My third grade teacher was fabulous; in fact, in my 20 years of education I had a lot of really wonderful teachers. However, it is Mrs. Mason who inspired me to take on the challenging work of reforming the way teachers are evaluated, compensated, hired and retained.
Before being in Mrs. Mason's class I didn't hate school, but I didn't want anyone to notice me while I was there. I was terrified that my teachers were going to call on me; I might have to answer a question and worse yet that I would get it wrong. Mrs. Mason had a way of coxing me out of my shell, getting me to answer questions, and even taught me that raising my hand was a risk worth taking.
I will never forget the day she assigned us famous women to study for women's history month. When she assigned me Carol Burnett for my report, she whispered in my ear that she had given me Carol Burnett because I was important enough to have people listen to me the way they listened to Ms. Burnett. To this day, when my natural tendency to be an introvert rears its head and I want to hide in my office instead of make the hard phone call or go to the difficult meeting, I can hear Mrs. Mason whispering to me, telling me to be confident because I have value to add.
Having spent years in the classroom, I now realize that Mrs. Mason must have been doing this kind of thing for each student fortunate enough to be in one of her classes. She clearly knew that for me to be a successful student and adult I would need confidence and the ability to make myself be heard. These "soft skills" she taught me served me well throughout my long career as a student and now in my professional and personal life.
When my organization, the Children's Education Council of Missouri, decided to endorse the TeachGreat.org Initiative Petition that, when passed, will reform teacher evaluations, tenure, and seniority-based layoffs, it was the possibility of protecting and elevating the profession for educators like Mrs. Mason that won me over. Every student deserves a teacher who, like Mrs. Mason, can look at the 25 faces sitting in the desks in front of them and know what each one needs to be successful and most importantly, how to get it for them.
CECM is supporting the TeachGreat.org Initiative Petition because it will move Missouri one step closer to recognizing the teachers who are doing for Missouri's students what Mrs. Mason did for my classmates and me. I know change is hard, I know teachers and administrators, and maybe even some parents are concerned about overhauling a system that has been in place for decades, but I also know that our current system is broken. Missouri's educators and students deserve a system of accountability that rewards educators who can meet every child where they are and move them forward.