As you’ve seen on the BioRx blog, Author Shannon Ralph is 2015’s Kansas Teacher of the Year. She’s spending part of her semester traveling and speaking on behalf of Kansas teachers. Keep up with her KTOY adventures here on the blog and on her Twitter page.
My time in Topeka last week was an amazing learning experience. Interestingly enough, I arrived on the eve of the Governor’s Inauguration. I wasn’t invited of course, but it sure did fill up the parking lot with cars and black ties!
The KTOY team spent our first day with a panel of principals discussing issues currently facing Kansas educators. They provided thoughtful insights and gave us time to ask clarifying questions. While I have spent years practicing in the classroom, I have only known about the district-type issues on a superficial basis. It was interesting to hear about issues that all sizes of districts face as well as those that are size-specific: budget concerns, preparing students to be a part of a global community, and meeting the needs of all students. We also heard a presentation from Brad Neuenswander, Interim Commissioner of Education and Deputy Commissioner of Education, regarding issues facing Kansas from his perspective.
The second day we heard from a panel of superintendents with the same focus. The issues were similar, but hearing from folks dealing more directly with school boards and legislative decisions gave us all another perspective. It was a little overwhelming actually, and I came away with an even greater appreciation for what school superintendents do for their districts. We also heard from Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis regarding major educational issues that will be considered by the legislative education committee this year.
Each day we spent time preparing the remarks we would give to the Joint Committee of the House Education Committee and the Senate Education Committee. I can say without reservation that each member of this year’s KTOY team is passionate about finding best practice for the students we serve.
Our messages varied in topic based on each teacher’s passion, but the underlying theme was the same. “Keep kids in mind when making decisions for our state!” We all felt and still feel a deep responsibility to make sure our students’ voices are heard by our policymakers.
Spending time in our beautiful capital building is always a pleasure. Now that the renovations are done, it is even more impressive. In addition to speaking with the smaller committees, the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives recognized the 2015 KTOY team in their full sessions. We all felt welcomed and honored by our reception. In between, we gave our remarks to the Joint Committee. The Committee listened intently and asked several important questions. I have heard personally from a few of the members, which I find encouraging because communication with practitioners will provide an important perspective for our legislators when making difficult decisions.
So we’re off to begin our tour of Kansas universities and colleges to speak with pre-service teachers. Our first presentation is January 22nd. I will report back!