January 24, 2017 wasn’t an ordinary day for education policy advocates. It was just a few days after
President Trump’s inauguration and a week after
now-U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s
contentious confirmation hearing—one that led
many educators and parents to pay close attention
to federal education policy, in some cases for the
first time. The phones in federal congressional
offices rang off the hook as citizens tried (often
unsuccessfully) to reach their elected officials to
register their thoughts about DeVos.
Meghan Everette, a K– 6 math teacher on special
assignment from Salt Lake City, Utah, wasn’t on
the phone. She sat in the offices of Utah’s senators
and representatives on Capitol Hill, speaking with
staffers about the importance of funding whole child
initiatives, the work she’s doing to help improve
teacher preparation, her interest in Utah’s plan to
implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA),
and her concerns about DeVos’ nomination. She has
made about half a dozen such trips to Washington,
D.C., over the past four years. (On this occasion,
her visit was part of ASCD’s Leadership Institute for
Legislative Advocacy conference.)
How Everette has gained regular access to those
congressional offices is a story that’s closely linked
to her professional evolution. When Everette was an
early-career teacher, one of her first principals provided opportunities for educators to get involved in
areas they were passionate about, including policy.
Later, in 2013, Everette was named Elementary
Teacher of the Year for Alabama (where she lived at
the time) and had the chance to work with the U.S.
Department of Education on whole child education.
Meet five teachers who’ve
taken it on themselves
to step out of the classroom
and advocate for
improvements in schools.
From local school board meetings to federal congressional offices, teachers are making their voices heard about policy decisions
that affect their students and schools.
Teacher advocates always play an
important role in speaking on behalf of
the profession, of course, but their work
is especially vital when administrations
and policies shift during times of change.
We spoke with five teacher advocates,
each with his or her own passions and
policy interests, about how they’re
gearing up for—and influencing—today’s
changes in education.