Teachers do life-changing work every day with students. They lead weeks-long units exploring big ideas, develop lesson plans that help students engage with complex texts and problems, and have daily conversations that, over time, shape the moral compasses of the future. Teachers engage in this work enthusiastically because they are passionate about setting students up for a lifetime of opportunity.
Student-focused education policy and practice are more important than ever to ensure that Tennessee continues on the path that has led to historic student achievement gains. As such, we need our teachers to develop the capacity, skills, and mindsets to influence the decisions being made at the state and local level. Entering its fourth year in 2017-18, the Tennessee Educator Fellowship is an opportunity for educators to rise to this calling.
It has been exciting, both as a former fellow and current coordinator of the program, to watch teachers translate their enthusiasm for students and strategic classroom thinking into effective advocacy. Just as teachers learn new approaches to instruction to benefit students, fellows learn new approaches to share their voice on behalf of students. They learn about emerging education issues that are ripe for empowered teacher voice, the policymaking process, and how to communicate effectively with different stakeholders. They do all of this while doing the most important work of all—serving students in schools across Tennessee.
Fellows’ experience advocating for students while teaching leads them to realize how the two activities complement each other. Current fellows are advocating for a high-quality, annual statewide assessment, engaging with educator preparation programs and school district leaders to improve the readiness of new teachers to the profession, cultivating better business and school partnerships, and leading other educators to address the needs of historically underserved student populations. Their interests are varied, but the new perspective they gain through advocacy is the same. They know that their work with students is crucial to elevating the profession and sustaining positive change in Tennessee. As Charlene Schwenk says, “The things I have to say, the experiences I have to offer in my many years of teaching can make a difference when I go to speak to others on behalf of my students.”
Applications for the 2017-18 Tennessee Educator Fellowship will be accepted through Friday, March 3 at 11:59 p.m. (CT). If you are a Tennessee public school teacher, librarian, or guidance counselor with three years or more of experience and want to make a difference for all Tennessee students, I invite you to apply to become a SCORE Tennessee Educator Fellow. If you support the success of Tennessee students and teachers, I ask that you share this opportunity with the teachers in your network. SCORE looks forward to working with another class of fantastic educators who will push Tennessee students forward.