I recently had the tremendous opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with a phenomenal group of educators, the Teacher Impact Grantees, of which I am a member. This group consists of only 17 educators (talk about a huge honor!) from across the country who were chosen to receive funding for their projects, all geared towards improving the field of education and promoting teacher leadership. We spent the day discussing current events and issues in education in the US Department of Education’s library. Like I said, tremendous opportunity to say the least! The highlight of this day though, was Tea with Teachers, an event that placed us, educators from around the country in the same room with Secretary of Education, John King, for a panel discussion.
The event started out with introductions and presentations of our projects. It was intriguing to hear all of the different ideas that our group was working on. It was even more interesting to hear the similarities in issues that educators are running into. Things like teacher retention, professional development, staff morale, student engagement, family involvement; these are not singular issues that are only being seen in our district or state.
When it came time to present our project, The Parent Empowerment Project, a project geared towards increasing family involvement, I nervously introduced myself and what we were working on. The really exciting part was that Secretary King was not only interested in what I was saying but remembered us. We had the unique experience of attending the Baltimore Teach to Lead Summit, back in February (more information about this to come in a later post!) and present our idea to Secretary King then. He had even given us feedback regarding the bilingual component, seeing as how our population is primarily Spanish speaking. At that time, it was just that an idea and a short 9 months later, thanks to ASCD and the US Dept. of Education providing the Teacher Impact Grant, our idea was up and running. Secretary King said he remembered our project and furthermore, had mentioned us in one of his speeches. It was amazing to be able to share with him the progress we had made and the growth and positive feedback we were already receiving from families as well as the fact that we had taken his comments as far as bilingual materials and translation into consideration as we started the program this year. Talk about coming full circle!
After we were finished introducing our projects, Secretary King spent time asking us questions related to current events and issues, such as diversity in our classrooms, teacher retention, and teacher leadership. It was refreshing to know that someone who holds such an important role in policy-making in education values teachers’ opinions. He took notes, responded back, and was genuinely engaged in conversation for the duration of our time with him. I left the day feeling empowered and hopeful as an educator and a parent of students in the public school system. So many times, as teachers, we can feel alone, unheard, insignificant but days like this remind me that we hold the most important role there is and the key to change lies within us! I truly believe this is so important to remember heading into the upcoming weeks and years. No one knows our profession better than we do and we must take our seat at the table any chance we can get, and if the chance does not present itself, we owe it to our students to make a seat and get our voices heard!