Teachers Want to Lead the Transformation of their Profession

“Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal.  Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility:  To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

— President Barack Obama, January 24, 2012, “State of the Union”

Tuesday night President Barack Obama said what many teachers in America have been yearning to hear from their president: teachers matter, we change lives, and we do this hard work to make a difference in the lives of students.

He also acknowledged what every good teacher knows: that an accountability system that puts too much emphasis on test scores undermines a well-rounded education. But implicit in his speech was a challenge to America and to teachers to rebuild and strengthen the profession – a challenge that teachers are more than eager to accept.

As 2011 U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellows, we have heard from many teachers that the field has lost its luster. In our role as Teaching Ambassadors, we have talked with teachers in many groups, and we have heard real despondency over the constraints of NCLB that have caused schools to focus on testing and teacher evaluation in ways that are oppressive and rob our profession of much of the joy of teaching and learning.

We’ve listened to countless stories about a law that has raised standards without providing support for schools to meet them. And we have cringed when some of our most effective colleagues acknowledged that they can no longer afford to stay in a difficult profession that asks so much of them but barely affords a middleclass lifestyle. “We didn’t get into teaching to be millionaires,” they say, “but we have to be able to feed our families.”

What we like about the President’s speech is not that he acknowledges our grievances though, admittedly, it feels good to be heard. What appeals to us is that the President understands that as a country we must do much more than simply tweak a structure that is not working. Educators want to lead the transformation and rebuilding of teaching so that our work improves students’ lives and restores pride in our profession.

Teachers welcome this transformation. Neither students nor teachers are served by a structure that treats some teachers like interchangeable cogs in a machine. We long to lead our own profession because when we drive our craft, we will see huge shifts in the responsibility, leadership, pay and respect. As NEA President Dennis Van Roekel describes in the NEA’s December 8, 2011 Action Agenda to Strengthen Teaching, “The true essence” of our work “is putting teachers in charge of the quality of their profession.”

What would teachers do if they ran the schools? We would raise the bar for membership in our profession, recruiting the best candidates and insisting that teacher preparation programs become more rigorous and relevant. About 62 percent of all new teachers—almost two-thirds—report they felt unprepared for the realities of their classroom. As Secretary Duncan has said, “Imagine what our country would do if 62 percent of our doctors felt unprepared to practice medicine—you would have a revolution in our medical schools.”

A transformed profession would give teachers much more responsibility and flexibility to make decisions that meet their students’ educational needs–allowing access to and training with technology, shifting class sizes, and restructuring the school day so that they have time to collaborate with colleagues and engage in professional learning and problem-solving.

We would offer teachers a professional salary and career pathways that acknowledge their skill and commitment in one of the most complex, demanding, and important jobs in the world. We would insist on great school leaders, with principals who have high expectations, develop all teachers as lifelong learners, and create positive school cultures where students and teachers succeed.

As the President acknowledged, teachers are creative and passionate. But like workers in many other professions, we expect to be held accountable for results. We yearn to help create fair and thorough teacher evaluation systems and have access to data to make informed decisions about what is working and what isn’t, to direct our professional learning, and to help decide who stays in our profession. President Obama was right when he said, “That is a bargain worth making.”

Now more than ever, teachers long to lead their profession so that we finally resolve the important educational challenges in this country. A quarter of our children fail to finish high school on time and barely four in ten earn any type of post-secondary degree. For children of color, outcomes are even worse. When we see the statistics–that 7,000 students drop out of school every day–we feel pain for those teens and shame and guilt that we were not able to prevent this tragedy.

On top of that, school districts are getting ready to slam into an awful reality, that before the end of the decade, more than a million Baby Boomer teachers—fully a third of America’s teachers–will retire or leave the teaching profession. To recruit and retain the best teachers, we need to offer rewarding jobs and competitive salaries.

We were especially pleased to read in the Blueprint for an America Built to Last, released yesterday with the speech transcript, that the President plans to ask Congress for funding that will “challenge states and districts to work with their teachers and unions to reform the entire teaching profession – from training and licensing to compensation, career ladders and tenure.”

Educators want to take on this work. As highly skilled specialists, we are not afraid of owning our profession. We are not afraid of being held accountable for results when we are given the responsibility and flexibility to craft our profession. We are confident that the President understands what it will take to transform teaching to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, and we are eager to join with our colleagues across the country in moving the profession forward.

2011 U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellows Geneviève DeBose, Claire Jellinek, Greg Mullenholz, Shakera Walker, and Maryann Woods-Murphy.

Join ED and Teachers for a #TeachTalk Discussion on Twitter

“Teachers make thousands of decisions a day, and they don’t do it about an abstract idea, they do it about the life of a child. You can’t imagine anything harder.”

-Brad Jupp, Senior Program Adviser on Teacher Initiatives, Office of the Secretary

On Friday, January 27, the US Department of Education will welcome over 200 teachers for a screening of the documentary, American Teacher. Narrated by Matt Damon and directed by Academy Award winner Vanessa Roth, the film chronicles the stories of four teachers living and working in different urban and rural areas of the country. It follows the teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers and provides a rich and compelling portrait of the teaching profession in America today.

Following the screening, participants will engage in a discussion regarding how we can reshape the culture of American education to better attract, retain, and support highly effective teachers. Because all of the tickets for this event were completely given away less than 48 hours from the start of registration, the Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellows have created a “virtual” outreach opportunity for teachers from across the country.

Following the screening of the film, while participants in ED’s Barnard auditorium are engaged in a live discussion, you will have the opportunity to engage with your colleagues, ED policy experts, and Washington Fellows in a Twitter discussion. We will be joined by ED’s own, John White (@RuralED), the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach. Participation in this virtual event is not dependent upon your having viewed the film. ED is looking for your input on education reform and ways to improve public perception of teachers so they are respected and held in high regard. How do we attract, retain and support the best teachers? To be a part of the discussion, log onto Twitter and use the hashtag #TeachTalk, starting at 7:45pm EST.

Greg Mullenholz is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from his school in Rockville, Md. 

NEA Teachers Step Up

Last year the National Education Association (NEA) took a courageous step by creating a Council on Effective Teachers and Teaching (CETT) and giving them independence and power to make recommendations to transform the teaching profession. On December 8, they moved forward by releasing the commission’s report. In doing so, NEA leaders showed themselves to be serious partners in reform and strong advocates for students and teachers.

The CETT’s report, Transforming Teaching, was written by 20 practicing teachers who took a year to think creatively and imaginatively about how to reform their profession. Their recommendations call for teachers to take on the enormous responsibility to lead their profession in new directions. It treads in some controversial waters–minimizing tenure and last-in, first out practices–in favor of peer review and a focus on identifying, developing and supporting effective teaching.

As Maddie Fennell, CETT’s chair, says, “For educators to be recognized by the public as professionals, they must create a field that has an identifiable body of knowledge, that trains teachers in that knowledge, and that decides who is able enter and exit the field. We–as a profession–don’t do these things.”

CETT has several core recommendations to transform this vision of teaching into a reality, including changes in the way teachers are prepared, evaluated and compensated. The report describes a compensation system under which teachers are paid as professionals based on their effectiveness in the classroom and on their career path, not by current method of rewarding them for degrees earned and years in the classroom. The commission believes that teachers should be evaluated using student growth as one of several measures. Others could include peer review, principal observations, and student or parent feedback. And teachers need to be involved in making school decisions so that professional learning is targeted to teachers’ needs and reflects the realities of the classroom.

The commission’s report reflects what is happening in states and school districts across the country. My home state of Illinois recently passed a new law that tackles some of the most important issues facing the teaching profession, such as when to grant tenure, how to identify teachers who need support and development, and how to use our best teachers to improve instruction in other classrooms. Following the release the CETT report, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, “It’s up to us to own our own profession. I think the union is an important part of that.” And Maddie Fennell affirmed, “The boldness will come from those who choose to do the work to make this vision a reality.”

I applaud the leadership that the NEA has shown in creating this commission and releasing the initial report, and I look forward to following the NEA’s work in the future.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education

Keeping the Beat

School districts are straining to deliver a quality education to all their students in this difficult economy, and things can be especially tough on music teachers.  Across the country, shrinking school budgets have meant layoffs, increased workloads, cuts in funds for facilities and instruments, and even the elimination of music programs. 

In a new Department of Education video called Keeping the Beat: A Teacher Talks About Schools, Music Education and the American Jobs Act, Philadelphia music teacher Jason (Jay) Chuong discusses the impact of the economic downturn on the learning environment of his inner city students. As one of six “itinerant” percussion teachers in the Philadelphia school district, Jay conducts classes in seven different schools and has a budget of just $100. His solution: teaching bucket drumming, using inexpensive plastic buckets that he can purchase at the local hardware store.

 Jay says that the American Jobs Act would offer much-needed funds to repair his school district’s aging facilities and keep teachers on the job. “If the American Jobs Act is passed, we would put more money in modernizing schools, we would offer work for construction workers, we would hire back more teachers, we would do all kinds of things for the younger generation of the cities,” he says. 

In the meantime, Jay remains on the move, going from school to school, teaching his classes in percussion and giving his students other important lessons as well. “Music has the opportunity to develop confidence in kids,” he says. “It gives them something to take ownership of. It develops team working skills; it’s all of these life skills that they can apply to all different parts of life.”

Watch Keeping the Beat:

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Duncan Introduces Plan to Reform and Improve Teacher Prep

“America’s teachers and America’s children deserve world-class preparation programs that prepare teachers for today’s classrooms and students for today’s information age,” said Secretary Duncan earlier today as he announced ED’s proposed reforms to improve teacher preparation programs and better prepare educators for classroom success.

The Department’s plan has three core elements:

    1. ED is proposing to reduce the reporting burden on schools of education and states. The Department wants states to identify the best teacher preparation programs and encourage others to improve by linking student test scores back to teachers and their schools of education.
    2. The Department has proposed a $185 million Presidential Teaching Fellows program to support rigorous state-level policies and provide scholarships for future leaders to attend top programs.
    3. ED’s plan will provide more support for institutions that prepare high-quality teachers from diverse backgrounds.

For additional information, read Our Future, Our Teachers: the Obama Administration’s Plan for Teacher Education Reform and Improvement.

Discussing Special Education Teacher Prep at Eastern Michigan

Last Friday, I had a great opportunity to participate in a roundtable at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) on special education teacher preparation, recruitment and retention. With six other distinguished panelists that included a state and district representative, an EMU faculty member, a current EMU teacher candidate, a parent and a local teacher representative, we all agreed that integrating some of the preparation of general and special educators was of paramount importance.

For two hours, we shared data on current recruitment and retention rates and best practices for long-term retention.  One of these practices included the need for a strong induction and mentoring program. Michigan currently has a mandatory three-year mentoring program, 15 additional days of professional development, and regional seminars that allow them to hear from and connect to master teachers as they begin their teaching careers. What a great exemplar!

We also discussed the steps EMU is taking to make teacher preparation more successful and how important it is to align university training with what teachers are expected to do in their classrooms. Traditionally, general education and special education teachers have been trained separately, yet as we continue to move towards more inclusive settings, EMU will collaborate to ensure that programs are working together and general and special education are no longer “housed” in separate silos.

During and following the roundtable, I had a chance to chat with some of the over 250 attendees. Some of the topics of interest to audience members included the economic implications of inclusive practices and the need for financial incentives for teachers, especially as we work to increase the number of youth who choose to become special educators.  As I mingled through the crowd, I was excited to meet so many teacher candidates who participated in this event. I want to extend a special thanks to those who participated and remind all of you that investing in education is investing in our future!

Alexa Posny is Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

AFT and TFT Share “The Toledo Plan” with Secretary Duncan

Ed. Note: Maryann Woods Murphy is a Spanish teacher and a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from her school in Allendale, NJ. This former New Jersey State Teacher of the Year and 33-year teaching veteran travelled with Secretary Duncan’s bus tour to meet with teachers and teachers unions.  Here she shares her first-hand experience with a visit to the AFT Union Hall in Toledo, Ohio on Wednesday, where the Secretary viewed a demonstration of Toledo’s innovative program to mentor and evaluate teachers.

 “Welcome to the home of peer review,” says Francine Lawrence, Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers and the former president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers. “We are so proud to recognize what we have done together.”

The room at Union Hall, Toledo, is packed. Teachers, educational leaders and community members are here to share “The Toledo Plan” with the Secretary of Education on his bus tour. There is excitement in the air.

 “The Toledo Plan” is a peer review process that uses master teachers to guide and support the professional development of a newly hired probationary teacher or a non-probationary teacher who needs assistance.

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

Dal Lawrence, former President of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, was a key player in the creation of the plan 31 years ago. He says that it’s about seeing which teachers can “fly on their own” after they get expert mentoring.

Tonight we are watching how the panel reviews the work of two probationary teachers. Each intern teacher has been assigned a trained, consulting teacher who has worked with the intern extensively throughout the year. Now it’s time for that consulting teacher to present a case for the retention or release of their mentee to the panel.

One of the teachers that the consultant presents, shows great organization, an ability to connect with students, expertise in the design of learning activities, clear expectations and terrific routines. This intern seems to be a capable and caring educator and this is what the consulting teacher recommends to the panel.

But the panel needs to probe and clarify any doubts, asking the consultant for evidence of the intern’s positive performance. Finally, the panel decides to affirm the consultant’s recommendation. This teacher will be offered a non-probationary contract for the following school year.

The next probationary teacher presenting to the panel really struggles. Though she is well meaning, her directions are unclear to kids. In her kindergarten class, students are distracted, doodling on themselves with markers, standing up at will and tossing paper cups. Despite the fact that the consulting teacher has offered many helpful suggestions and strategies, the intern cannot get her teaching together. The year has gotten progressively worse, and students are just not learning.

The panel agrees with the consultant’s negative recommendation. This teacher has not learned to “fly” and won’t be invited back to teach in Toledo. She didn’t make the cut.

After the mock peer review process concludes, Arne takes the microphone: “I have followed this model very closely for years,” he says, “I am always looking for models that the country should be looking at.” He goes on to say that he’d like to see more “tough minded collaborations” and “more districts working together in a thoughtful and collaborative way.”

Francine Lawrence, the Vice President of AFT closes the evening by saying that “in every school where you have significant student achievement, you have union and staff collaboration.”

The positive climate I see tonight and the long history and success of the peer review process show that working together for the good of students is possible. In fact, it’s been happening in Toledo for a very long time.

Maryann Woods-Murphy

Read a previous bus-tour post about the Toledo event.

Talking Teacher Prep in Ann Arbor

How do we train a new generation of effective teachers?

This was the question under consideration in a packed room at the University of Michigan’s School of Education, where Secretary Duncan joined a faculty and student panel during a stop in Ann Arbor, Michigan as part of the Department’s Back-to-School Bus Tour.

During the panel discussion, Secretary Duncan highlighted the need for a diverse teaching force. “There is a growing imbalance of what our students look like and what our educators look like,” he said.

Thirty-eight percent of American students are African American or Latino, but only fourteen percent of teachers are, and only 1 in 50 teachers are African American male.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Keep following the progress of this year’s back-to-school tour by visiting ed.gov/bustour, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates from the Department of Education.

As Tour Revs Up, Chicago Automotive Classroom Is on the Map

This week, Secretary Arne Duncan and a team of ED officials are embarking upon the Department’s 2011 back-to-school tour—this year under the theme of “Education and the Economy: Investing in our Future.” The tour will take Arne and a big blue bus throughout the Great Lakes region, with stops at a number of outstanding schools and communities. The bus’s final stop will be in the city where Arne served as CEO of the public schools, Chicago, before coming to Washington. At Carl Schurz High School, he’ll visit the classroom of Clairene Terry, an automotive class teacher who has restored automotive mechanics’ stature as an exciting and promising career path for Carl Schurz students.

Students Get Hands-on in Clairene Terry's Class

Terry, a product of Chicago Public Schools herself, restored the automotive mechanics program at Schurz, and grew it into one of the most sought-after classes at the school. “There were always at least 120 students signing up for the [35-student] program. The numbers never dropped off,” she recalls.

Terry enthusiastically transfers her passion for diagnosing and fixing problems in cars, along with thinking skills, to her students. After she began teaching at Schurz in 2000, she led a team of students to a national automotive mechanics competition, where the team earned 5th place nationally and 1st place among Chicago high schools. “I love being competitive, that’s what drives me,” she says.

Working in auto mechanics today isn’t the same as it was 20 year ago. With advanced computer technology integrated into new vehicles, maintaining and repairing autos requires higher-order computer and math skills. Terry acknowledges how quickly technology in the field evolves, but she ensures that her students still have a solid understanding of the basics. “If you understand the basics, nothing changes; the concepts remain the same,” she explains. Despite increasing automation, core mechanic competency areas such as brakes, steering and engine performance have remained largely unchanged over the years, she says.

As an African-American woman at the forefront of high school automotive mechanics teaching, Clairene Terry is rare, if not unique, among educators in her field. She is currently the president of the Illinois College Automotive Instructors Association, an organization with more than 200 members. Before becoming an educator, Terry considered a variety of careers; she worked in insurance, as a security guard and served in the military. Automotive mechanics was the only one she found where she didn’t “hit a ceiling,” she recalls.

Just as Terry broke into a male-dominated field, as a teacher, she wants her students to understand that, despite what people may tell them, “no door is closed.” She prods them on to bigger and better things, asking them often, “Who can tell you what you can do?”

Secretary Duncan will visit Terry and her successful program during the bus tour’s final stop on Friday, before a forum highlighting a landmark education reform package that recently became law in Illinois. Arne recently acknowledged that career and technical education—and programs like Terry’s—is  not receiving the attention it deserves during education reform discussions.

“The need to re-imagine and remake career and technical education is urgent,” Duncan said. “CTE has an enormous, if often overlooked, impact on students, school systems, and our ability to prosper as a nation.”

Follow this year’s back-to-school tour by visiting ED.gov/bustour, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter, and by signing up for email updates from ED and Arne.


Luke Ferguson, a student at Oberlin College in Ohio, was an intern over the summer in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Back-to-School Bus Heads to the Great Lakes

During last week’s #AskArne Twitter Town Hall, Sarah, a third grade teacher, asked if it is possible for Arne to “tour and sponsor real town halls with educators.” This week, ED announced that Secretary Duncan and his senior staff will be holding more than 50 such events next week.

Secretary Duncan stops in New York during last year's back-to-school bus tour.

Starting on Wednesday, September 7, Secretary Duncan and senior ED staff will head to the Great Lakes Region for a Back-to-School Bus Tour. Arne will be making stops in Pittsburgh, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Merrillville, Ind., Milwaukee and Chicago, and senior ED officials will be hosting dozens of events throughout the Midwest. The theme of the tour is “Education and the Economy: Investing in Our Future.”

Arne will be meeting with educators and talking with students, parents, administrators, and community stakeholders. Among the topics that Secretary Duncan and senior staff will discuss include the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, K-12 reform, transforming the teaching profession, civil rights enforcement, efforts to better serve students with disabilities and English Language Learners, Promise Neighborhoods, the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, STEM education, increasing college access and attainment as well as vocational and adult education.

Click here for additional details on Secretary Duncan’s back-to-school bus tour stops.

You can follow the progress of this year’s Back-to-School tour right here at the ED Blog, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter, and by signing up for email updates from ED and Secretary Duncan.

The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love: TEACH Presents Matthew Eddy

Ed. Note: Cross-posted from TEACH.gov. This post is the seventh in a summer-long, weekly blog series celebrating young teachers. We hope these profiles of teachers who have inspired their students and increased their classroom’s performance will inspire the next generation of teachers! Please visit our blog to see the previous posts.

“Education really is a labor of love,” says Matthew Eddy, the Agriculture Education Instructor and FFA Advisor at Southeast Polk Community Schools in Pleasant Hill, Iowa: “you have to have a desire to help people.” But, he continues, “in agriculture education, we are lucky enough to work hard at preparing the future generations of agriculturists who will have such a large impact on what our world will look like. Everyone needs to eat, so I can’t imagine a more important industry to lend my efforts to improve.” Matt hopes that by setting a good example for his students, he’ll inspire them to work towards a career in agriculture—or perhaps teaching. For Matt, “The most fun comes when they find something that clicks with their goals and realize that Ag is pretty ‘cool.’”

Two excellent agriculture educators got Matt interested in the subject early on. Upon graduation, he had the option to go into “farming, teaching, or business and industry—I got started as a first year teacher,” he says.  “I never really planned to teach very long but I suppose the rest is history. To turn a phrase from the Ag Teachers Creed: ‘I got here by chance but have stayed by choice.’”

Matt believes that Career and Technical Education (CTE) is “uniquely positioned to restore our educational system to the greatness it was once known for.” He engages his students by putting their studies in context, and involving them in practices during agricultural cycles. The agricultural science program Matt built and now oversees utilizes the three circle model of agricultural education, in which formal instruction, supervised experience, and work with the Future Farmers of America (FFA), are all equally emphasized. 100% of Matt’s students are members of the FFA and participate in Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE). The 256 FFA members at his school comprise the largest chapter in Iowa. As part of the AgScience program, Matt’s students artificially inseminate cattle so that they’ll breed at the Iowa State Fair. There his students not only learn about the entire cycle but also have the opportunity to educate the families attending the fair about the breeding and birthing process. The AgScience program also covers Aqua Culture, Greenhouse care, Landscaping, and Animal Science.

In addition to his work as a teacher, Matt is involved in education at the local, state, and national level. He serves in the Polk County 4-H Club, and on the FFA Fair Board. Under Matt’s leadership, Southeast Polk’s FFA chapter has won the National Chapter Three Star Award six years in a row.

For Matt, the toughest part about teaching is “realizing that 90% of the job is working with students.” He knows that “taking care of the things you can affect, accepting the things you can’t and having enough wisdom to know the difference,” enables him to effectively manage all of his responsibilities. “It’s a tough job,” says Matt. “Teaching takes all of your energy, [and] is never the same from day to day or even hour to hour. [It is] the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

New Webinar Offers Teachers Tools to Teach 9/11

I was in sixth grade on September 11, 2001, and when I close my eyes I can still see – clear as if they’re happening now – the events of that day. My physical education teacher breaking the news of the attacks to my class; the obvious fear on the faces of my classmates; even the too-small Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey I’d worn that day to celebrate my hero’s return to basketball.

Most of us have vivid recollections of that terrible Tuesday. But I also have strong memories of subsequent September 11ths, when my teachers sought to find a way to both relate and commemorate the day’s scope, scale, and tragedy. Most of the time, my teachers seemed a bit unsure of how to observe the day: usually we watched an emotional video, grew emotional ourselves, and stumbled out into the hallway with heavy hearts when the bell rang. The nation might have known how to commemorate the attacks, but not how to deal with them in a classroom setting.

Sam Barnett is an intern in the Office of Communication and Outreach

Now, from my intern’s desk at the Department of Education, it seems like that’s starting to change. The Smithsonian Institution has teamed up with the three national memorials to 9/11 – at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania – to present a series of webinars that will air August 3 and 4. The webinars share information about how to effectively teach a variety of age groups about 9/11. The sessions are free and open to everyone, online at this link.

In just over a month, America will observe the 10th anniversary of September 11, a day that still recalls strong emotions for those of us who remember it. Many of today’s elementary and secondary school students are too young to really remember the day and its meaning. Next week’s webinars will help educators prepare for a difficult, but important part of their jobs: teaching about 9/11.

For more info, including lesson plans and other teaching materials, you can use these resources:

Sam Barnett

Sam Barnett is an intern in the Office of Communication and Outreach and a senior studying journalism at Northwestern University.