Policy Ambassador: Our “Educational Ecosystem” Needs Your Support

I got into education with the ideology that I would help students.  I am sure you have seen those motivational movies, of teachers who inspire; I wanted to be one of those teachers.  After 12 years of teaching, four school districts, five schools, and hundreds of students later, I realize that dreams aren’t always what we pictured.  But it is still a beautiful dream for me.

Yes, I know that I make a difference in the lives of my students.  I care. I teach. I sometimes manage behavior, but mostly, I love those kids. All teachers do.  Maybe not all of my students look back with fond memories, but so many come back to my classroom and tell me how much they appreciated their time there.  Students get it. Teachers get it. Most parents get it. But do our Legislators get it? Do they know how hard educators work? Do they know that we lose sleep over children that aren’t ours? Do they know that we are silently suffering with obligations and rules and regulations? Do they know that in the end, all we want is for our students to succeed? 

After the passing of HB 215, many Utah educators realized that Legislators, in fact, do not get it.  Public education is great in theory, but without support for the “Education Ecosystem” are we going to survive? The “Education Ecosystem,” was beautifully explained by UEA President Renee Pinkney, as all the working parts of public education.  The Education Ecosystem doesn’t just contain teachers; but students, support staff, administration, school boards, parents, etc.  The system has to work together in order to succeed. Our Legislature needs to do a better job contributing to the “Public Education Ecosystem.”

On February 3, I attended the legislative session.  I was nervous, but confident that I knew what I would say.  My morning was spent listening to possible appropriations for education spending.  Many were good, many supported students and teachers, and many wanted to make education more transparent to calm the swelling waves that are being brought up in today’s political climate.  It was interesting to see how you “ask” a committee for support and money.

Next, I was able to meet with Representative Bennion. She pulled me onto the House Floor to sit with her during the morning Legislative Session.  She was a breath of fresh air.  She was calm, cool, concerned, and caring.  She offered support for all educators.  She wants to do what is best for students and staff.  I appreciated her honesty and look forward to working with her again in the future. 

I also met with Senator Riebe.  I was able to meet in her office and have a great conversation about teachers, particularly elementary education teachers.  We are overworked, tired, worn-down, and drowning in mandated professional development, new curriculum, deteriorating student mental health, the list goes on.  She suggested we do what is right for our students.  While this is a simple view, it isn’t always that easy.  But I will remember her advice because I know that I want to make a difference – I just need to make sure others recognize the value in teachers like me, who care and give everything we have into this profession.

Lastly, I was able to speak with a parent from our district, who was working to help build back the community’s trust in teachers.  He recognized the attack that many are making against educators and believes we are undervalued, underpaid, underappreciated, and deserve better.  I thanked him and had a fabulous conversation on ways we can make change.  I hope I see him again working to improve my district. 

I do believe Legislators want what is best for our state, but not listening to the experts is a terrible precedent to set.  Educators, not just teachers, but administrators, speech pathologists, psychologists, social workers, paraprofessionals, custodians, and bus drivers; all can help develop ideas and solutions.  Listen to us, because we do know what it takes. We are the “Educational Ecosystem” and right now I fear an invasive species is working its way to hurt it.

Rebecca Allen, Master of Arts in Teaching

3rd Grade Teacher

Bella Vista Elementary

Canyons School District