Mamie Howard puts her whole heart into her students.
“She is super passionate about what she does,” said Susanna Pasillas, a parent of two. “She wants the best for all the kids, and she advocates for them.”
Currently serving as principal resident, Howard is on the leadership team for University Prep, or more commonly known as U Prep. The schools are tuition free public charter schools that serve kindergarteners through fifth graders. U Prep has two locations — Arapahoe Street in Five Points, 2409 Arapahoe St., which was founded in 2011; and Steele Street, 3230 E. 38th Ave. in Denver’s Clayton neighborhood, which was founded in 2016.
Howard is a founder, and will become principal of, U Prep’s Commerce City location, which is expected to open in fall 2023.
“Education is the gateway to everything else. Education is our opportunity to give everyone access to a life of opportunity,” Howard said. “All children should have access to a high-quality education.”
Howard, 29, a mother of two, went to college with the intention of becoming a lawyer. But after taking the Law School Admission Test, Howard decided law school wasn’t the path she wanted to pursue.
She started looking for jobs and found an opportunity to become a math fellow for sixth graders at the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello. She moved to Denver in the summer of 2014, doing a math fellowship for a year and eventually, bought a home in Aurora.
“I decided teaching was what I wanted to do,” Howard said. “If we do education right, and if educators are not only equipped to do their job, but also positioned to do their job … if those two things exist, our future is great.”
Howard believes that with providing access to high-quality education for all children, all of society will benefit. There will be less poverty, less homelessness and “less people miserable at their job because they just didn’t have the opportunity to go after the career that they wanted,” Howard said.
In 2015, Howard got involved with the Hill Campus of Arts & Sciences, of Denver Public Schools in Hilltop.
Through a program called Denver Teach Today, which is no longer in existence, Howard was able to earn her teaching liscense and professional development training. By 2018, she became a team specialist at the school, and the following year, she assumed a position as a coach for the eighth-grade math teachers.
Howard eventually enrolled at Western Governors University — an accredited, online nonprofit university — and earned her Master of Educational Leadership.
She obtained a job at a charter school in Aurora and served as that school’s assistant principal before coming to U Prep.
Howard believes the best way to design a school is by getting families involved.
“Families voices should be at the table,” she said. “Working with families gives them the power to shape the school. We (educators) cannot do it alone. Families know their kids best — they are their child’s first educator.”
Pasillas learned of U Prep because her nephews attended the school. She saw her nephews excelling — mainly because of the parent-teacher relationship, she said. She wanted her kids to also attend U Prep. Pasillas’ 2-year-old is not in school yet, but her 7-year-old attends U Prep Steele Street.
“The kids are in tremendously good hands,” Pasillas said. “(Howard) is a great leader for the little ones looking for the love of education.”
Howard’s goal is for U Prep to become the No. 1 school in the nation.
“I don’t consider myself just an educator in Denver,” she said. “I consider myself to be an educator of our country’s children.”
Jacqueline Bass is a second-grade math teacher at U Prep Steele Street. Howard always “goes all in,” she said.
“The joy she brings to the classroom is palpable,” Bass said. “Whether it be in the classroom or the hallways or at an afterschool meeting — she is a joy to work with.”
Like Howard, Bass believes every student deserves access to a high-quality education.
“All students deserve a life of opportunity, and they get that with a strong foundation in education,” Bass said.
But it has to be a high-quality education, Howard said, adding that low-quality education won’t get a person anywhere.
“Putting efforts toward high-quality education, and making sure our schools are strong and that our schools are functioning to serve our kids is what gets our next generation equipped to be successful,” Howard said. “And that’s where our future becomes so much brighter.”