I am Julie Bañuelos, a former Denver Public Schools teacher, an activist and a candidate for the at-large seat on the DPS Board of Education this November.
I come from a family of immigrants who originally were migrant workers but because of education, were able to lift up out of poverty and set us kids on a path to success. Just like many Denver families, we lived in humble surroundings while my father studied for his engineering degree. I grew up in the East Village, which is the housing project across from what was then Ebert Elementary, on 23rd and Tremont, in Denver's Curtis Park.
I loved my teachers, and school was a place where I found acceptance, was challenged to speak up and take responsibility for my actions and even advocate for my community. It was the relationships I built with those experienced, passionate teachers that helped me build self-esteem and resilience to face life's challenges.
It was because of that grounding that I got a degree in Economics and Latin American Studies from Grinnell College in Iowa, and even though my career in compliance and portfolio management kept me busy, I was still drawn back to my community, and I spent my lunch hours back at Ebert volunteering as a reading tutor.
But as you know, teachers are born, not made. My heart was drawn back to Denver, and I entered teaching through an alternative licensure program and went right back to DPS.
During my 15+ years with DPS, I've worked mostly with communities of color with large constituents of immigrants, students and families of English Language Learners – groups to whom I am still tied and who are most impacted by passionate teachers that invest not just their time, but also their souls to these academic and personal relationships.
If you've been in Denver even for a little while, you begin to notice that school closures and privatization follow the pattern of high rents and sprawling development. It happened in my own school at Ebert, where the flimsiest of justifications were used to shut us down but reopen it as Polaris, a school mostly filled with affluent families with gifted students. Lately, we see a similar pattern with the closure of Gilpin Montessori, and fighting these closures has become the reality.
It's time to create a different reality, one of school communities full of energetic kids whose teachers love to come to work, where students think critically about the world around them, and where parents and taxpayers feel respected and heard.
That's why I'm running. I want to build that vision of vibrant, engaged school communities into a new normal.
Won't you join this movement? Please volunteer or donate.
Together we can do it.
For public education in our strong communities,