Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the first Washington Teacher’s Advisory Council (WATAC) Conference. 80 award winning teachers, principals, and classified staff attended the event. Featured speakers included Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal and a panel comprised of Camille Jones, Teacher of the Year, Melanie Green, Classified Employee of the Year, Mia Williams, Principal of the Year, Noel Frame, Legislator from the 36th District, and Deb Merle, Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Governor. It was an incredible opportunity to listen to a committed and passionate group of educational stakeholders who hold an encouraging vision for the future of our students.
But my biggest takeaway didn’t come from a specific message or a session. Instead, my inspiration came from the 80 superheroes in the room. These outstanding educators gave up their weekend, set aside their papers, lesson planning, and data tracking to improve their advocacy skills. Fellow CSTP blogger, Mark Gardner, and I led a session on how to increase your voice at the local level. In our session we worked one on one with teachers to define, develop and practice their pitch to decision makers. For example, one teacher felt a new intervention program targeting students with high rates of absenteeism was necessary at her school. She worked on her pitch, mapped out her strategy, practiced her elevator speech, and worked on determining the concerns/needs of decision makers. In another session, educators learned how to get involved in the work of the State Board of Education. Still another session taught educators how to connect with their local legislators. Watching these award winning teachers and classified staff working on these skills caused me such pride in my profession. Knowing that colleagues from across our state wanted to elevate their voice in helping shape local, district, and statewide policy means that our children have champions in every corner of the Evergreen State.
All week, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I’ve been shouting out on social media my student teachers, colleagues, and friends who work in education. As I reflect on the week and the educators that have shaped my career, it’s equally important to recognize those whose work is often unseen and yet so often felt. These superheroes advance our work in a way that creates more support and capacity for the profession. Frankly, our schools need allies who will lift up our cause to legislators who make the decisions that directly impact our kids. So, here’s my shout out to those teachers for taking the time to become active participants in local and state policymaking. The rest of us are incredibly grateful. #ThankATeacher