When people ask me why I left the classroom, I always preface my answer with, “I loved being in my classroom.” Every day was an adventure. I never wanted the best days to end, and the hardest days inspired me to seek out new resources, consult with other teachers, and be better for my students the very next day.
These experiences in my classroom pushed me to ask big questions, to think critically about decisions that were being made at every level of my school and district, and to wonder how I could best make an impact. These questions (and the answers I found) eventually led me out of the classroom to graduate school and later to a job in state education policy.
At the time, I felt the only way to tackle systemic issues I saw in my classroom every day was to leave. That’s a pressure many teachers I know feel.
Onward, not outbound
For most teachers, often the only way up the professional ladder, unfortunately, is out. Out of the classroom, out of the school building, or even out of the system itself. To get a seat at the table, many teachers leave behind the very place and people that inspired them to do this work in the first place.
That’s why we are launching our Educator Board and introducing our inaugural cohort of teachers. These teachers have classroom records that demonstrate a commitment to ensuring all students succeed, and they share our vision of a Texas in which all students are prepared to succeed in the post-secondary environment of their choosing.
These educators also share our belief that policy and advocacy can be effective tools to transform our education system. They are committed to the students they interact with every day, and they are committed to affecting change beyond the walls of their classroom.
Going forward, together
Teachers, coaches, counselors, and administrators on the Educator Board come from schools as varied and diverse as the state itself. From 1A to 6A schools, from elementary to career and technology classrooms, from special education teachers to instructional coaches, each educator brings a unique perspective and distinct policy interest that they are excited to champion.
Talk to them, and you will hear the wisdom of people who spend every day in classrooms working with students and with other educators. Local educators are the main implementers of state and local policy and have a unique responsibility and perspective. Throughout the interview process, one common refrain struck me over and over again; the feelings of having policy done to educators and their students, instead of with them.
The other theme that struck me during these conversations was that, though they could name many challenges in the classroom, none of these educators was resigned to the status quo. Each one described actions they had taken in their school and in their district to drive change they thought necessary to improve the educational experience of their students.
When asked what topics policymakers should be tackling in the years ahead, more than one teacher expressed surprise at the thought of being asked. Texas Aspires Foundation is committed to doing more than just asking.
Teachers should not simply be tasked with implementing policy. They should be at the table to help identify areas of need, scale successes, and design solutions to critical issues that they see first-hand every day.
To do that, our Educator Board members will participate in the policymaking process in all its forms, serving in both advocacy and policy capacities.
Advocacy – Board members will engage in policy conversations both in Austin and in their home districts, providing insights on potential policy solutions to elected officials and policymakers.
Policy – Board members will work together to craft policy proposals and research briefs that move the ball forward on education issues.
The ultimate goal of education policy and advocacy is to bring all the stakeholders together to make policy that benefits students. Elevating teacher voice, alongside the researchers that make up our Policy Board, the influencers on our Advisory Board, and the legislative expertise of our staff, is essential to ensuring that policies and their implementation benefit students.
In the coming weeks and months, look for these outstanding teachers to share stories from their classrooms and advocate for policies that will help their students excel.
Educators matter. Their voices in policy conversations must matter too.Print