Letters: Are Denver teachers forced out for being old or being bad?

"Colorado Politics 2010 Tarot Deck," Kenny Be, June 17

It's in the Cards

I always thought most Colorado candidates weren't playing with a full deck. Now, after seeing Kenny Be's tarot cards, I know why.

Jay Rankin


Kenny, thank you! This tarotista loves your Major Arcana. P.S.: That's the scariest Moon card ever!

Renna Shesso


"Some Moores," Michael Paglia, June 17

Moore, Please!

Some impressions of Michael Paglia's review of Moore in the Gardens:

I agree wholeheartedly with his ambivalence regarding the parking garage and the new Visitors Center; I, too, am undecided over a number of the changes and waiting to exhale in anticipation of the final completion of all phases of this enormous project.

That said: The leadership at the DBG deserves enormous kudos for the amazing art installations they have brought to the gardens over the past several years, and with the current Moore exhibit, they have truly set the mark exceeding high. This will be very difficult to top. It is so good that I agree with Paglia's last sentence: It is worth seeing again and again.

But I take issue with the earlier suggestion that you pick up a map because you might miss some of them. Forget the map! Go as many times as you can and then just wander; you will eventually find them all, and every time you find a new hidden one, you will want more Moore!

My primary hope for this display is that the new greenhouses on the northern edge will be finished before summer is gone so that the route along the Gardens Grande-Alle is opened again!

Bill Gardner


"Teacher's Fret," Melanie Asmar, June 10

The Blackboard Bungle

We should be holding more parents accountable for the education of their children. Too often we blame it on the school or the teacher. Students need to have a rich learning environment at home so that they can show up at school ready to learn! Find a non-performing student and you will usually find a non-performing parent!

David French


I have a twenty-month-old great-nephew. When we are together, we play, we laugh, we read, we sing and we cheer. His curiosity, his willingness to try, to fall, to get up and try again, to look a situation over and want to know more, is fascinating. I am in awe as I sit and watch him. I feel unconditional love, and he senses it.

I question when and why this risk-taking and excitement about learning stops. I suggest that it is when a child goes to school. I suggest that it is when awesome teachers have to put what they know about learning and what is best for children on the shelf so they can prepare for the standardized test. Does this test tell us what the child is good at, whether a child is a good problem-solver, what a child does when there isn't one right answer? Does a child learn about the gift of who he is and what he can do to make the world a better place? Perhaps what a child learns when being prepared for the test is that if he and his fellow students do not do well, his teacher may be gone. The principal may be gone. In fact, the school he goes to may be gone. My great-nephew is so smart. I worry that when he goes to school, it will make him stupid.

What a shame it is that he will not have the opportunity to have Mary Pishney as his teacher. She is exactly the kind of teacher that our children need today.

Jane A. Diamond


I believe the poor evaluation is most unfair and unwarranted. If you get rid of older teachers it saves money, and I believe this is age discrimination, pure and simple.

Frank Galmish


Where is the Denver Classroom Teachers Association during this entire fiasco? Miss P needs the support, assistance and activism of a good and decent teachers' union. Ageism is alive and well in the Denver Public Schools; the fact that principals are encouraged to remove older teachers from their faculty is a "fact." The district needs to save money. Do the math: A veteran teacher earns more than a teacher right out of college. More rookies, more savings! Meanwhile, the teachers who need the support of the DCTA -- meaning the older, more experienced teachers -- receive it the least.

DPS and DCTA should rethink how they treat their older members!

Patrick Milican


Rather than designer teachers in designer schools run by designer principals (principles?), education needs to be made more interesting than recess by creative teachers who impart how to learn -- how to think, how to question -- rather than how to memorize, how to be a good parrot.

"Real" schools have each child working at his or her ability level and grade level in each subject. All the materials -- books, computers, etc. -- are nearby, and the teacher is more facilitator than lecturer, more mentor than disciplinarian. Kids are really smart if "left alone" in educational settings from early on. They each know what to choose for themselves in a cafeteria-feeding-style learning environment in which there are a multitude of options; thus real genius is created in adulthood from individualization.

A really good teacher, like Miss P, creates a learning matrix never forgotten! Designer schools educate sheep. My evaluation of the current crop of "political" evaluators: Baaah!

Gene W. Edwards

Colorado Springs

Your recent story about Bromwell first-grade teacher Mary Pishney left out a crucial issue when asking "What makes a 'good' teacher?" It is professional and emotional integrity. Good teachers lead by example, by modeling positive behavior and teaching students how to solve problems constructively. Most important, they put their students' interests first. Those attributes mark a "good" -- rather an "excellent" -- teacher.

Two of my children had Mary Pishney for first grade, including this year. It has been sad and disheartening to watch Miss P flunk the above litmus test.

Miss P's first-grade students adored her for six years! But on February 25, her classroom got scary for the kids. She fled her problems at Bromwell (and a new talented and courageous principal determined to set improved curriculum standards) by knocking down her "sandcastle of happiness at Bromwell" -- never to return.

Miss P left abruptly without saying goodbye, and offered no plans for return. Weeks passed with no word from her despite numerous e-mails and calls from worried parents. Principal Jody Cohn, determined parents and our wonderful substitute (Nathan Bowers) all hunkered down to keep the classroom moving forward, with no guidance from Miss P. Her awkward absence left her six-year-olds confused and upset. Each week the kids were told by equally confused parents that Miss P was "still sick." After weeks, some kids asked sadly, "How sick is she?" "In the hospital?" "Has she died?"

It is understandable to have a "medical" condition or a disagreement with a principal. However, it is not mature professional behavior for a teacher to abandon a classroom of 29 innocent kids in the middle of a school year without a formal goodbye and some closure for her "little darlings."

The next time Miss P watches her poetry video of the kids, she should fast-forward to an old favorite -- "The Tale of Custard the Dragon":

But presently up spoke little dog Mustard,

I'd been twice as brave if I hadn't been flustered,

And Custard said, I quite agree

That everybody is braver than me!

Georgianna Forbes


"Seasonings Greetings," Juliet Wittman, June 10

Help Over Hype

In her letter published last week, Jordi Xular committed a grave injustice by labeling gluten-free food as a "hyped-up marketing ploy" and "elitist food-snob tripe."

Celiac disease is an inherited, autoimmune disorder that slowly kills its victims if they continue to be exposed to gluten -- even in minuscule amounts. I ask Jordi and everyone else to visit to learn about this serious disease that affects millions of Americans.

Fortunately, the metro Denver area is in the vanguard of gluten-free cooking, with numerous local bakeries, restaurants and other businesses devoted to offering gluten-free food alternatives to a deeply grateful population. These businesses are to be commended for their sincere efforts, not ignorantly disparaged as purveyors of "hype."

Rolf Asphaug


"Meals on Wheels," Laura Shunk, June 3

Wheeling and

Cool concept from an urban-planning perspective, too. The park is slipping into under-utilization and could potentially become a place where only shady characters hang out. So, how do you bring life back to an area without investing millions in new buildings or infrastructure? Those mobile food trucks are a really cool solution. It seems like it is appropriate for the area as well, as opposed to putting an expensive gourmet food truck in a lower-income area. So the park has new life, the food vendors have a chance to thrive, and businesses around the park will surely benefit from the increased foot traffic there.

An example of food fostering community.

Lauren Smith


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