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OJC Press Release ID: 2779

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

NaTasha Montoya’s Journey to Becoming a Teacher


When NaTasha Montoya, Rocky Ford, graduated from Otero Junior College in 2011, she had an interest in continuing her education at a university; however, the thought of having to move to another city, reacquaint herself with another college, and more importantly, taking on student loan debt, caused her to let the dream slip away.

After her graduation from OJC, Montoya quickly found work as a PARA professional, assisting in a classroom at Rocky Ford Intermediate School with students who were exceptional learners. In addition, she spent time with the Arkansas Valley Youth Club, mentoring and tutoring. Those experiences opened the window to her future as she realized she had a passion for teaching and working with children.

“I knew my future was in teaching, but I had no idea how I would actually make that happen, until I learned about a very unique partnership between Otero Junior College and the University of Colorado Denver. The program developed by the colleges would allow me to keep working, go to school, and earn my bachelor’s degree in elementary education without leaving home,” said Montoya.

The partnership that Montoya learned about was indeed unique. Starting in the fall of 2017, Otero Junior College, a rural community college in southeastern Colorado and the University of Colorado Denver, one of Colorado’s flagship universities, formed a partnership that would allow residents of southern Colorado the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education that could be completed in its entirety at Otero Junior College.

Since Montoya had already earned her associate’s degree from OJC, she was able to begin the third-year coursework required by CU Denver for the elementary education bachelor’s degree.

“I am taking classes on the OJC campus, but I am a CU Denver student. My instructors all work for CU Denver,” Montoya explained. “I have found the encouragement and support of the teachers to be phenomenal. The financial support through scholarships, grants and affordable tuition rates has also made my dream of becoming a teacher within reach. Thanks to the OJC and CU Denver partnership, I am now able to finish my degree in a career I love.”

Montoya, who is scheduled to graduate in May 2019, will be able to apply for a residency in one of the local school districts this spring. She said she is excited to get back into the classroom and she expects to see others in southern Colorado follow her lead and enroll in the program for many of the same reasons she enrolled.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our area. The classes are held at times that people who are working can take them, the academic and financial support from OJC and CU Denver is great, and best of all, it is an opportunity to train for a career without having to leave your family or job,” she said.

The OJC/CU Denver partnership will prepare students with an education that is rooted in proven best practices and a strong commitment to working in rural communities. Multiple early field experiences and a full year of teaching experience in the final year are incorporated into the four-year program.

Not only will this partnership satisfy community and statewide interests, it will add highly competent newcomers to the teaching profession in rural Colorado, in accordance with Colorado House Bill 17-1003, signed last year by Colorado Governor Hickenlooper.

House Bill 17-1003 seeks to address teacher shortages throughout the state. The bill, called “Strategic Plan to Address Teacher Shortages,” sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan and Sen. Don Coram, “requires the Department of Higher Education in partnership with the Department of Education to examine recruitment, preparation and retention of teachers and to prepare a strategic plan to address teacher shortages in school districts and public schools within the state,” according to the Colorado General Assemble website.

Step-by-Step - How it Works:
1. Apply to Otero Junior College and choose the Associate of Arts degree
2. Once you are accepted, talk with an OJC academic advisor about your interest in the Elementary Education Associate of Arts degree with designation and the four-year CU Denver/OJC path to a bachelor’s degree.
3. Take 60 credits during the first two years and receive an associate’s degree from OJC. You’ll receive instruction from a group of OJC instructors who will be working closely with both schools.
4. Apply for admission to University of Colorado Denver. The application fee to CU Denver will be waived.
5. Continue your studies on site at OJC through a combination of CU Denver education courses (online and in-person), teaching internships, and student teaching experiences in Southern Colorado schools, for a total of 66 credits.
6. Earn a BA in Education and Human Development with elementary licensure from University of Colorado Denver.

For more information about program enrollment, contact the OJC representative:
Ellen Schreivogel, at 719-384-6888 or


Press Release Photo
NaTasha Montoya is a student at OJC who is taking advantage of the partnership between OJC and CU Denver to complete a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Starting in the fall of 2017 Otero Junior College and the University of Colorado Denver formed a partnership that would allow residents of southern Colorado the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education that could be completed in its entirety at Otero Junior College.