December, 2014

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Teacher of the Year

Here is the new trailer for the documentary, Teacher of the Year. 

Looks great, right? However, in order for this movie to become a reality, we need your help. For this movie to reach its full potential, it requires professional post production work and insurance.

We ask you to support this movie and public education by this sharing this link and donating. No amount is too small, and every little bit counts. There is not much time to reach our goal (we have until February 19th, 2015), and we really want this movie to succeed so that we can spread our message about public education. Change can’t occur until we have widespread awareness, and this documentary is a crucial step of the process.

We are so grateful for all of the hard work and time that amazing people have put into this movie, and for the support of everyone in helping this movie cross the finish line. Without you, it would not be possible.

Please click on/share this link to support–5 


In Praise of Public School Teachers

People who haven’t been in our public schools lately might envision them as grim or dangerous places, but I want to tell you about the public school I know, one that shines as a bright light for our family and for our community.

Our public school is Leaksville-Spray Elementary, in Eden, N.C. My four children are in kindergarten, first, third, and fifth grade, so we have a combined total of twelve classroom experiences at the school.

Six years ago I was worried about what we would encounter as our oldest son started public school in a school with a 75% poverty level.

Let me tell you what we’ve encountered.

We’ve encountered a principal who is constantly looking for ways to improve her school and who says that her teachers are amazing.

We’ve encountered creative teachers who try to reach all of the kids in their classes no matter where they are, who take a job that isn’t easy and do it very, very well.

We’ve encountered teachers who spend extra hours working both at school and at home, who spend their own money to pay for materials they need, who make a tremendous effort to retain their own passions while also stirring the passions of our children.

I want to tell you about a few of these teachers.

I want to tell you about Mrs. Boyd, who created an after school book club for students to talk about politics and history—in the first grade.

I want to tell you about Mrs. Craft, who started a program where her students become Mathematician Technicians to work with younger kids on math skills.

I want to tell you about Mrs. Law, who bought a book at a yard sale because she knew it was the next book in the series my son was reading, and about Mrs. Yarber, who heard about a great way to teach multiplication using music, and within one day had talked to a teacher in Indianapolis and had gotten copies of the music. And Mrs. Corum, who has 37 kids in her fifth-grade science class this year but who continues to provide them with hands-on experiences like the Gummy Worm vs. Night Crawler lesson they did the fifth day of school.

I can go on…

I told my son one time that he had the best teacher. He said that I always say that. Well, it’s true.

Every year he has the best teacher. Our school is full of the best teachers.

And I know it’s not just our school.

Our public schools are full of the best teachers. We need to honor them. We need to recognize that any greatness this country achieves will be a direct result of the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of public school teachers around the country who continue to work in even the most challenging conditions among families who struggle economically, who search for that one thing to motivate that one student, who sacrifice time with their own families to do what is best for all of ours.

I don’t want our public school teachers to feel as if they are under threat, as if they aren’t doing enough.

The mission of our public school teachers is clear: educate our children. ALL of our children. Not only the children whose parents come to meetings, not only the ones who have books in their homes, not only the ones who share their personal values. Educate ALL of our children.

You know these teachers too. You know them at your children’s schools, your grandchildren’s schools, your neighbors’ schools.

Tell them you are grateful.

Tell them we need them and we don’t want to lose them.

Laurie Wilson is the parent of four children who attend public school in Eden, NC

Why I Love Teaching, But Why I May Be Ready to Leave the Classroom

At dinner with friends last night, I was asked if I still liked teaching. It was an easy answer. “Yes, I still like it, as a matter of fact, I love it.” When it goes right—and that’s not every day in every class—but when the stars align and your students are focused and your lesson is working, there is nothing like it. Hands are up; students are asking questions; you’re all laughing; everyone’s learning…it’s amazing. It’s like hearing a tennis ball hit the sweet spot on the racket, or watching an actor command an audience. Teaching is magic. Who wouldn’t love to spend each day trying to make this magic? I mean you are leading students to learn and think. So, then, why do I want to leave teaching? I am tired. I am tired of the lack of respect from the public, and especially exhausted by the NC General Assembly whose latest pay scale implies that as a veteran teacher I have no worth. The idea that I do not deserve my tenure or longevity pay, frankly, makes me want to sit down and weep.
Prevailing public and legislative opinion implies that a highly paid veteran teacher drains school budgets. Experienced teachers, according critics cited in WUNC’s “Experienced Teacher’s Under Fire” are “one of the problems with public education. They get tenure, [critics] say, and ride out the last years of their careers”. In 1998, I received tenure in North Carolina. Since then, I have been a department chair, mentored at least five student teachers, written curriculum, led staff development, served on school planning and leadership committees, received my National Board Certification, earned my master’s degree, presented at professional conferences, attended week-long educational workshops, taken on new teaching assignments, become a mentor teacher, planned lessons, and learned to use new technologies, while teaching 21st Century skills. Hardly “riding out my career”. I don’t mean to imply that teachers work harder than any other profession; we don’t. However, we, unlike other professions, are not rewarded for refining and perfecting our skills. Actually, as Wall Street Journal reporter, Steven Brill noted in “Super Teachers Alone Can’t Save Our Schools”, teaching is the only profession “where how talented you are, how energetic you are, how you perform, has nothing at all to do with how you get paid and how you get promoted.” So, we have always depended on our state recognizing that our experience counts, and that we should be paid more because we bring more to the table.
Schools need what veteran teachers offer. Schools “have to have some people who have institutional knowledge,” says Michael Maher, the Assistant Dean for Professional Education and Accreditation in the School of Education at NC State. He notes that we have seen curricular changes and that there needs to be someone to “help these young folks weather those storms”, and veterans have a sense of the community”. My school is full of amazingly talented young teachers; their energy, ideas, and presence rejuvenate me. However, regardless of their talent or vigor, they don’t know the school community like I do. They haven’t seen how it has changed over a twenty-year stretch; they don’t know what our community expects from teachers. Veteran teachers build the bridge between the past and the present. We support and encourage young teachers; we make sure that the profession thrives and continues. It’s an important job; it’s a job that should be respected. My worth in this regard doesn’t “max out” at 20 years and neither should my pay.
So, where do I go from here? Do I resign? Does my frustration and fatigue finally win out over dedication and commitment? Do I leave the magic behind? Part of me does consider packing up my extensive bag of knowledge, wisdom, and skill and leaving education. However, last week my AP students wrote wonderful argumentative essays and my English I students raised their unit test scores, and I spent a productive day with colleagues at a county workshop, and my student teacher taught a successful lesson. What I do matters, and so I won’t let small minded politicians, who devalue me; force me from my life’s work. So, tomorrow, when someone asks me if I still like teaching, I’ll say I love it, but I will also say that it’s time for the public and our legislature to start valuing what I do.
Yvonne Anderson
Teacher, Wake County Public Schools

The MUST HAVE Teacher Gift This Year

What do NC teachers want MOST this year?  For you to advocate on their behalf.  It will cost you less than a dollar, but it will be priceless to the teacher you honor.  Use the template below to craft your letter in less than ten minutes.  Mail a copy and wrap a copy up and present it to your child’s teacher.  You will be the talk of the teacher’s lounge, guaranteed!  Pass on this idea.  It’s the one gift that means more if you multiply it!


Your name and address here

Your state representative or state senator’s name and address here:

*Send TWO letters – one to your state senator and one to your state house representative.  Find your representative in the NC House of Representatives and NC Senate by typing your address in the proper map at this website and then entering the district numbers below the maps.  Double check that they won re-election by using this website (the state districts are so gerrymandered that very few seats changed hands).

Month Day, Year

Dear  (insert above name here),

I am writing this letter in honor of my child’s teachers, (insert names of teachers) at (insert name of the school).    They are public school teachers in North Carolina.  You are my elected representative in state government and I want you to make the public schools more of a priority in the coming legislative term.

I send my children to public schools because (choose from the reasons below)

  • The teachers are certified and licensed and teach a rigorous curriculum that meets or exceeds national standards.
  • Public schools represent the diversity of our society and best prepare my child to live and work in a diverse and pluralistic society.
  • Public schools ensure that all our citizens have opportunity in society, moving us closer to the goal that America is a meritocracy where hard work pays off and there is not an entrenched social class system.
  • Public schools are not for profit and do not seek to monetize our children.
  • I pay property taxes to fund the public schools, and I want them to be great quality.

To have great public schools, we need great teachers.  The policies of the past few years have made teachers feel disrespected and have made teaching a less attractive career in NC.  This is evident in that (choose from the reasons below)

  • If you enter many of the public schools on a Wednesday, a majority of teachers are wearing red in silent protest against the recent legislation that has been passed in the state legislature.  Their anger and disappointment are visible, and you need to pay attention.
  • Enrollments in Schools of Education in our state universities and colleges are dropping.  Fewer college students are preparing to be teachers.  As a result, Schools of Education will have to downsize their programs or lower their qualifications.
  • Schools are having a harder and harder time finding qualified candidates to fill open positions, and we have more mid-year openings as teachers are leaving the profession altogether.
  • You can see the transformation in the life of a real NC teacher, from being a passionate classroom teacher to a brokenhearted teacher activist. View this documentary trailer from an upcoming film titled “Teacher of the Year”.  Here’s the link:

These trends are evidence that we are on the wrong course.  We cannot have great public schools if the best and brightest students are not entering the profession and the state is unable to retain talented and experienced teachers.  It’s that simple.

I’m watching the teachers.   They are the measure of how the schools are doing.  And right now, I am seeing red.  You can change that in the coming legislative term, and concerned parents like me are taking note.




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