In honor of Black History Month, Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet commemorated the late Marie Greenwood, Denver’s first tenured black teacher and education advocate, with a formal statement for the Congressional Record.
“Marie’s work as Denver’s first tenured black teacher and an integration pioneer increased educational equity in our schools and helped shape Denver into the great city that it is today,” Bennet wrote in his statement, published Friday.
“As the former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, I can confidently say that our students would be well-served if Marie was the lodestar for our teachers. Her grace and passion for the profession made a tremendous difference in the lives of our young people, and we are all in her debt.”
Greenwood was considered a trailblazer in civil rights. In 1938, she became the first black teacher to earn tenure in the Denver Public Schools system. She fought discriminatory policies throughout her career, becoming in 1955 the city’s first African American to teach at a segregated school.
In the 1960s, she served on a Denver Public Schools committee that studied racial inequalities in district funding and staffing.
“All the while, she was a kind and determined teacher who ensured that her students always tried their hardest,” Bennet wrote.
In addition to her many achievements, including authoring two books, a school district in 2001 named a new elementary school in her honor.
“She will continue to be remembered by students who participate in the Greenwood Scholars program, which teaches the history of Denver through her life story,” Bennet added. “Her grace and passion for the profession made a tremendous difference in the live of our young people, and we are all in her debt.”
Greenwood died on Nov. 15 at 106 years old. Eight days before her death, she taught her last lesson to Denver students:
“If you reach for the stars, at least you’ll hit the treetops.”