Amber González-Cortes is the epitome of an ambitious, unintimidated educator. She came to CU Boulder bound and determined to earn the double teaching endorsements in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education and Special Education. While the CU Boulder School of Education is the only school in the state to offer the unique double endorsement, course offerings for special education classes vary based on enrollment demands. When the courses González-Cortes needed were not available, she took matters into her own hands.
One summer, she drove to Eagle County to take classes with the BUENO Center’s mountain cohort. A different semester, she took an online piano class through Continuing Education to maintain her eligibility. Another semester, she took an independent study course one-on-one with Sue Hopewell, assistant professor of educational equity and cultural diversity.
“Nothing and no one, especially structural issues, were going to keep her from earning the expertise that she sought,” Hopewell said.
As a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education Specialist Teacher at Harris Park Elementary School in Westminster Public Schools, González-Cortes has directly applied her studies to her work with bilingual students. As part of class assignments, she designed a toolkit for educators explaining the Colorado’s implementation of the federal education act, ESSA, and she created self-guided professional development video to help all teachers understand the needs of bilingual students with identified disabilities. Both resources were shared with district leadership and then distributed district wide.
“I struggled through elementary school with learning to read, and I began to see many of my bilingual students struggling with the same things I did as a child,” González-Cortes said. “Today, I have collaborated with many colleagues to shift my school's and district's perspective on bilingual students to become more inclusive of their diverse needs. I have grown as a teacher, and I know I have so much more to learn.”
Students and families are lucky to have González-Cortes advocating on their behalf as she is a passionate, kind, generous, and informed advocate, Hopewell said.
“Amber teaches to insure powerful, equitable, and culturally inclusive educational experiences for all,” she added. “She is exactly the kind of graduate CU Boulder should be proud to send into the world.”