As a mother, one of the first lessons I learned once my son started talking was that I could never anticipate what he would say. For example, in 2017 I was named the West Virginia State Teacher of the Year, a title I never expected to hold. Immediately following the ceremony, I was having a hard time putting the title into perspective, of feeling deserving of such an immense honor. When my husband and I told our eight-year-old son about the award and my husband proudly showed him my plaque, I noticed my son was getting very upset. When I asked him what was wrong, he said to me, “You know, my teacher is pretty awesome! She always helps me when I need help! She probably should’ve been Teacher of the Year!” And instantly, there was my perspective. I told him he was probably right, and that he should tell her that when he saw her at school that morning. You see, my son didn’t see his teacher as “just a teacher,” he saw her as someone who cared about him and pushed him to do his best. It was a great reminder to me that sometimes we all need to know that others believe in us so that we can believe in ourselves.
West Virginia is in an education crisis; that fact is inarguable. Students in over 700 classrooms across our state are being educated by non-certified classroom teachers. Our teachers do not have the resources they need to support our students’ learning. Without an educated workforce, West Virginia simply cannot move forward.
The recruitment, preparation, and retention of high quality teachers is one of the biggest challenges facing the Mountain State. I want my best and my brightest students to come back into West Virginia classrooms as strong and empowered teachers, but we need to give them a reason to do that! Teachers leave the classroom for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is a lack of support, low pay, and ever-increasing insurance premiums. Teachers stay in the classroom for one reason: the students. We stay for the students who hunger for learning and those who are just hungry. We stay for those who need guidance and those who just need. We stay for the students.
I feel blessed to have been born and raised in the Mountain State. Over the past year, I have traveled extensively representing our state; but, I have been nowhere with the natural beauty of the West Virginia hills; nowhere with the kindness, resourcefulness, and diligence of our West Virginia natives. Our state is blessed to be one that is rich in natural resources, but our greatest natural resource is our children and they deserve the best chance at a successful future. Research tells us that teachers have the highest school-based influence on student achievement. As a teacher, I want to see our students empowered to own their education; empowered to set high expectations for themselves; empowered to achieve goals they once thought impossible. The students in our classrooms need to know that they CAN achieve. I not only want to see this for my students, but for all the students in the Mountain State, including my own son. This all starts with our teachers.
I am a teacher. It’s not just my profession; it’s who I am. Education is what I know and, along with my family, education is my passion. I tell people that I didn’t choose teaching; teaching chose me. I invested in my education so I could be the kind of teacher my students deserve. I have a Master’s degree in secondary education, plus an additional 45+ hours of graduate credit for courses and professional development I’ve participated in, mostly at my own expense. I am a National Board Certified Teacher. I hold advanced credentials and an additional certification in administration. I invested in myself and my education so my students would have the best teacher possible. Shouldn’t West Virginia do the same?