Teacher Appreciation Day Spotlight: Bri Buentello

  • May 7, 2019
  • Bri Buentello, Emerge Colorado '17

I remember the day I decided to run.

I had in my hands a crumpled form letter from my state representative who thanked me for being ‘politically active’ and remarked on the complexities of school finance, as well as the importance of participating in local elections.

I had written her several weeks before, asking her why our Colorado schools were in such incredibly dire straits, at a time when we were the state with the best economy in the nation. I looked out on the classroom and realized more than half the students in my Learning Strategies classroom were visibly sweating. You see, it was 112 degrees outside, and 84 degrees inside my classroom. Even though the building was only thirty years old or so, the HVAC unit had been broken for eight years. Continuous cuts to school funding meant that we were cash-strapped to the point where teachers not only bought their own basic classroom necessities like pens and paper but even laptops, fans and space heaters.

Now, as I held the form letter that passively lectured me on the importance of being politically active, I felt a wave of emotion wash over me. Outrage. Disappointment. Fury.

For me, this was so much more than just a form letter. It was the last straw.

I was tired of working hard to do a good job with virtually no resources, and with administrators and politicians telling me how to do it. I was done being micromanaged in virtually every form of my practice, as though standing in one particular point in a room and repeating an acronym would make my students learn any better. And darn it, I was sick and tired of our kids being robbed of every opportunity to achieve their full potential, not for lack of effort or merit, but simply for being born into the ‘wrong zip code’ with parents who made less than six figures annually.

More than 38,000 doors, some 17,000 phone calls, and 32,000 miles on my Jeep later; we flipped Colorado’s House District 47, a district that went for Donald Trump by a full 16 points during the last election cycle. This year, I passed legislation that brought back thousands of dollars to my home school districts, as well as created pay incentives and student loan forgiveness for rural teachers. I even wrote a bill that puts Colorado produce on the plates of our schoolchildren across the state, which not only means that our kids will be eating healthier, but they will have a real tangible connection to the farmers that work to feed them every day.

This past year, I’ve been honored to serve in Colorado’s 72nd Session and the first female-majority House. With forty other Democrats, we’ve passed laws that are smart and compassionate. Highlights include addressing issues from climate change, rural economic development, school finance, public health and healthcare. While we might have our differences in policy, we all value the same thing: creating practical, real solutions for the challenges that working class Coloradans face and protecting our unique Colorado way of life.

I wouldn’t be here today without the training and support network that Emerge Colorado first provided me on that hot day back in 2017 when I decided to pursue the seemingly-impossible for my students and my community. Emerge Colorado trained me how to run an effective and efficient campaign, helped me throughout the campaign trail, and more than anything else gave me a sisterhood which instilled in me the confidence that I originally didn’t have as a union member Latina from a solidly middle class background. Now, my Emerge sisters and I are elected and making the change that we knew our state government needed.

So with that, I’d say to any woman considering joining or running for public office someday: Run, girl, run.