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The Power of Vision and Teacher Support

Champion of Change Eric Kehn, Louisiana's 2010 Regional Teacher of the Year, discusses the importance of supporting teachers.

The great work from ordinary citizens is the foundation for a brighter future. Through a Champions of Change award, I had the honor of meeting with a strong group of such people from around the country at the White House. Our round table discussions with administration officials revealed the passion, courage and devotion guiding this group of teachers to make a difference in their own community. Although the topics varied from online learning to enhancing a child’s home life, one theme was clear: Supporting students by supporting teachers.

Recently, several states have been working toward building value-added teacher evaluation systems using current student testing data and improved teacher observation instruments. Several members in our discussion have a hand in building this process in their own state, including myself. There seems to be consensus teachers should be evaluated. However, simply labeling teachers will be counterproductive to our charge of raising student achievement. Teacher evaluations must be integrally tied to professional development and support.

As an instructional coach, I realize the importance in supporting teachers. Most teachers spend considerable time fulfilling the role of many traditional career titles: Teacher, coach, social worker, community outreach worker, public relations, police officer, nurse, counselor, politician, parent, lawyer, minister, and secretary. Surprisingly, they still feel they are not doing enough and work even harder to do better. It is near impossible for teachers to do more than they already do. Unfortunately, teachers find they have no time left to seek solutions and research best practices to improve their own practices. In recognizing this trend, I work hand in hand with teachers to help them improve their practices through continued support and follow up. Rather than asking teachers to work harder, we find ways for them to work smarter.

The latest PISA report suggests successful school systems have relied on an intense focus on teaching and learning. They know what successful teaching looks like from the top level down to the classroom, and every teacher receives system wide support to reach it. After my visit to the White House, I hold a renewed hope this nation may turn from ever increasing accountability measures to visionary leadership and support. In the end, it will not be our teachers who benefit the most from this renewed effort, but our children. Similarly, it will not be our schools who receive outstanding ratings, but our nation.

Eric was Louisiana's 2010 Regional Teacher of the Year. He is an instructional coach at Central Middle School, Ascension Parish, Louisiana.