DENVER – Denver Public Schools is mourning the loss of one of its most influential teachers.
Marie L. Greenwood died on Friday, just nine days shy of her 107th birthday. Greenwood was the first African American teacher to earn tenure in Denver, where she taught first grade for 30 years.
She wrote her first book at age 95 focused on her teaching methods. She wrote her second book, an autobiography, at age 100.
In 2001, DPS named a new elementary school in the Montbello neighborhood after Greenwood. Her son, Jim, says she was thrilled about it, but not because she is African American.
“It was the first time they named a school for a teacher,” he said at a ceremony honoring his mother's life Wednesday afternoon.
Greenwood's life and legacy have become a focal point for students at her namesake school. Students study her autobiography in class.
“There’s pictures all around the school of her and all I thought every time I saw one, 'I really wish I could see that woman one day.' And once I got to, it was just so awesome,” sixth grader Jonathan Grey told FOX31.
Throughout her retirement, Greenwood still engaged with children and inspired them to learn. She often read to the children who are part of the Each One Teach One program at Greenwood Elementary. The program was started using her teaching philosophy to help close the education gap within the school.
She even met with a group of Greenwood Elementary students two weeks before her passing.
“My heart just swells and I can’t wait to see where these children wind up,” Jim Greenwood said. “I just hope that she’s inspired other kids, teachers, that she’s inspired anybody that she’s touched to be the best that they can.”
Next year, a statue of Greenwood will be placed in the garden at Greenwood Elementary. It will feature her reading a book. The statue will be designed as an interactive art piece, where kids are encouraged to climb up and sit with her.