Amy Abrams, 2014 Regional Teacher of the Year
“It is my honor and privilege to administer to you the oath of office.” As Vice President Pence spoke those words to Betsy DeVos, I started speculating on what her appointment would mean for the 70.9 million K-20 students in our nation’s public school system. I was concerned. I think many educators in America were concerned. After all, DeVos’ lack of educational experience is worrisome.
Turning away from the confirmation, I started to think about some influential voices in education. I thought about Maya Angelou, Diane Ravitch, Conrad Wolfram, and Malala Yousafzai. Especially Malala, the young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for demanding that girls receive an education. Her words and life invaded my thoughts. “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” At that moment, I realized that Presidents and Secretaries of Education come and go. What continues, and what needs protecting, is education. This brave young woman's words are a call to action that is now more important to heed than ever, both worldwide and within our own country's education system.
In Washington State, there are over 64,000 teachers educating close to 1.1 million students. 64,000 teachers devoted to students who live in 732 different zip codes, speak 167 different languages, and consider classrooms their safe place. 64,000 teachers who believe in, nurture, challenge, fight for, and respect our students. We appreciate each scholar’s uniqueness and defend his or her rights, no matter what race, religion, or socio-economic group he or she belongs to. We speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. It’s our calling-- it’s what we do. It’s what we will continue to do.
Kent Superintendent, Dr. Calvin J. Watts, recently confirmed this commitment in a message to all District employees: “I want to make sure each of the more than 4,100 KSD employees know this organization is committed to supporting every student and providing a quality educational experience regardless of immigration status, nation of origin, religion, or any other social or legal descriptor.”
Educational leaders throughout our State are mirroring Dr. Watt’s commitment. Providing all students with a quality education in a safe and accepting environment remains our goal. This work will not be easy, and there may be times when we educators feel frustrated and deeply discouraged. In fact, I imagine that we are facing a time when many teachers may feel a bit like the Patriots felt for the majority of Super Bowl 51.
Keep this in mind, however. Tom Brady and his team were down 19 points during the third quarter. Fans got up and left. The game was essentially over. After all, the largest deficit a Super Bowl team had ever overcome was 10 points, and the Patriots had close to double that.
Then the 4th quarter came. Despite insurmountable odds, Tom Brady and his team managed a 25-point comeback to win their 5th Super Bowl title. They were one team with one purpose. They analyzed the situation, made the necessary adjustments, and dedicated themselves to the grueling work needed to get the win.
They were prepared for the challenge. They refused to accept defeat.
For educators in the United States, this is the start of our 4th quarter. Things may get tough, but we’re used to that. We have persevered through budget cuts, oversized classes, leadership transitions, changes to state and national standards, and different versions of standardized tests. We have grit. We can weather this storm, too.
We must commit ourselves to doing the hard work needed to positively impact our students’ lives. We will continue to advocate for equity. We will continue to say that no matter who you are or where you live, you are welcome in our classrooms. Malala said, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” We are 64,000 strong, and when our combined voices unite with purpose, we will be impossible to ignore. We refuse to be silent because our students are counting on us—counting on us to help them change the world.
Amy Abrams is a 2014 Regional Teacher of the Year. She currently serves as the Curriculum Coordinator for English, Highly Capable, and Social Studies for grades 7-12 in the Kent School District in Kent, Washington.
Amy Abrams, Kent