Teaching Fellows Represent, Respect Teachers

Secretary Duncan speaks with Teaching Ambassador Fellows

Secretary Duncan talks with Teaching Ambassador Fellows (from left) Genevieve DeBose, Shakera Walker and Greg Mullenholz. Official Department of Education photo.

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


  1. After reading the bios of the “Teaching Fellows,” very few have a lineage of Education degrees. Their credentials in other disciplines and/or leadership are impressive, and I’m glad to see the few who have lived in schools alongside students and other educators for a long period of time. YET….if this groups “represents” and “respects” all educators in the country, I’m afraid they are not representative of all educators in the country.

    If you have a group of teachers who were prepared to teach through alternative certification programs or fellowships, they will most likely advocate for those sorts of programs, when there are so many excellent teacher preparation programs that exist. Duncan seems to happily want to ignore or move beyond any traditional teaching programs or teachers who work 10 hour days in schools and communities who don’t have time to spend at Washington around a conference table. Go to them and follow them around for a week to see what educators really do!

  2. The government does not have the ability to define a “master teacher.” They need to get out of the way and let real teachers teach using their own methods.

    Too much governance in education is wrecking everything. We need to hire or rehire teachers that we know are effective even if bad administrators say they are no good.

  3. As a parent, I can give you the answer. By being a respectful adult to people we come in contact with every day.
    We have become a nation of grumpy whiners, who can only react by, well look at our leaders, the ones calling names and arguing over non-issues, just so they can confuse us…Acting like spoiled children who would rather argue over who broke the thing, instead of working together to fix it! Boo to parents who care only for their needs and boo to our leaders for making it seem normal to bitch and moan, we get mad at the traffic light and the service person who-you guessed it, isn’t providing good service, because-grumpy whiner hates her job. Rudeness and disrespect is a mimicked behavior-Consider your actions honestly. Technology does not teach humanity.

  4. I’d like to see the parents’ opinions solicited as well about how to make the teaching profession more respected.

  5. I add my “Thank you” to Sec. Duncan’s. Teachers are the most undervalued, underpaid, important members of American society. Yet, there are a few incumbents who really need to find other work. And unfortunately, these few rotten apples sour the general uninformed masses about just how important good teachers are to our individual and personal success and our societal future. Regardless, for you folks, “Thanks!”

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