When I was a 2nd grade teacher at Joseph A. Hardin Elementary School in New Orleans, I had the privilege of working with many amazing educators in my school. We shared strategies for engaging our students, for teaching reading, and best practices for reaching out to our students’ families. At times, these discussions ranged beyond our classrooms to our ideas on how the system could be reformed to be more equitable and better serve our students. I yearned for a way to support change in education beyond my own classroom. I wish I’d had the opportunity to join a network like Teach Plus, which empowers teachers to take leadership over the policy issues that affect their students’ success.
At the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we recognize that being a teacher is one of the most important professions. After all, teachers are responsible for developing our nation’s future leaders, and helping them to become engaged members of our society, contributing to a strong democracy and economy. We believe that teachers possess the wisdom, know-how and expertise to have impact beyond their own classrooms. That’s why we’ve supported Teach Plus, a teacher leadership organization, to convene and organize a group of teacher leaders in Rhode Island over the past year.
These educators have spent the year immersed in learning about best-practices around personalized, student-centered learning, and learning how to advocate for this type of learning in the policy realm. They’ve written op-eds about their views and work, and most recently developed a set of policy recommendations for the state. In these recommendations, the policy fellows call for rethinking teacher education, championing community engagement, and promoting competency-based education. The work of these teachers is foundational to ensuring that all of Rhode Island’s students have equitable access to a quality education — so that they are prepared for life after high school and can contribute to their communities as informed citizens.
Rhode Island, due to its size, makes an ideal state to serve as a learning lab for other states and large districts in how to create policies and environments to expand personalized learning. After presenting their policy recommendations to local and state education leaders, these teachers will be working to advocate for implementation of their recommendations. You can read the recommendations here.