By: Cori Walls, International Baccalaureate film & Digital Video Production teacher for Palm Beach County School District in Delray Beach, FL
Why is it that so many films have a backstory of a child losing a parent? Or that many superheroes are vindicating the death of their parents? This is where art is the reality for far too many children across our country. The challenge lies in how to offer support to these grieving children.
My mother grew up as one of nine children. Her youngest sibling, my aunt Cheryl, was born with Down Syndrome. At the time of Cheryl’s birth in 1962, the doctors told my grandparents that Cheryl would only live until the age of three, and as such, the family should consider putting her into an institution. My grandparents adamantly refused this recommendation, and Cheryl continued to live at home. My aunt Cheryl passed away in November 2021, just a few months before her 60th birthday. She was deeply cared for and loved by my family until her last day on Earth.
By: Rebecca Standridge, Program Specialist for ESE Curriculum and veteran Special Education Teacher in Marion County, Florida
As a child, I dreamed of growing up and becoming a teacher; practicing reading aloud with my baby dolls and stuffed animals and was always the first to volunteer to help the teacher grade papers. I am now an adult, living my dream of teaching while continuing to learn and explore the field of education. During my career, the lifestyle of a military spouse has been a challenge to my development as a teacher leader. I feel like I have to prove myself to my coworkers and administrators at each new school. I begin teaching at a school, and within one school year I have established myself and built solid relationships with coworkers; these relationships strengthen and just as I feel confident in my position and moving upward, it is time to move again. But, I’ve found several ways to make sure that I can continue to grow as a leader in this unique and constantly-uprooted professional journey.
By: Misael Gonzalez, High School English Language Arts teacher, Miami, Florida
In many ways, my definition of teacher leadership was shaped by dramatized Hollywood portrayals of real accounts: a heroic singular leader fighting the system to make a change, a school in a “rough part of town” with a high minority-student population, and a challenge that had been thought a lost cause by everyone else I have come to realize that teacher leadership is not a case of catching lighting in a bottle. Through research, reading, and learning in my doctoral program, I’ve come to understand teacher leadership relies on collaborative efforts in and out of the classroom, requires a unique set of skills, and needs the right culture to truly grow. Here is what I’ve learned:
By: Neven Holland, Treadwell Elementary, Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS), Tennessee
“It’s the difficulty that keeps me here. It’s the opportunity to give my students in an underserved neighborhood with limited resources the high-quality teachers they deserve,” says my teacher colleague Armani Alexander. Despite all the difficulties of pandemic teaching, there is still this culture to grit and grind like our hometown Memphis Grizzlies in the profession we love with respect and knowledge of our urban community (Emdin, 2016).
After Emancipation, formerly enslaved people had to make new lives for themselves in a world that was new to them in some respects. For too many of them, their new lives were much like their old: working for next to nothing on someone else’s farm or plantation. Some moved North for better opportunities, but regardless of locale, it became apparent that education was the only way to truly free oneself and ensure subsequent generations of better lives. This mindset became the mantra for many African-Americans in the early to mid-20th Century.
By Catherine López, M.A., M.Ed., LDT, CALT, Certified Academic Language Therapist and Bilingual Content Interventionist working for the Austin Independent School District
Quality mentoring programs are more necessary than ever. Attracting and retaining new teachers has gone from being a serious problem to an acute crisis. Districts that seek to curb attrition rates in their ranks need structured programs that can help fledgling teachers during the first two to three years of their career.
Research shows that teachers who identify as leaders are more likely to stay in the profession longer and have a greater impact on student achievement. Teacher turnover and shortages in certain subjects and geographic areas have been an ongoing concern, and there are fears this shortage will continue to spread throughout the country. Recruiting more teachers can’t offset turnover alone, so retaining teachers is important. We know the value of experienced teachers and districts saves money in onboarding and training costs when they are able to keep teachers in the profession. Teacher leadership fosters collaboration, excitement about the profession, increases teachers’ skills, and benefits communities. Donna Harris-Aikens, Senior Advisor for Policy and Planning, met with teacher leaders to talk about the kind of experiences that foster and support teacher leaders in the classroom and throughout their educator networks. Here are the top five takeaways from teachers across the country on engaging and supporting teacher leaders.
I never could predict what might happen in Mr. O’Neil’s art
classes; I just knew I couldn’t wait for the next assignment. Back then I didn’t realize all the ways this
dynamic educator, a rare man of color leading our diverse classroom of second
graders, was serving as a pioneer and role model for me and my peers in John
Barry Elementary School. But I’ll never
forget how his teaching made me feel. As
a second grader, I remember looking up — watching him encourage, challenge and
guide us – and thinking: “I want to be like him.”
In March of 2020, I said, “See you on Monday” to my students on what I believed to be an ordinary Friday, albeit a Friday the 13th. That would be the last day I would see them for months. There was a period of uncertainty as everyone grappled with our new reality. The unadulterated meaning of pandemic, hit fast and hard.
Teacher Appreciation Week is one of my favorite times of the school year! Honoring the educators who spend countless hours creating lesson plans, building authentic relationships, and welcoming students into the learning space – whether it be in-person, online, or both – has been such a joy. I think back to my time growing up and fondly remember those who influenced me with their encouraging words, supportive nature, and praise of my efforts. My teachers, Ms. Pendergast, Mrs. Dixon, and Mr. Anderson were just three of many educators that left a lasting impression by showing me how much effort matters. I am grateful to them and to have this incredible opportunity to honor the efforts made by our nation’s teachers.
I was 8 years old when I first experienced homelessness. Homelessness then became a struggle that my family and I couldn’t escape. I experienced standing in the snow, hoping my family and I had a place to sleep on a church floor; how packed and unsanitary emergency shelters are, as I got lice within two days of staying there; how “The Florida Project” brought me flashbacks to the many months my family lived in motels, and how I viewed peers with “the basic necessities” with such envy. Constantly moving and being disappointed led me to become extremely detached and avoid relationships of any kind out of fear of abandonment. Eight years later, at 16 years old, I was still experiencing homelessness. Though homelessness was not new to me, this experience as a 16-year-old was the most difficult because I was on my own without a family.