As the economy flails, 50-year-old Paula Lopez Crespin has given up her career in banking and taken a $32,000 pay cut to become a math and science teacher at Cole Arts and Sciences Academy, in the middle of Capitol Hill, a place The New York Times describes as a “gang-riddled section of Denver.” Although the neighborhood around Cole might not be quite as tough as the Times makes it out to be, Crespin, who comes to the school through the Teach for America program, is a unique figure: Just 2 percent of the program’s recruits are older than 30. Crespin’s motives were simple. She no longer wanted to be in a job that she “just couldn’t stomach anymore” and wanted to do “something meaningful with my life.” Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Barbara O’Brien (pictured) is fighting for some of the $4.35 billion in federal education dollars now that the feds have released the rules for its “Race to the Top” competition, writes The Denver Post. To qualify for the cash, states must set “internationally benchmarked” standards for students, have digital systems to track performance, tie incentives for teachers more closely to student success, and focus intensely on low-income schools. Colorado might have trouble qualifying because of proposed cuts to higher education, but in a telephone conference with reporters, O’Brien claimed that “every state is in the same predicament” (via the Denver Daily News).