At the end of a week of activities in Washington to honor the accomplishments of the state Teachers of the Year, those teachers engaged in a conversation about how to improve the teaching profession.
It began as ten small-group discussions about the new RESPECT Project to elevate the teaching profession. But it grew into a passionate plea by the teacher leaders for total transformation, as representatives from each of the small groups addressed the room at large. “Our key concern is making sure this project is moving along at a faster pace,” the first teacher reported to officials at the U.S. Department of Education. “As a nation we need to elevate the status of the profession and change the culture of teaching.”
As the two-hour session continued, teachers called on one another to lead the change of the profession. “If we want to see radical change, we need radical reform,” said Alvin Davis, the State Teacher of the Year from Florida.
Alana Margeson (Maine) urged both the Department and teachers to put systems in place to implement changes, arguing that without practical solutions, the vision would go nowhere. “Any idea without legs will never walk you very far,” she urged.
When asked to describe how they lead their profession from the classroom, one by one, the teachers described their strategies and pressed one another to be agents of real transformation:
- “I teach because I want to change the script.” Elena Garcia-Velasco (Oregon)
- “Anything worthy of your passion is worthy of your preparation.” Tyronna Hooker (North Carolina)
- “I believe we can always do things better.” Mark Ray (Washington)
- “The duty of every revolutionary is to make the revolution.” Chad Miller (Hawaii)
Because of their passion and courage, I left the meeting with these teachers with ideas about how to improve the RESPECT Project. Mostly I felt encouraged about my profession and the future of teaching because of their inspiration. Viva la revolution!
Laurie Calvert is the Teacher Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education, an English teacher on loan temporarily from her school in Buncombe County, N.C