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Lori Ryan

Senior Instructor, Early Childhood Education

My story:

Born and raised in New York City and on the beaches of Long Island as the first-born girl in a family of three children, I graduated high school one semester early and left for Buffalo, NY where I stayed for 11 years earning three degrees at the State University of New York—better known as UB. My graduate work led to a PhD in early childhood education/research and evaluation from the departments of education and psychology. This combined focus on learning and the development of children and adults within communities and systems has continued to inform my professional path.

My first position out of graduate school was Assistant Professor of Early Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis until I found and fell in love with a small St. Louis public school district where applied research and innovative practice were valued. From 1998 - 2008. I held the position of curriculum coordinator and director of Clayton School District's Family Center, an early childhood and parenting education program that offers learning experiences for families beginning in infancy.

In this position, I liked to think of myself not as the “director” of this amazing school but as the “lead learner.” I shared leadership and cultivated the capacity of teachers and parents who, in partnership, made a difference in the lives of children. As a community, we designed a social constructivist curriculum rich in early and emergent learning experiences. We found inspiration from the internationally acclaimed schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, as well as, the deep roots and current research in early education and family systems theory. The Family Center became nationally known and together we hosted hundreds of visiting educators annually to see our work in action.

Leaving Clayton School District was a difficult professional decision, but as often happens, a doorway opened that I was meant to walk through. With two coaching certifications--one from the Center for Cognitive Coaching and one from the International Coach Federation affiliated Coach Training Alliance, I had been coaching directors and teacher-leaders, as well as their parent communities, outside my own school since 2000. When the opportunity presented itself, I accepted a position as coach/consultant for a four-year grant within a community of Denver - Boulder early childhood centers. We left St. Louis and made the same road trip across the plains that we drove twice per year since 1999; but, it was not for a family ski trip. This time it would be for good. The transition from the Midwest to mountain life has been seamless. We love Colorado and all it has to offer!

As the grant that brought me to Denver - Boulder ended, another door opened. I am thrilled to be here at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education & Human Development during the early stages of our new BA in Teaching, Learning and Development, for the recent move of the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program to our School, to be a part of UCTE as a Site Professor, and to engage in the many opportunities to be offered through the Colorado Department of Education’s Early Learning Challenge Grant. It is an exciting time in early childhood education for our School, for the state and in our nation. I am energized to to work with my students and partner with colleagues and community members as we grow the capacity of our field and make a difference in the lives of Colorado’s children.

My students at University of Colorado Denver:

Currently I have the pleasure of working with two groups of students. My UCTE students are Teacher Candidates at Montview Elementary School in Aurora Public Schools. As I supervise their internships, they demonstrate weekly their growing understanding of teaching and learning in an urban context. Their energy for learning is contagious. My other students are enrolled in the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program, a year-long fellowship offered through SEHD’s Continuing and Professional Education and in partnership with Clayton Early Learning Institute and the Temple Buell Foundation. These 20 emerging leaders bring a passion and commitment to children and families throughout Colorado. They are an inspiration.

Classes I teach at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education & Human Development:

  • Leading Change: Professional Development within Early Childhood - ECED 5310
  • Strategic Leadership & Current Issues in ECE - ECED 5340
  • Internship and Learning Community 1, 2, 3 - UEDU 49/5931, 5932, 5933

My research interests:

  • Building leadership capacity in schools and communities
  • Constructivist learning communities in action
  • Role of the environment in teaching and learning
  • Language and literacy

My hobbies:

  • Healthy living: yoga, walking, hiking
  • Healthy eating: locally grown and organic foods both at home and in Denver’s many wonderful restaurants
  • Home, school and fashion design

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