ActivePaper Archive Language, life skills lifted by Each One Teach One - The Denver Post, 1/1/2017

Season to Share The Denver Post holiday giving campaign

Language, life skills lifted by Each One Teach One


From left, parent tutor Evelia Soriano works with students Erine Avorque, 7; Edwin Benton, 7; and Lily Vigil-Stein, 7; during a vital Denver Public Schools Foundation program called Each One Teach One at Marie L. Greenwood Academy. Photos by Andy Cross, The Denver Post


Student Megeney Ali, 7, listens to instruction from Mary Ann Bash, the creator and director of the Denver Public Schools Foundation program Each One Teach One.

Denver Public Schools Foundation

Address: 1860 Lincoln St., ninth floor, Denver, CO 80203 In operation since: 1992 Number of employees: 14 Annual budget: $14.6 million; $12.6 million program expenses Percentage of funds that go directly to client service: More than 90 percent



Through Season to Share, a Mc-Cormick Foundation fund, 49 charities received more than $2.29 million in grants last year. The organizations serve low-income children, as well as those who are hungry, homeless or in need of medical care. Donations are matched at 50 cents per dollar, and 100 percent goes directly to local nonprofit agencies. To make a donation, see the coupon on Page 5B in today’s paper, call 1-800-518-3972 or visit


Nallely Arredondo, 7, works with parent tutor Annabel Caballero during Each One Teach One at Marie L. Greenwood Academy. Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Young children clustered at a small table call out the names of words that match illustrations their teacher points to in a colorful book.

“Those are the overwings of a monarch butterfly,” they say in unison.

They talk of foliage, eggs and Zinias. They tell the teacher about even more difficult words, such as mandible, which they now know allows insects to tear into leaves, and lepidopterist, which they know is a person who studies butterflies.

These children, who attend Marie L. Greenwood Academy elementary school in the Denver public school system, not too long ago struggled to speak basic English. Their parents are from far-flung places such as Mexico, Somalia, Germany and other foreign countries. Now these youngsters from Denver’s Montbello area are thriving, thanks to an innovative program funded by the Denver Public Schools Foundation called “For Each One Teach One: No More Gap.”

Each One Teach One is one of about 50 organizations that received funds from The Denver Post’s Season to Share campaign.

The brainchild of Mary Ann Bash, a former Denver public school teacher, the program aims to close a crucial word gap that can haunt some children. Studies show that disadvantaged children often struggle with a massive word gap that can set them back at the start of schooling. By the age of 3, children in low-income or disadvantaged families can face as much as a 30-million word gap behind what children in typical families understand.

“It’s called the early catastrophe,” Bash said. “We need to bring more human capacity into the schools to close this gap.”

About 93 percent of students at Marie L. Greenwood are on the free and reduced-price lunch program, and about 79 percent of the students at the school are English language learners. Those who participate in the Each One Teach One program are 2.6 times more likely to be reading at their grade level than their peers, according to statistics compiled by the Denver Public Schools Foundation.

Under Bash’s tutelage, parents in the community are brought into the school as volunteers to learn and teach alongside the children in their community. The program allows these children, who often rely on English as a second language, to break up into smaller units of instruction of about three to four children.

The new program has had a ripple effect throughout the community. Parents who struggle to speak English begin to learn new words they can start teaching their infants back in the home. These parents reach out to other parents in the community at the same time that their grade school children start to receive crucial, specialized instruction.

“The kids have no problem learning sophisticated language, but you have to give it to them and do repetition,” Bash said.

One tradition in the program is that the children wear a necklace with a clip holding dozens of cards, each with a word. These are the words the children will recite and remember. Words such as bloom, pollination, seedling. Their parents also can wear the necklaces, learning right along with the children, increasing the capacity to teach throughout the whole community. The parents, teachers and children meet for 45 minutes a day to go over the lessons. They continue meeting into the summer after the school year is done.

One of the proud parents participating is Diana Cerillo, who became interested when she saw her older child, a high schooler, wearing one of the word necklaces.

“It’s had an impact on me, on my family and on the entire community,” Cerillo said. “It brings the children self-confidence. Now they are never afraid to be wrong because they are learning.”

Most of these children once were shy. Now they chatter excitedly in English in the hallway where they learn. Plastered on the wall where they are going over their lessons is a phrase attributed to the Roman philosopher, Cicero: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Bash said it’s important to not just teach the children new words, but also a new way of life. The school grows vegetables in a garden as part of teaching about nutrition. Children are taught manners, such as how to shake hands and make eye contact when they meet someone, which Bash said will pay dividends when they are older and start looking for a job. They are taught about the importance of exercise as they learn to ride a bike.

Ivan, a precocious fourth-grader, declared that his goal in life is to become a botanist when he grows up.

Bash recalled how a few years ago when Ivan started the program, he was dispirited and embarrassed. He had medical issues with a leg that other children teased him about. He didn’t speak well.

He wrote a short essay about his past, using a new word the program had taught him to explain his former plight. That word was discrimination. He used it in this sentence: “People made fun of how I walked, and I felt discriminated against because I walk differently so kids wouldn’t let me play volleyball and games because I wasn’t fast enough, and they would yell at me and make me feel bad.”

Now he’s a leader in the school, one of the top gardeners. He’s inseparable from two other friends he made with other students in the program. Back at home, his father feeds the family’s pet bird sunflower seeds. Ivan took the initiative recently of picking out intact seeds the bird didn’t eat. He brought those seeds to the school and ended up planting them in the garden. He gave away the sunflowers the seeds grew into to his fellow students and teachers.

He recently decided some of the cabbages the students grew in the garden should go to a homeless shelter to help feed struggling families as well as to the parents of students at the school.

“This is not the same child who started this program,” Bash said. “His mission in life is to give and give.”

Christopher N. Osher:

303-954-1747, or @chrisosher