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For Adams, the key is "being there."

One of the many things Professor Jill Adams, Ph.D., tells her students is that one of the most critical lessons about being a successful teacher is to always be there for your students.

“One of the most important things about teaching, especially secondary school kids, is that you have to be there,” Adams. “Sometimes you’re the only one who is.”

For Adams, the “there” in “being there,” is often beyond the traditional confines of the classroom when it comes to her methods and her teaching media.

  • She sits side-by-side pre-service teachers as they coach students at Denver North High School.
  • She takes students to conferences to interact with authors.
  • She leads them onto the internet, teaching persuasive writing techniques as students maintain a blog based on the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” section, digging into searing topics such as police brutality and race.
  • She pushes students to always “teach themselves,” and never settle for not understanding a topic or a technique.
  • She continually busts out of the classroom and connects content and process with the real world, whether she’s teaching students how to write, or teaching students how to teach writing.

Successful Student Teachers Network

The real world is not rainbows and unicorns for teachers these days, Adams admits. With standardized testing looming over classrooms gobbling up class time like a ravenous dragon, on top of increased scrutiny from teacher evaluations, “the field can be a negative place now,” she explains.

How do you thrive as a teacher? “You stay connected,” Adams says.

From the center of a web of MSU Denver teachers that’s growing across Colorado, she demonstrates to students how that’s done. A past president of the Colorado Language Arts Society, an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English professional development organization, she’s brought many students on board.

Real Connections Lead to Real Jobs

Just a few weeks after Jessica Leifheit graduated, Adams asked her to become a board member. This past year, Leifheit, now a teacher at Castle View High School, chaired the entire annual conference.

Adam’s involvement in her career has stretched far beyond the classroom.

“Since graduation, Dr. Adams has continued to engage me in professional development opportunities that are far beyond the high school where I currently teach,” says Leifheit. “She’s taught me to be a life-long learner, and to not settle as a professional, but continue to be engaged in professional development.”

“It was amazing to sit there at the conference and see everything she planned,” says Adams, of the CLAS event. “I looked around and realized that at least a third of the people in the room had MSU Denver connections. It was terrific. You could really see the impact of our program on the whole state.”

One-on-one Student-Centered Teaching

Adams boosts that impact student by student, “being there” for each one, from providing insightful tips on technique to struggling student teachers to offering real-world job advice to recent grads.

“Dr. Adams is a prime example of what I loved about MSU Denver: the fact that it has caring, thoughtful instructors whose aim is to prepare students for the challenges they will face outside of college,” says former student, Jamie Rogers, who now teaches English at Aurora Central High School. “She prepared me for my career as a teacher in more ways than one and continues to be a mentor in my post-college life.”


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