Pioneering Colorado educator receives national recognition for child advocacy
MSU Denver’s Rosemarie Allen joins list of former first ladies, physicians, entertainers and others to receive prestigious T. Berry Brazelton Award.
Rosemarie Allen was a high-performing student who tested at genius level by the time she reached second grade. She was curious and confident and not afraid to speak up and ask questions. But Allen was described as “disruptive” by her white teachers, which led to multiple suspensions and expulsions.
Allen, an associate professor in the School of Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver, didn’t fully understand why she was suspended so often until she began research for her doctorate. While reading an article about the effects of Brown v. Board of Education on Black children, one specific line significantly impacted her life and viewpoint.
“It said Black children were criticized more, praised less and more harshly disciplined,” she said. “But then, I read the sentence that said little Black girls who were smart were treated the worst of all. It was in the middle of the night; I dropped to my knees and cried because that was me. I just remember wanting my dad; I wanted him to be alive so I could tell him it wasn’t me (who caused the punishments).”
Since then, Allen has dedicated her life to ensuring that all students have access to high-quality early-childhood programs that are developmentally and culturally aware. Her research has focused on reducing suspensions and expulsions of all children but especially Black and Latino children. Her methodology involves helping educators interact with students who are racially, linguistically and culturally diverse.
She has taught at MSU Denver since 2004 and focuses her classes on ensuring that teachers-in-training are aware of how issues of equity, privilege and power impact teaching practices.
Allen’s career achievements will be recognized when she receives the prestigious T. Berry Brazelton Friend of Children Award next month.
Allen joins an impressive list of previous award winners: former First Ladies Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush and Rosalynn Carter, as well as Dolly Parton, Morgan Freeman and Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” among others. Recipients must have contributed at the national level to the field of child advocacy and fostered the professional growth and development of people working with young children and their families.
The award is named after the late pediatrician who developed the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale and revolutionized the way American families viewed early-childhood development through his research, popular books and cable-television show “What Every Baby Knows.” In 2013, President Barack Obama awarded Brazelton the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.
Allen said she could hardly believe she was receiving the award and was honored to uphold Brazelton’s legacy.
“I was absolutely shocked,” she said. “Especially being named after T. Berry Brazelton, which is truly amazing, because I watched him religiously every morning when I was raising my daughter. I just thought the world of him and his theories and his gentleness and his kindness.
RELATED: How to talk to kids about racism
“And then when I saw the list of past recipients, I couldn’t have felt more honored.”
Allen was selected by the Board of Directors of the Southern Early Childhood Association last summer as she was undergoing surgery to treat pancreatic cancer. She received the email with the exciting news shortly after her doctor confirmed she was cancer-free.
Allen is grateful for the opportunity to continue her life’s work. She was able to continue to work during her chemotherapy, with the help of her family and her community.
She is the president and CEO of the Institute for Racial Equity and Excellence, the lead agency for ensuring equity in educational practices throughout the nation. The institute works with the U.S. Department of Education as well as 48 state Departments of Education and the Public Broadcasting Service, among others.
Locally, she has held multiple directorship roles for the State of Colorado overseeing child-care programs, the redesign of the state’s quality-rating-and-improvement system and assisting in the creation of Colorado’s early-learning guidelines. She also started an organization in 2016, the Center for Equity and Excellence.
Allen is writing a paper on the use of racialized taxation structures as funding formulas for schools, as she continues to fight for equity in education at all levels: personal, local and federal.
“When you are facing potential death, life takes on a new meaning, and I feel that my life was spared for a reason. And I want to make the best of that and to fulfill God’s purpose in my life,” she said. “That is what the rest of my life is committed to.”