SLA COHORT VII-BORIS COSTA-GUERRA
Dr. Boris Costa-Guerra
Senior Manager for Student Enrichment and Program Development, English Acquisition Department, Denver Public Schools
What is your current role?
Currently, I am the Senior Manager for Student Enrichment and Program Development for the English Acquisition Department in Denver Public Schools. I oversee the Summer School program to ensure quality summer instruction for diverse students.
What is the enrollment of your current school district?
Denver Public schools has an enrollment of approximately 90,000 students, and approximately 30% are English Language Learners. There are 183 languages present in the school district and 35,000 students speak Spanish.
What are some of your career highlights?
In my career, I have been fortunate to have several career highlights. As a Director of the Teacher Education Program, I assisted in increasing enrollment, retention and graduation rates for students at the Higher Education level. I was the Co-Chair of the Deans and Directors for Universities and Colleges for the State of New Mexico. As a team, we collaborated with the Deans of four-year institutions and Directors of Colleges to create articulations to ensure teacher education curricula meet the needs and requirements for future teachers.
As Principal, I was fortunate to be involved in turning around two elementary schools. The process was accomplished by creating strategic planning, collaboration committees (equity and social justice), progress monitoring, data driven instruction, creating, implementing common formative assessment with follow up action plans (coaching), and developing (empowering) leadership within the school. All the work that we installed into the school provided us the biggest reward: community involvement with a student-centered school to meet the needs of all our students. As a result, we became centered as servant leaders. Our work in the schools has allowed us to present at the State and National conferences, highlighting our innovative classrooms which involved converting our school from a Transitional Bilingual program to 2-way (K-1) to a 1 way (3-6) Dual Language program as well as implementing robotics.
As Senior Manager, I have been able to increase the pay rate for Principals, Teachers and Secretaries working for Summer School as much as $10.00 an hour. I have also created collaboration with the University of Denver to provide a Summer Academy with Denver Public Schools (DPS). This articulation focuses on incoming 9th grade English Language Learner students. DPS Summer Academy has a rigorous curriculum that allows students to develop a second language, mathematic skills, and literacy skills.
What are you most proud of professionally?
I am most proud that in my career, I have had experience to serve in a diverse community. As a servant leader, I have been given the gift of working with superior personnel and learning from great educators. I am humbled to have the opportunity to listen and learn from the challenges that we face as educators. Turning schools around has many challenges, but creating an environment where teachers’ passion is supported and fostered allowed innovation and creativity to be instilled in having momentum and stability for positive changes. I am proud to have served with a community that taught me the value of listening and learning. Being able to create collaborative systems in place for sustainability was important and valuable in my experience. I am proud to be in a role of servant leadership
I have also added to the body of research for diverse students by publishing and producing quality research. The data and information has helped scholars and educators grow and evolve to better serve diverse students, which has been one of my goals in education. As educators, we have to learn as we expect our students to learn. A scholar never stops trying to find answers. As we learn, we can address more about the needs and solutions to education issues.
What is one of the biggest challenges facing educators today?
One of the biggest challenges facing educators is the implementation and sustainability of equity for all students. Schools have the privilege of serving a community of learners. Like in any community, we must ensure to meet all of their needs not just in equality but equity. Below are some of challenges educators face in implementing and sustaining equity:
• Gifted students
• Language learners
• Gender equality
• Special Education
• Differentiated learning levels
• Socio-economic issues
• Target objectives and standards
• Community involvement
• Teacher to student ratio
Equity can be implemented but maintaining a high standard in which all educators are held accountable can be a challenge. Many times, we emphasize to improve equity in some area but disengage in sustaining it in other areas. An important factor to ensure we are sustaining equity is to progress monitoring and receiving feedback form stakeholders of the progress. We must be active leaders and empower educators to sustain the vision of equity.
There are many issues to address for educators, but educators are resilient, creative and positive. Issues are merely steps toward growing and becoming more knowledgeable in the classroom. Educators most often became educators to help or change the future in a positive manner. The issues that educators face are real and abundant but only enhance our reality of making a world that is more equitable.
Why is a program like SLA important for Latino educators?
A program such as SLA provides Latino educators an opportunity to collaborate and learn a high level of professional development. SLA opens and maintains doors to network and communicate about the equitable needs of our diverse learners. SLA also allows Latino educators an avenue to learn from other influential leaders who can help guide a positive education direction for the Latino community. We are ALAS: a supportive and empowering organization that provides guidance and supports future leaders. I look forward to being an active member.