Founder and creator of An Invitation, Author of Seeds of Tomorrow, Curriculum Designer & Master Facilitator.

Thirteen lessons learned and experiences that grew Me:

1971

I was born to an ass-kicking revolutionary and a poet-loving pacifist so I learned from the very beginning how to lead with a sword in one hand and a prayer in the other. 

My mother, Jennifer Cortner, broke her back in a toboggan accident when she was eighteen. The doctors told her she would never be able to walk or have children. There’s never been a barrier my mother recognized as insurmountable. She taught herself how to walk on crutches and I was born eight years before my younger brother, Stosh. Before I could walk, she would dress me in overalls and use the straps as handles to carry me from one place to the next. I came to understand three principals at the end of my mother’s crutches: 

  • People matter
  • We need each other
  • You have to fight for the important things

1991

I started my first non-profit at nineteen because I wanted to protect children. I organized a mentoring program for at-risk children in Denver Public schools. In partnership with the University of Denver, I trained more than one hundred College students in mentoring and tutoring. Looking back, nearly three decades later, I see how my way of transcending challenges, including my own childhood, has always been to serve others. When taking a transformational journey, I always like to be inclusive.

1997

My work in education advocacy continued while as a fourth-grade teacher, I was required to administer the first high-stakes standardized test piloted in our state. Since then I have been at the forefront of the Opt Out Movement, joining with Don Perl. Don was the first educator who refused to administer high-stakes standardized tests. For the past fifteen years, we’ve worked collaboratively to empower and educate other parents to boycott state tests. Today, millions of parents and students have exercised this right of refusal. Organizations working to eradicate test-based accountability, corporate-control of education and to protect children’s privacy, are growing in every state.

2003

Just as the war in Iraq was beginning, I Founded The Eleanors, a women’s advocacy organization dedicated to upholding the principles of Democracy. I went on to write several legislative bills in education, because you can’t promote civic leadership when conformity and compliance is the lesson of the day. My “50 State Resolution,” ultimately shaped Federal policy. State control and the recognized failure of the No Child Left Behind Act was embodied in Congress’ reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education ACT. 

In this video I authored the first ever Parental Rights Bill and testified in the House Education Committee. It took several years to pass but eventually legalized and codified a parent’s right to opt out of high-stakes standardized tests.

2004

As my daughters were entering school, I decided to join them. Grace was heading into kindergarten, and my youngest, Sophie, was just starting preschool. A year later, I was awarded a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado at Denver.  

2006

In 2006, I ran for the House of Representatives. Outnumbered two to one in voter registration, I sat down with key political operatives and asked, “How can we win an impossible district.” I received the standard answer of knocking doors and raising money. I knew this type of barrier in numbers required a more innovative approach. Our short six month campaign, along with 300 dedicated volunteers, posted the highest gains of any House race and won forty-nine percent of the vote in a district deemed “unwinnable”. The out-of-the-box strategy was so successful, it was picked up by the National Committee and serves as a campaign model today. From school board races to Congressional campaigns, I continue to serve as a strategy consultant for those seeking public office.

Watch our 2006 Campaign Video here and thank you again to those who make democracy a personal responsibility.

2008

My run for office led to the Children’s Action Agenda, a policy-guide representing a state-wide effort to prioritize the needs of children and leverage organizational and economic resources targeted at a common Legislative platform. The Children’s Action Agenda coordinated the hopes and dreams of fourteen partners dedicated to the prevention and intervention of at-risk children. In conjunction with the Children’s Action Agenda, I created a Citizens Day at the Capitol. Good policy requires more than strong legislative models, it requires boots on the ground or high-heels, as is often the case. In 2010, the Department of Public Health and Environment incorporated my model into the Family Leadership Training Institute. Today, more than fifteen hundred men and women have completed the training and more than eighty percent of those legislative recommendations have been adopted.

2009

My first book, Seeds of Tomorrow; Solutions for Improving our Children’s Education, was published by Routledge. The book exposes the inequities perpetuated by test-based accountability and challenges the inherent failure of standardizing children. You can learn more about the book and our efforts to address the opportunity gap and promote education innovation here.

2011

2011 was the year I launched Uniting4kids in collaboration with Dr. Anthony Dallmann-Jones. Our mission was to nationally coordinate the efforts of students, teachers and parents working to advance education and preserve the foundations of democracy. I thought organizers would jump at the invitation to collaborate, instead I discovered competition is pervasive and when we are too committed to ownership, the cause is often compromised. Finding yet another insurmountable obstacle, I sought other ways to engage community, elevate leaders and advance the cause 4 Kids. Visit www.uniting4kids.com to watch our webinar series and access parent guides for opting out and protecting your child’s privacy.

2014

A second book was published. I am the Contributing author of “Fixing Public Education,” edited by Dr. Anthony Dallmann-Jones. The book includes nine other experienced educators, administrators & higher education professionals who suggest an innovative remodeling of public education to both solve the most pervasive problems that impede school success and return the joy and enthusiasm of learning to children and teachers. Offered are learner centered examples with the shared goal of uncovering the potential greatness in every student while ensuring Justice and equality, the foundations of democracy.

2015

After eight years of facilitating a twenty week civic engagement initiative. I became a master facilitator for the Family Leadership Training Institute, training facilitators statewide, writing curriculum and ultimately formalizing the training model through Colorado State University. The following year I designed the alumni model which now boasts more than 1,500 graduates. “I believe in people as the ultimate purveyors of good and collaboration as humanity’s only hope for getting anything right.”

2017

Delivered An Invitation – a monthly transformation series designed for those looking for a more authentic, purpose filled life, in collaboration with others. Building from my experience of engaging parents and educators, I teach others how to catalyze change in their own lives and beyond. An Invitation is different from other personal growth models in the past, creating unique opportunities for participants to powerfully connect experientially and collaboratively. This is your INVITATION to expand your thinking, open your heart and experience the vitality of life with more freedom and connections.

With my nest now empty and my two lovely daughters off to college, I’m doing some new wing spreading of my own. I have a new love interest and have begun work on a book sequel. I am happy in my garden, riding my bicycle, sitting squarely on my meditation mat or when wrestling with the dark and the light, still with a sword in one hand and a prayer in the other.

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