CBS4 and the Denver Business Journal are teaming up to profile companies that are “Making Their Mark” in Colorado communities.
DENVER (CBS4) – He’s a man who realizes the importance of educating our youth and is making his mark as executive director for Teach for America Colorado.
“Learning is when the other person understands, not when I teach,” Sean VanBerschot said.
Spoken like a true teacher, VanBerschot didn’t always know he wanted to be a teacher.
“A man in the year 2000 named Ralph Nader, he sat down to dinner with me, he was like, ‘Don’t do education policy, do Teach for America.’ I’m like, ‘Okay.’ “
VanBerschot began Teach for America Colorado in 2007. For him, the mission is personal.
“I wasn’t the best reader, I kind of had some speech difficulties, recognizing some other kids were getting a very different education, where kids of color, kids from low-income backgrounds, or kids with learning disabilities like myself, and realizing, ‘Wait a second, they’re incredibly capably people, so why isn’t this happening for them?’ “ VanBerschot said.
The first part of the educational equation for Teach for America Colorado is strong leadership. The second part is – “our kids can.”
“Despite their background or whatever it may be, they are beautiful, capable human beings — and they can. That changed me,” VanBerschot said.
Teach for America Colorado has gone from 55 teachers to almost 1,100 statewide, working with 50,000 children.
“Teach for America seeks to end educational inequities, which is a long-winded way of saying there are 15 million kids growing up in poverty in the U.S., there are 250,000 growing up in poverty here in Colorado. That is deciding their educational future, and we want to end that.”
He is passionate about teaching because he has seen the difference good teachers can make, which is why it’s so hard for VanBerschot to separate making his mark from the mark of the organization.
“(That’s) why am I committing every single morning to wake up at 5 a.m., to go to bed at 11 p.m., and just wake up energized after an exhausting day to work on behalf of my kids and to create what our vision says – ‘One day all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.’ That’s when, maybe, hopefully, that’s what people think of when they think of me.”