The COVID-19 pandemic has upended working operations in every industry. From health care, to retail, to restaurants and manufacturing, nothing looks the same as it did at the beginning of 2020. The industry that has been pushed to the brink of permanent change, however, serves as the bedrock for our entire workforce — education. Specifically, K-12 public school teachers.
We are just a few of those teachers, but we have united with others from counties across the commonwealth to create recommendations and actions that all of us, along with members of our communities, can take to ensure that our schools emerge from this pandemic stronger than when it began.
Convened by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, our group is composed of teachers from 23 Kentucky counties. We began meeting in July to share experiences, and to compile our thoughts into recommendations for the improvement of our schools. Through this process, we have articulated a shared vision for teaching and learning through the pandemic and identified steps that can be taken to turn our vision into reality. We invite you to read the entirety of that vision at prichardcommittee.org/teacherletter.
The dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice have stretched us further than we imagined in the past year. As a result of this stretching, however, we have grown. We have emerged as better teachers and stronger leaders. We have learned from each other; and we seek to advocate for our students and colleagues at the local level while gaining greater understanding of the challenges facing communities across the commonwealth. We view our personal growth and our professional strength as a foundation for community growth in the rural communities, small towns, suburban areas and cities where we live and teach.
As Kentucky teachers focused on creating invaluable instructional experiences for our students, our priorities include:
• Leading at local, regional, and state levels to guarantee all Kentucky students have equitable access to high-quality teaching and learning experiences, whether they are learning in-person or remotely.
• Creating learning environments that secure student well-being, safety, and trust.
To earn that trust, our fellows teachers can individually and together commit to providing equitable learning opportunities for each and every student; developing and expanding the skills and know-how necessary to strengthen the quality of our teaching and the learning experiences of our students; developing stronger, more collaborative relationships with students, parents and families, and our communities; and promoting anti-racism and diverse perspectives in culturally aware and responsive instruction.
We cannot do this work alone. In a time of constant change and unforeseen challenges, we will need resources and support from administrators, elected officials, and local business leaders to reach our goals. These resources include:
• Expanded student and family support services.
• Support for student and educator mental health, well-being, safety and trust.
• Investment in high-quality and relevant instructional materials.
• Anti-racism teaching and learning policies and practices.
• High-quality, relevant, teacher-selected and job-embedded professional learning.
We are calling on all Kentuckians to join us in working toward these priorities, which will have a direct impact on the quality of instruction in Kentucky classrooms, and a future impact on our workforce, economy and communities, as our students transition into working adults and thriving citizens.
In an effort to co-design a new vision for Kentucky education, we ask for your encouragement to continue learning, and the space and grace to test new approaches and ideas. With your help, we can obtain sufficient resources, and pursue a learner-centered mission and vision in every public school in Kentucky, and realize a big bold future for our commonwealth.
Submitted by Noraa Ransey, Calloway County Public Schools; Pollyanne Kimmel, Hopkins County Public Schools; and Crystal Culp, McCracken County Public Schools. They are part of the first cohort of Prichard Committee Teacher Fellows.