What is Pop Culture Classroom?
The driving power behind Pop Culture Classroom stems from our personal experiences with the positive influence of comics and other pop culture media in our own lives. We envision individuals transformed by the educational power of popular culture who create diverse, inclusive, and engaged communities.
Pop Culture Classroom inspires a love of learning, increases literacy, celebrates diversity, and builds community through the tools of popular culture and the power of self-expression.
Pop Culture Classroom envisions individuals transformed by the educational power of popular culture who create diverse, inclusive, and engaged communities.
Quality service to kids and communities. Respect, inclusiveness, and diversity. Equality of opportunity. Alternative approaches to education. Recognizing each person’s intrinsic dignity and importance. Open communication, responsibility, and honesty.
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Studies show that children who receive arts education often outperform children who do not in most educational areas.
With this in mind, the Classroom program was created in 2012 to promote literacy through the medium of sequential art and storytelling and has since expanded to include a wide range of offerings in support of this mission.
Here are some of the ways we accomplish our ideals:
Our debut curriculum, Storytelling Through Comics (STC), is an exciting literacy and arts program that introduces students to comic book culture and promotes their artistic and literacy skills using comics. So far STC has been taught in schools, after-school programs, summer programs, and public libraries throughout the Front Range. In a little over three years, over 3,000 students have completed STC and created their own comics!
We instruct and support educators on the use of pop culture in the classroom as a tool for engaging educational enrichment. Pop Culture Classroom’s professional development opportunities include FAN EXPO Denver’s Educator’s Day, the Page 23 Literary Conference, graduate courses, plus many more.
Pop Culture Classroom provides high-quality educational experiences at FAN EXPO Denver with our Kids’ Lab, Educator’s Day, deep-dive panels, and presentations on fandom’s best, scholarship programs, and other efforts.
Pop Culture Classroom is dedicated to providing high-quality, all-inclusive, and custom-designed workshops for schools, districts, and outside conferences throughout the year.
Pop Culture Classroom conducts fun, educational activities at community events like PBS Kids Fest, the Denver Maker Faire, and Hauntings at the Hangar (Wings over the Rockies), among many others. We also work with community organizations across Colorado to provide educational resources to students and educators.
Pop Culture Classroom’s team is comprised of professional educators, creative professionals, and advocates for pop culture education. We are supported by an incredible community of donors, volunteers, and community partners.
2023 Board of Directors
Tone Ellis de Jesus, President, is a communications design specialist, has worked extensively in supporting LGBTQ and civil rights, and serves on the Aurora Cultural Affairs Commission.
Kyle (Ky) Burnett, Vice President, is an author, coach, and culture creator with specialties in leadership development, operations, and health and safety.
Esteban Morin is a privacy and civil rights attorney who has worked for multinational law firms, the federal government, and technology companies.
Todd Fukai has over 30 years in public education as a teacher, principal and human resource administration.
Jess Castellano has over 15 years in nonprofit leadership for regional, national, and international institutions with a focus on fundraising, marketing, and education.
Ashley Wilfred is a Colorado native and currently a Banking Officer at FirstBank. She graduated from Louisiana State University Shreveport with an MBA in finance and Colorado State University with a BS in Hospitality Management. She is passionate about teaching young adults financial literacy and enjoys cosplaying, Japanese fashion, and crafting in her free time.
Pop Culture Classroom was inspired by the need for innovative literacy education in Colorado. The first volunteers were a group of professional educators, artists, writers, parents, and self-described “geeks” from diverse backgrounds who knew from their own experiences how the science fiction, fantasy, and superhero stories they loved had inspired their creativity. They also knew that comics and graphic novels were a pathway to literacy because that’s how many of them had learned to read. With this motivation, these volunteers set out to create comics-based lessons and workshops that could improve literacy outcomes and ignite the creative spark that lives within each of us. In 2010, they officially launched a new nonprofit based on these goals called Comic Book Classroom (CBC).
A Pop Culture Community
As big fans of Comic Con—annual events held in many cities celebrating comics, sci-fi, and fantasy pop culture media—the volunteers decided to organize a convention that would provide exciting content for all ages, showcase CBC’s year-round educational endeavors, and encouraged community across Colorado in a “comic con” setting.
In 2011, the first Denver Comic Con was held and over time the convention grew, welcoming thousands of people to downtown Denver per year.
Proceeds from the show enabled the expansion of Comic Book Classroom’s literacy and arts education in schools throughout metro Denver and beyond. The organization began developing additional programming with the goals of promoting literacy and arts education, introducing youth to diverse voices, encouraging creative self-expression, and building community.
In 2014, the organization was renamed Pop Culture Classroom (PCC), reflecting a broader vision for building on the success of comics-based programs by incorporating other pop culture tools into its work. PCC’s mission is to inspire a love of learning, increase literacy, celebrate diversity, and build community through the tools of popular culture and the power of self-expression.
Likewise, in 2018, the name Denver Comic Con was changed to Denver Pop Culture Con to better reflect its inclusion of all forms of pop culture media.
Finally, in 2021, Pop Culture Classroom formed a collaboration with FAN EXPO HQ to bring FAN EXPO Denver to the community. Though this shift brought the end of Denver Pop Culture Con, it opens new and exciting opportunities for our community and educational goals. Pop Culture Classroom continues its collaboration with FAN EXPO Denver as FAN EXPO Denver’s featured charity and offers engaging, educational content for fans of all ages at the event. The transition also allows PCC to primarily focus its resources on doing more in classrooms and communities to spark literacy, learning, imagination, and inclusive communities through pop culture.
Our Mission in Action
Today, the driving power behind Pop Culture Classroom continues to be our passion to celebrate and promote the positive influence of comics and other pop culture media.
We develop innovative tools for children to increase their literary skills using age-appropriate comic books and graphic novels, and encourage critical-thinking through costume design, game development, and other related pop culture media. We envision individuals transformed by the educational power of popular culture who create diverse, inclusive, and engaged communities. And we believe that literacy, creativity, and creative thinking are essential abilities for our children as they prepare to navigate both the successes and challenges of life.