Veteran STEM educator Cassie Harrelson runs for Aspen school board
When Aspen parents worry about providing affordable housing for teachers, Aspen school board candidate Cassie Harrelson can offer a fresh perspective. In 2010, she was an Aspen math teacher (grades 5-8) eligible for one of the affordable apartments Aspen made available to schoolteachers. She was grateful to have a home she could afford to rent in Aspen.
But — and there was a small, yet significant, “but.”
“I was single, but there were no one-bedroom apartments available, just a two bedroom, and I didn’t really want to hunt for a roommate,” she told The Aspen Times. “So, I paid a little more than I expected to rent a two bedroom. It’s great that Aspen tries to provide affordable housing for educators and school staff.”
She believes her personal experience in that housing situation will help improve the effort and “the process for assigning that housing.”
A longtime math teacher who has worked in rural and urban Colorado, she is the national STEM education coordinator for ExploreLearning, a company that creates educational technology, games, and digital materials for grades K-12. And she is deeply concerned about how new technology like ChatGPT will be used, for better or worse, by students of all ages.
“When I started teaching, there were no cellphones; kids got in trouble in class for passing notes that might be read by a handful of people,” Harrelson said. “Now, one student can bully another by spreading a cruel rumor on social media to hundreds of people. We have to help students be safe in that world.”
Currently, she tutors about 10 Roaring Fork Valley kids.
Back in 2016, when she was teaching in Aurora Public Schools, she testified before Congress on Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by Pres. Barack Obama. She urged lawmakers to be certain teachers had a voice in how schools were evaluated.
“We were promised that so many of these decisions would take place at the state and district level, ensuring that Colorado educators had a seat at the table to advocate specifically for our students,” she told the U.S. House Committee on Education and Workforce that June.
And she decided to become a school board candidate because she still wants to be a voice at the table for teachers, she explains. She has her Colorado professional teaching license for kindergarten through 6th grade, as well as math grades 7 through 12, and Special Education.
“And I’m not just focused on STEM, although I’m happy to see more female students are interested in pursuing math and science careers,” said Harrelson, who earned a Master of Arts in social, multicultural, and linguistically diverse education from the University of Colorado. “My goal would be for schools to help all students realize their full potential, whatever their interests may be.”
Her campaign website is cassieforaspen.com.
This is the second profile of one of Aspen’s four school board candidates.
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