- Cherry Creek School District No. 5
Celebrating history and heritage at Elevation
We must honor the legacy of those who came before us in order to help those who will come after us.
This is a guiding principle for Kristina Quintana, who teaches first grade in Cherry Creek Elevation’s K-5 program. After 18 years in the district, she has learned the value of knowing where you’re going by understanding where you’ve been.
Quintana began her teaching career when she volunteered at a Mexican orphanage the summer before her senior year of high school. This experience would shape her for years to come, instilling a lifelong desire to help children learn and grow.
“I recently learned that one of my ancestors was from the Jicarilla part of what is now New Mexico,” Quintana said. “She married a Spaniard and they moved to Colorado, but they were attacked by another Indian tribe. He was killed and she kept going to homestead the land that we still have in southern Colorado.”
This story gives Quintana strength and inspires her to celebrate her heritage as well as the heritage of her students. She wants her kids to see themselves in the classroom, so she was excited to start a lesson on cultural holidays. Students will be sharing the holidays they celebrate and talking to their families about culture and heritage.
“I want my students to feel they can be strong in who they are and speak up for themselves,” Quintana said. “I think that starts by building a relationship rooted in vulnerability and empowerment.”
Building the relationship from a place of vulnerability allows both people to practice feeling safer with each other, which allows learning to happen -- for students and adults. As the professional learning community facilitator for her team, Quintana wants to empower her fellow teachers, as well. She is a mentor to another teacher at Elevation and she often considers how to create a strong community in a largely virtual school.
“I tell my kids that I don’t know everything, but I am willing to grow and take risks,” Quintana said. “Knowing how much you have yet to learn is empowering, because you can keep moving forward from there.”