroom and always enjoys opportunities to encourage and learn from her fellow colleagues. She is excited to return for her second year as a Peer Observer. Jennifer has learned that student achievement is greatly impacted by providing thoughtful feedback to teachers which leads to reflection and next steps.



  • Click to viewMeet Travis Glatthar

    Travis Glatthar

    Content Expertise: Math, Technology
    Grade: Secondary

    Travis Glatthar taught five years at MLK early college and was the only math teacher in the high school when grade nine was added to the school.  Before working in Denver, Travis taught 8th grade math for three years in Jeffco.  Travis enjoys seeing the light bulbs light up in the math classroom and works hard at helping students understand that the brain is a muscle that performs better when exercised.

    Travis has accepted leadership positions which include, High School team lead, Innovation Proposal writing team, School Governance Board member and Personnel Committee chair.  He enjoyed the professional and challenging dialogs that arise out of these various responsibilities.

    Travis received his BA in Mathematics (2002) from Hastings College in Hastings Nebraska and received his Masters in Computer Science and Math Education (2003) from the same institution.  Travis also enjoyed spending much of his time in the college glass studio while there.

    Early in his career, Travis craved for professional conversations and opportunities to reflect on how to improve his craft of teaching.  Once found, Travis was amazed at the difference an effective instructional coach had on his practice in the classroom.  Travis looks forward to offering those positive experiences to secondary math teachers in DPS.

  • Click to viewMeet Robert Gould

    Robert Gould

    Content Expertise: Special Education M/M, Center Classrooms
    Grade: All

    The 2013-2014 school year is Rob’s 16th year as a teacher with DPS. Rob was hired as a Peer Observer during the first year of the Pilot and is currently starting his 4th school year within this supportive role. 

    Rob is a proud graduate of Denver Public Schools. Prior to becoming a Special Education Teacher, Rob worked as a paraprofessional within Multi Intensive and Multi Intensive Severe classrooms. In 1998, began he began his career as a long-term substitute as a mild-moderate/affective needs teacher at North High School. That experience prepared Rob for the first nine years of his career as an Affective Needs Intervention Teacher (formally known as self-contained ED) at Newlon Elementary School. In 2007, Rob moved to Lake International School to take on the role of a Mild/Moderate Special Education Teacher. During this time period, he taught several intervention curricula, facilitated progress monitoring and served as the department chair.

    Over the last 15 years, Rob has served on several committees within the Special Education Department and 11 summers supporting students with Multi-intensive and Autism needs during Extended School Year. Rob worked as a TCI trainer (Therapeutic Crisis Intervention) for 7 years within the Special Education department and has trained hundreds of DPS teachers to support students identified with Severe Affective, Multi-intensive and Autism needs.
    Rob earned his initial endorsement at Metro and his Master’s degree in Special Education from UNC.  In 2007, Rob earned his National Board Certification in Exceptional Needs.

    Rob has volunteered within the Denver Classroom Teachers Association through a variety of roles including building representative, Board of Directors and has served on the DCTA Bargaining team since 2006. 

    “I believe that every child in DPS deserves an effective teacher. As a peer observer it is my role to support teachers so they can reach their full potential! I look forward to supporting my teachers through reflective conversations” –Rob Gould


  • Click to viewMeet Marne Gulley

    Marne Gulley

    Content Expertise: Language Arts
    Grade: Secondary

    Marne Gulley’s experience as an avid student, a high school language arts teacher, a mentor, and a mother have ensured she is constantly (humbly) learning.  Marne grew up in Douglas County and then attended Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.  Following an Americorps service year when she taught urban teens business skills, Marne taught Language Arts and literacy intervention classes for nine years, most recently at Manual High School.  Marne has professional experience with the Coalition of Essential Schools and the Public Education & Business Coalition.  She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Colorado at Denver focused on Language, Literacy, and Culture.  Marne joined the Peer Observer team in 2012 and is a Culturally Responsive Teaching Trainer of Trainers.  She believes that equity in education is the Civil Rights issue of our times and that DPS educators are in pivotal positions to promote change.  Outside of work, Marne also stays busy volunteering, reading, traveling, and enjoying time with her two daughters who are elementary students in DPS.

  • Click to viewMeet Marianne Kenney

    Marianne Kenney

    Content Expertise: Social Studies
    Grade: Secondary

    The 2013-2014 will be Marianne’s fourth year as a Peer Observer.  Marianne taught high school social studies for seventeen years and served as department chair, the international studies coordinator, and the American Field Service advisor.  In addition to her work in the classroom, she worked on district curriculum committees and on the multicultural committee.  Marianne has held a variety of state-level roles, as the state Social Studies Content Specialist for more than seven years at CDE and subsequently worked at McREL, the region’s federally funded research laboratory training teachers on Bob Marzano’s “Instructional Strategies that Work.”  She was also the Social Studies methods instructor for the University of Denver.  Marianne spent many summers either on the staff or directing summer institutes supporting teachers in the development of standards-based units and assessments.

    Marianne served as the Secondary Social Studies Instructional Specialist for DPS for four years prior to becoming a Peer Observer.  She coached and mentored secondary social studies teachers and supported 200 teachers piloting the redesigned curriculum.  In addition, she served on district end-of-course assessments committees. Marianne currently serves on two CDE’s initiatives: the Content Collaborative for social studies assessment and the Model Curriculum Development Project.  Receiving both the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Outstanding Support for Geography EducationAward from the National Council for Geographic Education, the Distinguished Geography Educator Award from the National Geographic Society, the Governor’s Excellence in Education Award, and the Teacher of the Year by the Colorado Council of the Social Studies have been compliment’s to Marianne career.

    Marianne has a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Government and a Master’s Degree in World History. Marianne is state coordinator of the Colorado Geographic Bee held every spring at the University of Denver.

  • Click to viewMeet Jim Kimbrough

    Jim Kimbrough

    Content Expertise: Music/Drama/Dance
    Grade: All

    Jim Kimbrough has been an educator for 34 years, having served as a Peer Observer for two years.  His education experience includes classroom instruction in: elementary general music, band and orchestra, middle school choral and instrumental music, and high school choral music, theatre and stagecraft. The majority of Jim’s experience has been with Mapleton Public Schools, but he has also taught in Kansas and Nebraska.  During the past school year Jim taught a middle school choir class during zero hour for Mapleton Schools, teaching daily from 6:30 a.m. – 7:50 a.m.   He also has directed a musical production for Mapleton the past three years.  Jim is starting his seventh year with DPS previously serving as the principal for Samuels Elementary for three years, and he was an Arts Instructional Specialist for DPS for one year.  During the 1995-96 school year Jim served as a Teacher Leader Coordinator with Mapleton Public Schools facilitating the development of the Mapleton Content Standards for the Arts and Physical Education.  In 2004 Jim worked with the Mapleton music teachers to realign the standards and develop effective assessment tools to support instruction.

    In his spare time, Jim has been actively involved in community theatre throughout the Denver metro area, having been involved in more than 60 productions over the past 25 years.  For the past eight years Jim has served as the Artistic Director for Theatre West Summer Repertory Theatre at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  This past summer he produced the musical SPAMALOT, and directed the Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast.  Jim has also directed numerous children’s theatre productions, and was a staff member for Dreamstar School of the Arts for three summers.  This year he will be directing the musical episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once More With Feeling, and Sweeney Todd for Longmont Theatre Company.

  • Click to viewMeet Debra Kraft

    Debra Kraft

    Content Expertise: Early Education
    Grade: Montesorri

    Debra Lucero Kraft is a Denver native whose passion for working with children began in DPS as a Bilingual Tutor in the HELP program (Home-Based Education Language Project).  She went on to complete her BA in Elementary Education at Metro State and took a bilingual classroom at Mitchell Elementary.  Motivated by her own experiences as a mother and completely captivated by observing her 3 year old son thrive in a Montessori environment, she decided to complete an AMS Montessori Certification for 3-6 year olds. She also holds an AMI Montessori Credential for Birth-3 years, and a Montessori Elementary Certification for ages 6-12 years.  Debra knows that Discovery of the Child through meaningful work is the key to the developing human, and this spurs her life’s work for making education amazing and relevant for all young people.  Her areas of interest and experience are:  Early Education, Montessori and Dual Language.

    Debra also completed an MA in Educational Leadership at DU, was recognized in 2005 with the Mile High Teacher Award, and recently earned Board Certification in Early Education through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  She joined the Peer Observers this year to collaborate with other professionals in reflecting on our instructional practice.  “Society is different now – it is a critical time for making changes in the world.  We must meet the needs of all children in a different way so that we can cultivate responsible stewards for the planet.”

    Debra has worked for many years on the Student Intervention Team (now called the RtI Team) because she knows that discovering children’s learning styles/needs through Root Cause Analysis will provide keys to their learning and success.  “I am a quilter, both literally and figuratively speaking.”

    Her personal interests include spending time with three granddaughters, quilting, yoga, and studying the science of the human energy field in order to help people on their journey to greater health.

  • Click to viewMeet Lettecia Kratz

    Lettecia Kratz

    Content Expertise: ELA-S, ELD
    Grade: K-8

    Lettecia began her teaching career in 1995, in Oakland, California, with Teach for America. Having just graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a Bachelor’s degree in French and a minor in Russian, she was not prepared for the challenges she would face as a first year teacher in a difficult scenario.  Her first assignment was a 1/2/3 grade “Bilingual” and “Non-Bilingual” class of over thirty students, and there were no mentors who could guide her in teaching to her particular students’ needs.  This experience had an impact on her, and eventually led to her passion for equity and empowerment for all students, as well as for all teachers.

    She earned her Teaching Credential, with a Cross-Cultural, Language and Academic Development Certificate at J.F.K. University in Orinda, CA. In 2001 she moved home to Denver and began her career with Denver Public Schools at Remington Elementary.  Her teaching career includes brief tangents as a French, Spanish, Reading Intervention and Life Skills teacher. The majority of her experience is as an ELA-S elementary teacher, and as and ESL pull-out teacher.  She has taught 1-5th grade ELA-S classrooms, always as a “split.” Most recently, she was an English Language Development teacher for English Language Learners from all around the world, at Dora Moore K-8 for six years.

    Lettecia enjoyed being on the School Leadership Team at her school, advocating for the needs of teachers and students.  As a Teacher Leader, she undertook training staff on understanding and implementing Language Objectives, seeing the necessity for this strategy in order to help ELLs achieve in all content areas, while also seeing the need for teachers to have extensive support to implement the new strategy.

    Lettecia also brings a background in professional coaching; working with clients to fulfill goals and overcome any blocks to success, with Community Resource Center, Accomplishment Coaching, and on her own. She is excited to support teachers in the role of Peer Observer, with the emphasis on being a peer.  In her free time, Lettecia likes to garden, write, travel, read, dance, spend time with family, friends and pets, and do anything in nature.


  • Click to viewMeet Mary Laves

    Mary Laves

    Content Expertise: Math
    Grade: Secondary

    Mary Laves has been a teacher for over 15 years.  During her tenure at Denver Public Schools, she has been a mathematics teacher at George Washington High School where she taught Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Pre-Calculus to both traditional and honors students.    Mary was a Teacher Leader at George Washington.   In addition, she served as a teacher on the district assessment committee as well as on the Advisory Board of the University of Colorado Mathematics Website Committee.  

    Before coming to Denver, Mary taught at Morton East High School in Cicero, Illinois, where she taught both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.   In addition, Mary has taught at Oak Park River Forest High School in Oak Park, Illinois, where she served as a full-time tutor for subjects ranging from Algebra 1 to Calculus.

    Mary  earned a B.A. as well as a M.B.A. from The University of Chicago as well as a M.A.T. in both Elementary and Secondary Education from Northwestern University.

    Mary likes to hike and garden during her spare time. 

  • Click to viewMeet Debbie MacGilvray

    Debbie MacGilvray

    Content Expertise: Music
    Grade: All

    Debbie knew at a very early age she wanted to be a music teacher. All through school she was very involved in both band and choir. This is her twenty-eighth year in education: twenty-seventh in DPS. Prior to coming to Denver she taught K-12 general, instrumental and vocal music in Fleming, CO.  Similarly, during Debbie’s tenure in DPS, she taught K-12 general, instrumental, and vocal music.  
    Her DPS career began at Hamilton Middle School.  Later she taught at Kunsmiller, Grant Ranch K-8, and Henry World Middle School.  Debbie’s Grant Ranch elementary choir and her Hamilton Middle School Concert band were given the honor of performing at the Colorado Music Educators’ Association Conference/Clinic.  
    Debbie spent several summers as a vocal director for Summerstage, the DPS high school summer musical program. In addition to being the vocal director she enjoyed being the pit pianist. She has also been the guest conductor for district citywide bands as well as a citywide honor choir accompanist.
    In addition to teaching, Debbie has served schools by being involved with numerous committees including Collaborative School Committee, the School Leaders Team and the District Assessment Team.  Debbie collaborated with teachers as a building teacher leader and is currently a district arts teacher leader.
    Debbie is a Colorado native and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music Education from Adams State College.  She later earned a Master’s Degree in Technology in Education from Lesley University.  During her time away from the classroom, Debbie is the choir director, hand bell director, and Sunday school music leader at her church.  Debbie is excited to be a part of the Peer Observer team and is looking forward to working with, and supporting, music teachers across the district.
  • Click to viewMeet Kim Manning

    Kim Manning

    Content Expertise: Science
    Grade: Secondary

    2012-2013 will be Kim’s second school year as a peer observer.  Kim Manning is highly devoted to educating young minds in science.  Kim taught in various roles throughout college for ages from kindergarten through college level in the areas of microbiology and anatomy.  After graduating from Colorado State University with a Bachelor’s degree in microbiology, she moved on to Metro state to earn her teaching license through the Teacher in Residence program.  Kim  continued her education by earning her Master’s degree and Principals’ license from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2010.

    Kim has been a member of Denver Public Schools for the past 9 years, serving as a middle school science teacher, student advisor and AVID elective teacher and coordinator.  She has attending the training for AVID sciences as well as levels 1-3 of the International Baccalaureate program for the Middle Years Programme.  Kim has also been the sponsor for the Aviation Club and been a member of the Positive Behavior intervention Support team at Lake Middle School. 

    During her last two years in the classroom, Kim was the science department chair and a member of the school leadership committee.  Kim participated in the math/science leadership cadre, focusing on the pilot and implementation of the middle school science curriculum, leading professional development for the 7th grade curriculum and collaborating to develop the pacing and planning frameworks, as well as the assessments.  Kim has planned and facilitated professional development from the department level through the national level, co-facilitating sessions for the National Science Teachers Association Convention.

  • Click to viewMeet Connie Navarro

    Connie Navarro

    Content Expertise: World Languages
    Grade: Secondary

    Connie fell in love with learning languages as a 14 year-old high school freshman in southeast Los Angeles where she grew up.  Sampling everything her high school offered, she studied French, German, Spanish and Sign Language. After a college semester in Paris, she was hooked on French, but has always maintained an interest in any language she can get her hands on.  In college she studied Italian and Russian while earning a BA in French Language and Literature.  She began teaching French as a graduate teaching assistant while earning her Master’s in French and Romance Literatures.  The last 10 years of marriage to her Cuban-American husband have helped to develop her Spanish language skills.

    Connie has taught French for 20 years in Washington, Utah, Oklahoma, including the past 13 years here in Colorado.  She began teaching high school French in Douglas County and discovered new methods that worked to help her students understand and get excited about learning a new language.   Teaching in a variety of schools in the Denver area has given her a unique insight into the diversity of our students in DPS.  While in the urban setting of Thornton High School, Connie created a TCI curriculum tailored specifically to engage her high ELL population of students to achieve a high level of acquisition and proficiency.  In addition, she taught AP for 7 years in DCSD plus one year at Cherry Creek High School and IB for five in Adams 12 Five Star School district at Thornton High School, which have solidified her desire and ability to set high expectations for World Language Students. 

    She is looking forward to the new opportunities in the Peer Observer program to partner with teachers who want to go from good to great, and to support teachers who may be unsure of how to harness what is already working for them and focus it in order to raise student achievement.



  • Click to viewMeet Brenna Pertner

    Brenna Pertner

    Content Expertise: ESL, ELD

    Brenna Pertner is a continuing peer observer, and has worked in the field of education since 1998.  She fell in love with teaching while working in a special education classroom as a paraprofessional.  Brenna has taught ELA and elementary education in Anchorage and in a Native Alaskan village in Alaska, and as well as on the Western Slope and in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

    Other roles that Brenna has filled include being an ELA coach and serving as the district liaison between the ELA and special education departments.  As district liaison she was integral in ensuring the RtI process was implemented for struggling English Language Learners.  Brenna also served on a district task force that was charged with making recommendations regarding universal level instruction and interventions for students.  She has served on numerous other committees including Instructional Leadership Team, Student Success Teams, Safe and Drug-Free Schools, and has led a school’s professional development committee.  Brenna also led a student leadership group focused on service projects in the school and in the larger community. 

    Brenna earned her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a Spanish minor from Ohio University.  She earned her teaching credentials, ELA endorsement, and Master’s in Reading from The University of Northern Colorado.   Her thesis examined various factors involved in students deciding to drop out of school. 

    Brenna is passionate about supporting students in connecting their learning to their lives.  She has always enjoyed being reflective about her own teaching practice and looks forward to continuing to support DPS teachers as they reflect on their own teaching practices. 

  • Click to viewMeet Polli Ring

    Polli Ring

    Content Expertise: Gifted and Talented
    Grade: Elementary

    Polli Ring stepped into her first teaching position in 1987 humbled and excited to start her new career as an elementary teacher.  Coming from a family of educators, and having been raised in a home that valued learning; Polli knew teaching was and continues to be here one true calling.  She is happy to say twenty-six years later those same emotions greet her as she begins her journey as a new Peer Observer for Denver Public Schools. 

    Polli brings to DPS teaching and learning experience from several Colorado districts including Littleton, Eagle and Douglas counties.   Polli is fortunate to have taught a wide variety of levels including first, third, fourth, multi-age four/five, and sixth grades. She believes literacy instruction is at the heart of teaching at the elementary level and is confident that her MA in Reading will lead to a deeper understanding of the complex interactions in the elementary classroom in her new role.

    Nurturing the gifted learner is a passion area for Polli and led her to spend five years of her career focused on the gifted learner as both a facilitator and coordinator in a K-5 setting.  Finally, Polli brings experience in mentoring new teachers, designing and delivering staff development and working as an advocate for students with medical disabilities.  These experiences give her a healthy perspective of the diversity that walks into our public school classrooms each and every day.

    Learning is at the heart of everything Polli does whether it’s parenting her two amazing teenagers, nurturing her twenty-three year marriage, or flinging dirt around in her ever growing backyard garden.  Polli is a student of life and knows she is deeply blessed to continue her amazing journey as and peer observer.  Polli can’t wait to dive into the passion, dedication and joy of learning that embodies the educators in Denver Public Schools.  Go team DPS!

  • Click to viewMeet Julia Scott

    Julia Scott

    Content Expertise: Elementary
    Grade: Elementary

    Julia Scott is excited to continue in her role as a DPS Peer Observer for a second year, and is looking forward to continuing to build relationships with teachers.  She has had a wide variety of experience since she started her first classroom in 2004.  Julia began her teaching career as a 5th and 6th grade Language Arts teacher.  She co-taught science and social studies for two years and worked to incorporate her content into her Language Arts blocks, as well.  Julia also has experience teaching in primary classrooms. She has taught Kindergarten, 3rd and 4th grades. For three years she had the opportunity to work in an Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound school.  It is through this experience that Julia learned the value and necessity in creating hands-on, differentiated instruction for all students. Julia has always had a passion and enthusiasm for working and learning with children.  Her experience includes working with a variety of learners including, but not limited to students with severe needs, English language learners, as well as students identified as gifted.

    Julia joined the Peer Observer team at the beginning of the 2012 school year.  She believes in the importance of observation and reflective feedback on the craft of teaching.  Julia works to support teachers in their content area to celebrate strengths and provide support to teachers in their next steps with students. 

    Julia is a Colorado native, growing up in Douglas County and attending the University of Northern Colorado.  There she received her bachelors in Social Science, with an emphasis in Psychology.  Immediately following graduation, she went on to receive her master’s degree from UNC in Elementary Education.

  • Click to viewMeet Stephanie Star

    Stephanie Star

    Content Expertise: Elementary
    Grade: Elementary

    Before going into teaching, Stephanie Star received her BA in Psychology from University of Colorado at Boulder and worked in residential treatment centers for children ages 10-17. Stephanie began her career in DPS as a reading assistant at Cory Elementary in 1999 for first graders.  She was inspired to obtain her teaching certificate and began teaching first grade in 2001 at Schmidt Elementary.  Later she worked at Ellis Elementary in first and second grade for 6 years.  She learned a great deal about working with ELLs in her classroom. She developed a passion for understanding how to make instruction accessible to ELLs.   She then began teaching second grade at Samuels Elementary and continued until May of 2013. During that time, she spent a year serving as one of the teacher leaders at Samuels where she learned about how feedback can impact a teacher’s practice. She conducted feedback conversations with her peers after making informal observations in classrooms.  Stephanie wanted to build on this experience and become a peer observer.  She also believes that her teaching has improved greatly since working with peer observers over the last 2 years.  Stephanie will begin her first year as a peer observer with much enthusiasm and excitement.  In her free time she enjoys reading, making jewelry and writing for her blog.

  • Click to viewMeet Patrice Underwood

    Patrice Underwood

    Content Expertise: Social Studies
    Grade: Secondary

    In first grade, Patrice was required to complete an “About Me” page. When asked to fill out the sentence stem “When I grow up I want to be____________________” she confidently filled in a dancer, a secretary and a teacher. Patrice never was able to find that dream secretary job, but she pursued education throughout college and feels blessed to have known her true calling all along. Patrice is passionate about equity in education and always putting students first.  She majored in Social Sciences with a minor in Secondary and Urban Education. She is continuing to finish her MA in Cultural Anthropology. Patrice loves being able to continue learning in this ever changing and growing field.

    Patrice has taught grades 6-11 mostly in Denver Public Schools and for two years with incarcerated students in East Baton Rouge Parish School System (from New Orleans post Katrina). She has taught Geography, United States History, World History, Economics, African American History, Native American History and Action Learning using TCI curriculum and at times, creating her own.  She has most recently taught Human Geography at Rachel B. Noel and Noel Community Arts School for the last few years. She has enjoyed mentoring new DPS teachers. Being a member on the Arts Steering Committee has helped her to build deep connections with students, families and the community.  Patrice’s role in providing arts integration PD and developing projects / tuning peer projects has only furthered her appreciation for peer collaboration and support. Patrice is excited to bring these experiences to this role, and learn from her peers’ best practices.

    Outside of her career, she enjoys being active with her husband and two children, traveling, eating and dancing.  

  • Click to viewMeet Terri Lynn Walter

    Terri Lynn Walter

    Content Expertise: Special Education
    Grade: Elementary

    Terri Walter received her Bachelors of Education in 1992. That year she began her teaching career in regular education at an elementary school in Colorado Springs. During this year, she decided to learn more about students who struggle with disabilities and made the decision to become a Special Education teacher. She worked as a Special Education teacher while earning her Master’s degree.

    In 1998 she received her Master’s in Education from the University of Colorado licensed to teach students with moderate, emotional, and severe disabilities. For the next ten years, Terri worked in Colorado School Districts 20, Lewis Palmer, and Douglas County and Children’s Hospital with elementary, middle, and high school youth that have difficulty learning. Terri worked with peers to create a response to intervention system that would help students progress academically. Terri has taken on leadership roles in her building that include: team leader, SIT team member, IEP teacher, as well as provides professional development to teachers on progress monitoring, differentiated strategies, inclusion methods, and RTI. Terri has been trained in Wilson, Lindamood Bell, LLI, Voyager, Fundations, and Language.

    In 2009 Terri was hired as a reading interventionist with DPS. The following year she decided to return to Special Education as a mild/moderate teacher. When not teaching, Terri loves to travel with family, read, golf and hike.

  • Click to viewMeet Jennifer Washburn

    Jennifer Washburn

    Content Expertise: Special Education

    The 2013-2014 school year is Jennifer’s 13th year with DPS.   Prior  to her work as an educator, Jennifer worked 10 years as a Children and Family Therapist working with Head Start and Early Head Start programs, foster care systems, residential treatment, and in the non-profit counseling field.

    Upon moving to Colorado in 1999, Jennifer accepted a position as a Coordinator for a Child Placement Agency through a residential treatment center at Savio House in Denver.  She developed foster care programs and group homes for the agency.  While working within DPS schools for this agency, she was approached with an opportunity to teach within an Affective Needs Day Treatment Program within DPS. 

    Since her journey into the field of education, Jennifer has worked with students ranging preK-12th with affective needs (in both DPS and Charter schools), mild to moderate needs, as well as a Regional Support Specialist for Special Education in DPS.  In her most recent teaching position, she worked 10 years as a mild/moderate special Education teacher at Henry World School in DPS.  An area of interest Jennifer has is to build successful co-teaching and inclusion models, and effective progress monitoring systems.

    Jennifer moved often as a young child and adult growing up mostly in the south. She has lived overseas as well as in the states including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent the last 14 years in Colorado.  Jennifer received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Louisiana State University, finished her Masters of Science degree from Mississippi State University in Rehabilitation Counseling in 1994, and finally received her Masters of Arts degree in Special Education from University of Colorado.  She also holds her license as Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and National Certified Counselor (NCC) accreditation.  

    Jennifer has three kids at home that keep her on her toes.  When there is free time, she enjoys hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and outdoor activities with her friends and family.  Her dream someday would be to teach overseas and travel as well as become proficient in Spanish. 

  • Click to viewMeet Linda Washington

    Linda Washington

    Content Expertise: Early Education
    Grade: Elementary

     Linda, who goes by the nickname Georgie after her dad, began working with 3 to 6-year-olds when she was in High School and has had a soft spot for them ever since.  Before joining the LEAP team, the most recent 9 years of classroom teaching were in Early Education classrooms.  It’s not unusual to hear her referring to early ed as “the best grades and the smartest years!”  In visiting with more than 150 Early Childhood Educators over the last two years, Linda is both wowed and humbled by the great work going on all over DPS.

    Linda brings a passion for designing hands-on, differentiated instruction within a universal topic for a wide range of learners to her role as Peer Observer.  Her experience includes teaching in Expeditionary Learning, working with students who are deaf and hard of hearing, English language learners, and children identified as gifted.  In addition, Linda piloted an intensive summer school literacy program for struggling readers and writers.  She also conducted adult classes giving specific instruction on how to support emergent readers. 

    This will be Linda’s third year as a Peer Observer.  She strongly believes in the power of teachers as professional decision makers – that providing clear, actionable, unbiased feedback provides us all with information to build on our strengths as individuals and educators to serve kids.

  • Click to viewMeet Anne Williamson

    Anne Williamson

    Content Expertise: ELA-S, ESL, Intervention, Reading Recovery
    Grade: Elementary

    As far back as she can remember, Anne has had an ardent desire to teach.  As a young girl, she created her own classroom in the basement of her childhood home, complete with chalkboards, desks, books, report cards, and an array of stuffed animals that sat in the place of her imaginary students.

    She has enjoyed working for the last eleven years in the field of education, mainly for Denver Public Schools.  Anne has served as an ELA-S and ELA-E classroom teacher, an ESL Resource, a Reading Recovery teacher, and as a Peer Observer.   As a classroom teacher, she participated in the Literacy Squared research project by implementing literacy-based ESL in the classroom, teaching language in each content area, and supporting literacy instruction in both languages.  She worked collaboratively with other teachers to enhance the English language instruction in their classrooms and partook in approximately 80 hours of Kagan Cooperative Learning training for English Language Learners and Multiple Intelligences.

    Anne mentored beginning teachers by guiding and helping them adjust to their new roles.  She organized and planned professional development in Oracy for colleagues.  She has held several leadership positions on school committees, including CELA primary contact and ISA team leader.

    As a Reading Recovery teacher, Anne initiated the implementation of the Reading Recovery program at Farrell B. Howell School.  It was her honor to work with first grade students, who were struggling to read, to raise their instructional text levels by approximately 10-12 levels in 15-20 weeks.  She felt privileged to serve as a model classroom teacher for other Reading Recovery teachers.

    Most recently, Anne has served as a Peer Observer.  She has created and implemented district-wide trainings on Content Language Objectives.  Anne has also led multiple professional development sessions on various ELA topics for her Peer Observer colleagues.

    After returning from Spain, where she taught English to children and adults, she attained a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Spanish from Loyola College.  She also earned a Master’s degree in Education, Equity, and Cultural Diversity as well as additional credits for a Reading Recovery certification from the University of Colorado.


  • Click to viewMeet Gary Zaharatos

    Gary Zaharatos

    Content Expertise: Physical Education
    Grade: All

    Gary has been in education for over eight years.  After graduating from Hofstra University in 2004 with a Bachelors of Science in Physical Education, Gary moved to Arizona and taught K-8 Physical Education in the Dysart School District.  During those first two years in Arizona he earned a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction and coached football, soccer and baseball.  He spent the next six years teaching middle school Physical Education in Tempe, Arizona.  During his time there he took on the role of Team Leader for the Physical Education Department and helped design a curriculum that adhered to Arizona State Standards.  Along with designing and implementing intramural programs, Gary also has nearly a decades worth of experience coaching cross country and baseball. He is very proud of the two consecutive district championships his middle school baseball team won in 2012 and 2013.  Away from work you'll find Gary leading a very active lifestyle. Racquetball, ice hockey, weight lifting, skiing and hiking are among his activities of choice and he has always enjoyed modeling the type of lifestyle that he taught to his students. 

Get to know the DPS Peer Observers

Peer Observer Mission

Peer Observers will nurture excellent teaching through collaborative relationships and purposeful, honest reflection with teachers to ultimately increase student achievement. 

The Peer Observer team is looking forward to visiting pilot school classrooms this year and supporting the wonderful teachers we have here in DPS.  Get to know each of them individually by reading their biographies below (listed alphabetically by last name).