LaTierra Greene was raised by a single, working mother just north of Denver in Commerce City. As a young child, she remembers spending her days at school, with her teachers, and how they provided a safe space for her to be herself. Those educators helped shape the person she is today and her compassion for children. “I can empathize with those who are struggling, because I know what it’s like to get food and medical assistance from my own childhood,” Greene said.
On May 13, Greene will graduate from CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development (SEHD) with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, an endorsement in Culturally, Linguistically, and Diverse Education, and a psychology minor. Her background as a mother to a 7-year-old son and a former social worker, paired with the knowledge and hands-on experiences she received at CU Denver, have prepared her for a promising future in education. “I don’t regret the rigorous semesters [at CU Denver],” Greene said. “We need more educators, and as educators, we need to be supported.”
Like many students at CU Denver, Greene’s education path is unconventional. After high school, she enrolled in the University of Northern Colorado to focus on psychology for children and young adolescents but ultimately decided to pursue a career opportunity in human services for Jefferson County. For more than five years, she assisted low-income adults and families with basic needs, mental health support, and career development. “I started off helping [my clients] get food and health assistance, and then transitioned to a career specialist, helping adults get and keep a job,” Greene said. “I couldn’t help but think about the kids who were being impacted in those families.”
During that time, Greene had her son, which motivated her to focus on her personal growth and her passion for helping children. She enrolled at Arapahoe Community College to continue her education, and two years later, she transferred to CU Denver. “I knew people that went to CU Denver, and they raved about it,” Greene said. “CU Denver made it the easiest transition, accepted the most credits, and had a huge focus on diversity.”
The SEHD faculty made a difference, too. Assistant Professor Adriana Alvarez, PhD, cheered Greene on since her first semester at CU Denver and will receive Greene’s stole of gratitude at commencement. Senior Instructor John McDermott helped Greene holistically think about a child’s well-being and expanded her perception of what it means to be an educator. Senior Instructor Maria Uribe, PhD, instructed Greene in multiple courses and helped her understand the importance of meeting students where they’re at. And Senior Instructor Christopher Carson always listened and supported her when she wasn’t sure what steps to take after commencement. “[Chris] was one of the first people to call me a scholar,” Greene said. “As an adult, hearing that from another adult meant so much.”
As part of SEHD’s curriculum and graduation requirements, Greene has spent the past year at Village East Elementary School in the Cherry Creek School District working as a kindergarten and second-grade student teacher. She was drawn to the school because of its diversity. “I love the different cultures, religions, and experiences [represented in the school], and I see so many students and teachers that look like me,” Greene said. “Even the students who are struggling the most are excited to learn. Seeing them show up definitely helps me show up every day.”
That real-world experience has shown Greene the rewards and challenges of today’s education system, and it has helped her plan her future. Following commencement, she will stay at CU Denver to pursue her master’s degree in learning design and technology. “I would love to help with [academic] interventions,” Greene said. “I want to help the kids who have struggled the most advance and thrive in school.”