Last week was bittersweet at the Department of Education. After a truly incredible year working with some of the best teachers in the country, we released our 2011-2012 Teaching Ambassador Fellows to return to their work in classrooms and school districts across the country. All of us at the Department are grateful for their amazing work.
The most recent cohort of 16 Teaching Ambassador Fellows (TAFs) helped to shape ED’s policies and programs so that they truly benefit students and teachers. Five took a leave of absence to come to Washington and work on real issues that they are personally invested in: labor/management collaboration, teacher preparation, early learning, technology, and middle schools, to name a few. The other 11 kept their regular teaching jobs and consulted with us from their classrooms.
One of the most impressive responsibilities that the Teaching Ambassador Fellows took on was their work on the RESPECT Project, which is an initiative to transform the teaching profession so that teachers are as well prepared, developed, compensated and respected as other professions. To this end, the TAFs held more than 250 roundtable discussions with more than 3,500 educators—teachers of just about every subject, school counselors and leaders. They asked questions, presented ideas, and listened to their advice and experiences. They continually brought the teachers’ recommendations back into the Department, giving voice to teachers everywhere and putting real names and faces up against our policies.
Because of their honest feedback, hard work and commitment to their students, the Teaching Ambassador Fellows contributed exponentially to teachers across the country. So to Geneviève, Shakera, Greg, Maryann, Claire, Kareen, Juan, Sharla, Madonna, Bruce T., Gamal, Robert, Dexter, Leah, Angela, and Bruce W., I want to say thank you.
You left very, very big shoes to fill. If our next group of Fellows follows your example, I am confident that they will accomplish much.
Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education