Mary Nelson is the Executive Director at the Denver Cooperative Preschool (DCP) and has been working in education since 2006. She has a B.A. in Psychology, an M.A. in Educational Psychology, and is a graduate of the Stanley British Primary Teacher Residency Program. Mary has been a member of the DCP cooperative community since 2009, and has served as a parent, board member, Assistant Director, and Executive Director. Community-based education is at the heart of her educational philosophy, and she believes deeply in the power of collaboration between children, their families, and the school community. Working closely with families is one of Mary’s strengths, and she has a passion for supporting parents in realizing their vision for their child’s education.
Where did you grow up?: I was born in Chicago, IL, but moved to Colorado as a baby. My early years were spent in Evergreen, and then my family moved to Vail where I spent the majority of my childhood and graduated from high school.
How long have you been working with children/teaching?: I’ve been working with children for over twenty years. During that time I’ve worked as a nanny, a ski instructor, a research assistant in a mother-infant attachment lab, an ABA therapist for children with autism spectrum disorders, a classroom teacher, and a school administrator! I love working closely with children and their families, and have a particular passion for early childhood. The first five years of a child’s life are such a remarkable period of growth and change, and there is nothing quite like supporting a child in realizing all they are capable of and developing confidence and self-advocacy skills along the way.
What led you to a career in education?: After college I worked in the Denver office of a New York based foreign language translation company. It was truly interesting work, and I met many amazing people, but after several years I realized that for me it would always be a job, never a career. I was not passionate about my work, and decided it was time to make a change. I applied to the Stanley British Primary Teacher Preparation Program and never looked back. I’ve been happily involved with education ever since!
What is your favorite thing about working at DCP?: The first time I walked through the doors at DCP I was incredibly taken with the sense of community. Parents, families, teachers and children working together to create a learning space that is valuable to all. There is such power in the cooperative model, and I think it is a wonderful concept to share with our children at such a young age. I feel so fortunate to be a part of a school where those involved care so deeply for the well-being of the organization.
What is your favorite thing to do in the classroom?: As a classroom teacher, I always loved sharing science with students. It is a joy to watch the process of discovery and the big questions that children ask – my students often prompted me to consider a concept in a whole new way. I also love children’s literature, and read aloud is one of my favorite parts of the day.
What are your hobbies or passions outside of DCP?: I love to cook, have game nights with my family, try new restaurants around Denver with my husband and our friends, and visit the mountains for skiing or summer adventures.
Where can we find you in Denver (favorite spots/hangouts/places to visit): The DCPA, any of the museums (nature and science, art, Colorado history, I love them all!), a coffee shop, or out and about in my Stapleton neighborhood!
Tell us about your family: I live with my husband, Andy, and our three children, William, Caroline, and Simon. We also have three dogs, Cecil, Marshmallow, and Honey, and three chickens, Barbara, Jackie, and Bess. I have three older brothers, lots of nieces and nephews, and a large extended family who I also enjoy spending time with.
What did you want to be when you grew up?: I wanted to be a veterinarian or a private investigator, inspired by an early love for Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. and Penny from Inspector Gadget.
What do you remember most about being a young child?: I remember playing with my brothers, lots of time outside, and inventing our own games. I loved when extended family would visit or gather for holidays – it’s still my favorite time of the year.
What was your favorite thing to do as a child?: I was a voracious reader and would read my favorite books over and over again. I’ve always loved animals and grew up with dogs and horses. I also loved spending time with friends from the neighborhood, school, or sports.