Lyon Terry, 2015 Washington State Teacher of the Year
The honor of being named Washington State Teacher of the Year had hardly sunk in, and there I was, a 4th grade teacher, behind the lectern of a windowless room at the Seatac DoubleTree in front of 600 education professionals. I had 15 slides and one guitar. I was ready to inspire educators. There were administrators, researchers, academics, policy-makers, non-profit executives, trainers and more, interested in supporting kids in classrooms. It was a huge honor to be there. They had break-out sessions on all sorts of education topics that were interesting and engaging for educators.
That day, I met only one other teacher.
Teachers are the ones who do the hands-on work in education with actual kids, but their presence was notably absent at the DoubleTree. Since that fall day in 2014, I have experienced that scenario over and over. Many people are interested in supporting schools and education, but they are not connecting to and hearing from teachers. That is changing in Washington.
I visited Hope Teague-Bowling’s Lincoln High School classroom recently and was reminded of how much I can still learn from my colleagues. In a matter of 5 minutes and in the midst of teaching a lesson, Hope was asking herself dozens of questions, finding the answers, and adjusting her instruction.
“What is the best open-ended question to insert here to further understanding?”
“Does that kid really need to go to the bathroom, or is she just time wasting?”
“Is my pacing okay or are they getting bored?”
“How can I get more kids to write like _________?”
“What did that kid mumble under his breath?”
“Should those two kids really be sitting next to each other?”
“How much time is left in the period?”
“Should I call on him? I know he had a fight at home this morning . . .”
A teacher’s brain is constantly adjusting and asking questions in real time. Teachers are decision makers. Teachers are problem solvers. Teachers know how to test theory, and we already know what works and doesn’t work in the classroom.
These are exactly the kinds of skills we need to improve education, improve schools, and increase student success. Sitting at tables in those windowless conference rooms are people who make decisions that impact kids, teachers, and schools. They mold expectations, set priorities, and decide on policy. Teachers must be at those tables.
I know it seems obvious, but this is not always how it works. If you are an education advocate who wants to make a difference for kids, please start by talking with an accomplished teacher. Students in Washington state are performing at higher levels than ever before. Teachers can explain how and why this is happening, and what we can do to improve. We share your passion for improving schools and outcomes for all students, and we are eager to work with you.
Washington State Teacher of the Year is our state’s oldest teacher award program. Now Teacher of the Year alumni have joined together to create the Washington Teacher Advisory Council or WATAC. We are a dedicated group of accomplished teachers ready to answer education questions and give solutions for improving education. We have members all over the state, at every level, and in countless subject areas.
Use our network map to find a teacher in your region or who shares your interests and can provide an expert’s perspective. Tweet us using #AskATeacher and #WATAC. Ask us your education questions—the Washington Teacher Advisory Council is ready to join the conversation.
Lyon Terry is the 2015 Washington State Teacher of the Year. He is a National Board Certified Teacher of 4th grade at Lawton Elementary in Seattle and a member of the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development: Council of Distinguished Educators.
Amy Abrams, Kent