Kentucky Teachers Grow as Leaders in the State
“If teachers became more engaged in self-advocacy and policy development, their classrooms would reflect those changes.”
These words were spoken by Angela Gunter, a Daviess County English language teacher. This year, Gunter is leading 55 teachers across southern and western Kentucky’s Green River Regional Educational Cooperative region in implementing Student Growth Goal action research in English Language Arts classrooms. She also counts this school year as her first as a Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellow.
Through the Kentucky State Teacher Fellows Program, Hope Street Group, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, is working in close partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky Teachers Association (KEA), the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky to provide a group of public school teachers, who are chosen through a rigorous selection process, with skills around peer and community engagement, data collection, and communication strategies, while giving them opportunities to amplify positive teacher voice to inform policy decisions. Hope Street Group launched the program with great success in Kentucky in 2013, replicating it in Hawai’i in 2014 and then in North Carolina and Tennessee in 2015.
Last year, in a statewide data collection in collaboration with the KDE and KEA, Kentucky State Teacher Fellows (STFs) sought teacher solutions from their peers regarding optimizing teacher time, using teacher leaders to impact professional and student learning, as well as utilizing the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, the state’s educator evaluation system. The Kentucky STFs led focus groups and gathered survey data with their peers across the state and, ultimately, engaged over 20% of all Kentucky teachers. Their findings were turned into actionable recommendations to further support educators in the state. KDE has taken these recommendations and begun acting upon the solutions.
“KEA is glad to partner with Hope Street Group to make sure that policymakers take seriously what the real education experts–Kentucky’s classroom teachers–know about what works to improve student learning,” KEA Executive Director Mary Ann Blankenship said.
The work of the first cohort of the Kentucky STFs has led to their growth as teacher leaders and advocates for their profession. In addition to providing recommendations to KDE, they have met with legislators and hosted school visits, and have written op-eds and essays that have been published in news outlets across the state and nation. The way in which the STFs have contributed to the state’s education policy decisions reaffirmed the decision by Carrie Wedding, a 5th and 6th grade special education teacher, to remain in the program.
“During my time as a Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellow, I feel that I have built bridges among teachers to positively impact student learning,” Wedding reflected. “When teachers open their doors and hearts in order to have open dialogue about students, cultures and minds shift.”
Wedding, who is among 24 other teachers in Hope Street Group’s Kentucky STF program this year, is collaborating with Gunter to create a series of teacher articles for the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer around critical education topics that impact the local community.
“The 2015 Hope Street Group Kentucky STFs are about the business of leveraging the expertise and cumulative voice of teachers to shape policy at the local, state, and national level,” Brad Clark, Kentucky State Teacher Fellows Program Director stated. “By working with our local and state partners, STFs accelerate the opportunities for Kentucky teachers to develop the dispositions, knowledge, and skills necessary to deeply impact teaching and learning.”
Kentucky educators can participate in the work of this year’s 25 STFs and contribute their voice to meaningful policy action by finding the 2015 Kentucky State Teacher Fellow in their region here.
Hope Street Group is a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity. For more information, visit: www.hopestreetgroup.org
Associate, External Affairs