As two pioneers in the field of education, Teresa Reed and Irene Martinez Jordan bring decades of experience, common sense and activism to the 26-member advocacy team at AARP Colorado.
The AARP Colorado advocacy team has been in the spotlight recently, not only for the dynamic work its members accomplish at the Colorado Legislature and beyond each year, but because the group has grown to its largest membership ever. Among the group are professionals with expertise in education, biology, Medicare, utilities, law, many who have earned a Ph.D., and even a former rocket scientist.
“I’m proud to say this elite group is very diverse,” said Kelli Fritts, AARP Colorado advocacy director. “We have the best and the brightest working on issues that matter to older adults and their families. Teresa and Irene bring a badly-needed perspective to the table. We’re lucky to have them.”
Reed and Martinez Jordan are among the first Latinas on the advocacy team. Reed has been the only Hispanic on the team for the last three years. Martinez Jordan joined the advocacy team this year, but she has been an active AARP volunteer for many years, serving El Comité, an AARP Hispanic advisory group, and the Latina Calling Tree, a group of women who regularly alert our Colorado delegation at the state and federal level to important issues.
Reed was born Teresa Garcia in a small village outside Española in Northern New Mexico. Based in Denver, she worked for the Education Commission of the States throughout the 1970s, providing services for young children and their families. Reed worked to extend daycare services and research on early childhood, as well as the impact on families.
Reed was an evaluator for Head Start in Colorado with a focus on migrant Head Start programs in the 1980s, she said. She also worked for Interstate Research Associates, which was affiliated with the National Council of La Raza and covered several states in the region.
With a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree in early childhood education and an E.d.D. in administration, Reed was one of the first educators to focus on the educational needs of young Latino children in Colorado. In 1969, she was among the teachers who were recognized with the Denver Teacher of the Year Award for her work with kindergarten children.
“What drove me was the need,” said the petite woman who carries so much conviction in her voice. “If we can start early and support families, that is one of the most significant contributions we can make. If parents can work and get involved, you can pull up the whole family.”
Reed, who has attended two presidential inaugurations, said she joined AARP because she wants to stay involved in what’s going on at the Capitol. Currently, she concentrates on voter issues.
“I’ve worked so much in the legislature on the need for good legislation,” she said. “That’s one of the things that people respond to, and it comes down to you either have the votes or you don’t.”
Irene Martinez Jordan
In many Denver circles, Martinez Jordan is considered a powerhouse in education and a champion of Latino students within the Denver Public School system. She has been a teacher, counselor, principal and an area superintendent. Among her students are Chicanos who have won a Boettcher Scholarship and a full-ride to MIT.
She has volunteered and been recognized along the way. Martinez Jordan received the 2009 Women of Distinction Award from the Girl Scouts, and served as a mentor for the Latina Circle of Leadership and Adelante Mujer conferences, both programs that work to empower young women.
While there is no shortage of anecdotal accounts of counselors who discouraged students of color by suggesting more occupational paths, Martinez Jordan was different. She always encouraged students to go to college. Eventually, other teachers started to come on board.
“Scholarships for West High School increased tremendously,” she said. “I pushed college. So many kids didn’t even have that in their minds. Teachers were concerned about the skill level, but by the time I was finished, teachers were talking to me about all students going to college.”
Martinez Jordan did some of her best work when she moved around and mixed it up. Working for the Hispanic Education Advisory Council, she was a liaison between the Hispanic Community and DPS. She also helped kick off the Congress of Hispanic Educators. All that work resulted in stronger bilingual programs districtwide, as well as renewed and greater emphasis placed on graduation rates. She also fought for the hiring of more Hispanic teachers during a stint with DPS human resources.
Martinez Jordan, originally from Pueblo, has an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction, a master’s degree in guidance and counseling, and her undergraduate degree is in education and English literature.
With all the above to her credit, she says her greatest accomplishments have been school reform – turning around failing schools and making them such attractive institutions that there are currently waiting lists of students wanting to attend.
This year, Reed and Martinez Jordan, along with the rest of the AARP Colorado volunteer advocacy team, are focused on expanding the availability of affordable housing, preventing untested drugs from entering the market, protecting land-line telephone service for those who use traditional services and those in rural areas, as well as advocating for additional funding for senior services in Colorado.