We’re all #HerefortheKids!
We all want what’s best for the kids. In partnership, concerned families, community members, educators and school staff must help every child feel accepted, believe they can succeed, and have the support and resources to build the critical skills they need to work and succeed in a diverse world.
Hear from a growing list of parents, educators, superintendents, and education and school professionals about why and how they are #HerefortheKids.
Whether we are principals, superintendents, teachers, counselors, specialists, parents, or teacher educators, we are #HerefortheKids. On a personal note, as a proud product of public education, I am #HerefortheKids. I would hate to think where I would be today had it not been for the excellent educational opportunities that highly competent, dedicated and passionate educators afforded me. We are coming out of some of the most challenging school years in a generation. We all experienced it. On a dime, communities found their schools shifting to meet new needs brought on by the pandemic like increased food insecurity, frontline public health service, and shifting from in-person to hybrid and virtual instruction. We made it through, survived if you will, and now we intend to thrive. Even though learning gaps and the ripple effects of the pandemic continue, despite all the challenges of the pandemic, our schools have persevered. But they need our help to ensure a bright future for kids. This is our moment of opportunity and urgency to step up to the challenge and elevate public education like never before. Kids are depending on us. Schools are addressing learning gaps by leveraging innovation, the great hallmark of the pandemic, to make giant leaps in technology, teaching and learning. The Learning First Alliance is here to assist our schools in this important endeavor. For almost 25 years the Learning First Alliance has shared examples of success, encouraged collaboration and worked toward the continual and long-term improvement of public education based on solid research. In doing this we continue fulfilling our mission and passion for improving student learning and America’s public schools. Today’s program is the launch of a new initiative designed to ignite support for local schools. Polling data has informed us that the public supports their local school. When we talk about our local schools we think about a specific building and its people. When you think of public schools we want you to think about the promise of public education as the reason we are working for kids.
American schools educate nearly 50 million students each year and are staffed by more than 6.5 million educators, administrators and support professionals. Ninety percent of children in the United States attend our public schools. Our schools form the hub of many communities, providing a safe environment for our children, a gathering place for residents, and opportunities to enjoy and participate in learning, athletics and the arts. Public education is the most important investment America makes in its future. It is a tangible expression of our values and our aspirations. Education inspires students’ natural curiosity, imagination, and love of learning. Schools that nurture these values today are growing tomorrow’s inventors, innovators, artists, and leaders. The promise of public education is to meet the individual needs of each and every student while offering comprehensive education and services for all children who walk into their local school. We need to do a better job of shining a light on the successes of our public schools in doing exactly that. We will accomplish this by sharing stories from across America – and demonstrating that we are #HerefortheKids in each and every American community. The past several years have demonstrated to us how truly committed our American educators are to helping children thrive despite unprecedented challenges. Local educators and school leaders have earned our respect. Yet, today, educator recruitment and retention is a very serious issue. The pandemic exacerbated educator burnout and exposed long-standing issues, including low teacher compensation, unsupportive working conditions, and societal perceptions of the profession that has led to educators feeling devalued. These factors are creating recruitment challenges for school districts and a dearth of high-quality candidates for numerous positions, including teachers, classroom aides, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodial staff, and food service workers. Despite all of these challenges, our schools have persevered. But they need our help to ensure a bright future for the students they serve. The latest NAEP data clearly show that the pandemic led to lost learning opportunities for many American students and the need for new approaches to academic recovery. Today’s students are experiencing a crisis of belonging and a crisis of opportunity. One-third of 15-year-olds report not feeling like they belong in their school, while stress, anxiety, and depression among students are already at record levels and rising. These stressors also impact their ability to learn and thrive – and public education must do more to support these needs. Yet, NAEP data also reminds us that schools matter. In-person learning is vital to ensure the continuity of education for every child. We must ensure healthy and safe school environments to avoid future learning disruptions. And it is time for expanded engagement, integrating technology in a meaningful and deliberate way, and expanding professional learning, all with a continued focus on what’s important: the kids. This work is critical. We refuse to let well-funded opponents from outside our communities undermine public education through misinformation and false narratives. We will lift up our voices to communicate the real American narrative about public education. As a nation, this is our moment of opportunity to step up to the challenge and elevate public education like never before. Our future depends on it.
We know the pandemic created great challenges for our kids and their families by widening the already large gaps that we see in access, opportunity and achievement. But we also know that our kids are resilient, and our kids are able to rise to those challenges given the proper support. In my hometown of Topeka, Public Schools created a preschool to 12th-grade dual language program that integrates native, English-speaking students with native Spanish-speaking students for academic instruction. These dual-language classrooms enable all students to be language models and second-language learners. Lowell Joint School District in California created an “Arts for All” program that ensures all sixth-graders have access to instruments and lessons at school. This fosters a school family and connects each student with a school mentor. These are just a few examples of remarkable programs happening all across the country. Our challenge is to ensure that all students have access to the support and resources they need to be successful. At NSBA, we are continuously working to provide support for historically disadvantaged students, increase broadband access, provide support for students with disabilities and mental health needs and address learning loss because of the pandemic. I am honored to show support for our public schools and for our kids because our future as a nation is linked to the education that they receive today.
I am #HerefortheKids. Regardless of their family income or where they live, every child deserves equitable access to high-quality learning environments. At CoSN, we are working to redesign today’s classrooms to prepare our students for tomorrow. And if the pandemic has shown anything, it’s that digital equity is key both at school and home. This summer we released new data from over 350,000 students around the country which demonstrated the continued importance of student home connectivity. While most students are back at school, more bandwidth is used by students from home for doing their homework, and unfortunately, it matters which family you come from. Large discrepancies persist by race, ethnicity and income. In fact, a third of high school students experience far below or below guidelines for home connectivity. It simply isn’t fair. Connectivity is a 21st-century civil right. We want to work to ensure that every child has the tools to succeed.
Teaching and learning take place every day in every school across America. Teaching and learning are truly the magic that happens in our classrooms where our kids are prepared daily to step into the future roles as leaders and contributors to our communities and our nation. To make this magic of teaching and learning happen it takes an intricate web of experts and supporters all of whom are here for the Kids, day in and day out. Among these experts are we who joyfully and widely share stories of this magic not only to parents and caretakers and grandparents but beyond to mayors and our city councils, news reporters, business owners, faith leaders, senior citizens and many more. Well-told stories bring classrooms to life in the eyes and minds of many who haven’t been inside a school building in years. Stories that capture a student’s moment of a-ha. Stories that show the kindness of the teacher that brings a pair of shoes to a student who has outgrown theirs and cannot afford another pair. Stories that reveal a student’s determination to realize their dreams of becoming something greater than themselves. And we know that these stories also help to build support among our communities for new ideas and innovation that elevate our kids’ imagination and potential.
I am here for the kids because everyone everywhere should be able to see inside of the classroom through stories and feel the joyful learning and growth that happen every day in our schools.
The mission statement of PTA is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering all families and communities to advocate for all children. There are a couple of words that stand out the most to me: engaging and empowering. When you engage and empower a family or a guardian or a parent they become this huge voice and this huge advocate for their children. I know this personally because when my youngest was in the first grade, he was centered to be called a troubled child that was not reaching his fullest potential because he would get up and walk around in the classroom not knowing that he was a gifted student. And instead of giving him harder work to be successful, he was labeled in the classroom. Me being an advocate as a young mother, a wife and a mother of three became really important to me. That’s what I love about this association, and I love about having the venue to advocate for children. And I learned this, even more, when my daughter became a senior when she was in high school and we found out her classroom did not have enough books for them to take home from school. Parents are an essential ingredient to student success. And the special sauce that makes that work is when you have a parent, teacher, administrator, school board member and the community collaborating and partnering together to make sure all of our children have what they need to be successful. The future is bright. We have to continue to work together and we are all #HerefortheKids.
Our 3 million members are here every day for every kid and every school and every campus because we know we have the future in our hands. Our teachers, paraprofessionals, librarians, counselors, psychologists, food service workers, bus drivers and more know and work to ensure that all of our kids are able to learn in a healthy, safe, inclusive, respectful, creative and joyful environment. Educators have a superpower. Educators have a boundless love that calms and reassures and inspires and excites our nation’s kids. It’s that boundless love that drives educators across the country to place our kids’ well-being as their first priority. If our students are not well, we know their learning will be hampered. When students are hungry, we feed them. When our students are grappling with trauma, we counsel and comfort them. When students don’t have enough supplies, we buy them. When our students are in the line of fire, we put our bodies in front of those bullets. We dip into our pockets, and our courage, and our hearts every day to help students succeed. We are here for kids and we are here because we dream of public schools that are fully supported to serve all of our kids no matter their zip code or their background. We see our kids’ dreams and we help fuel them and we see our kids’ skills and we help to hone them. We see all of our kids’ potential and we help them thrive. That happens every day in our public schools and that strengthens our communities and our country. It is our kids and our public schools that unite us all, we are #HerefortheKids.
On behalf of over 16,000 school leaders and 1.8 million students, NASSP is #HerefortheKids because we support public education and the school leaders who work tirelessly to help educate all of our students. At NASSP our goal is to bring together school leaders from around the country working hand-in-hand with the students they serve to strengthen our schools and communities. Over the past year, we transformed how we do things. Because the education landscape is no longer the same, our priority is to engage with those who serve and listen and learn from each of them. We hear their stories of success and we hear their struggles. We must stand shoulder to shoulder to identify the solutions and make collective impacts. We believe that educator pipelines are our student lifelines. We listen to our students and school leaders on what schools need most. Only then can we stand up for all of our kids and do what’s right by each of them. We stand for public education and giving each student the chance they deserve.
At the American Federation of Teachers, we are laser-focused on what kids need. In every community regardless of background, their station, their culture or their zip code, that’s what we do to ensure every kid can attain the best of themselves. Personally, for me, my public schools save my life. Every statistic in America says I shouldn’t be here today, coming from abject poverty, living in housing projects, coming from a Title I school. But, my high school band director is one of the crowning heroes of my life. Mr. William McKenzie, I will never forget him. He told me things like just because you’re in the mess doesn’t mean you have to be a part of it, you can be more than what you see, just try a little harder, just do a little bit more, come to school every day and ensure that you are giving it your all. That’s what public schools do and that’s what this alliance does. In fact, this alliance represents over 10 million people representing the 50 million children who were counting on us to get this right. We must stay together, we must work together and we must teach together because that’s what this is about. It is about the hopes and the dreams of all of our futures so we can make our country, our society, our communities and, in fact, our families better. That’s what public schools do every day. It’s the bus driver, it’s the secretary, it’s the administrator, it’s the teachers, it’s the counselors, it’s the band directors. It’s all of us pulling together and saying, “young man and young woman you can do this, you got more and we know the future belongs to you”. That’s why we are #HerefortheKids. The American Federation of Teachers is staunchly behind this effort.
Learning Forward is here for the kids because all kids deserve opportunities to learn, grow and travel along their own path to become the best they can be. Kids’ needs are changing all the time and teachers are constantly learning and growing so they can meet each kid’s evolving needs. Through my work at Learning Forward and professional learning with teachers and school leaders, I see how hard educators work to be the best that they can be for their kids. For example, I worked with teachers who analyze video clips of their own classroom practice so they can look for places where they can improve just like professional athletes do. I get to sit with teams of teachers and leaders who are pouring over the data about each and every kid to make sure that they understand what that kid needs. And I work with teams of teachers who regularly dig into the latest research to find the strategies that help make learning meaningful and effective for each and every kid. Public schools are the places where all kids are welcome and where all teachers invest in kids as learners, meeting them where they are and nurturing the potential they see in each one of them. Working together in this alliance, we can provide creative, dedicated teachers with the resources they need to ensure that kids have access to meaningful learning and to the experiences that will help them achieve their potential. As a public school kid myself and as a parent of public school kids and a proud member of Learning Forward, I am very pleased to be here today to support educators and the amazing and life-changing work they do for the kids.
ASCA is #HerefortheKids because we know firsthand the difference caring and supportive adults make. I am #HerefortheKids because every day I see the difference that school counselors make. Today’s school counselors work with all students in the school through a comprehensive program that focuses on academic, career and social-emotional development. School counselors use data to deliver developmentally appropriate curricula focused on the mindsets and behaviors all students need for postsecondary readiness and success. School counselors help close achievement and opportunity gaps. Research tells us that students who have access to a school counselor have better academic outcomes, improved attendance, fewer discipline incidents and higher graduation rates. Every student deserves adults who support them. Every student deserves a school counselor. The past several years have been challenging for everyone, pre-pandemic school counselors and educators like those joining us today knew more youth were struggling with their mental health. Recent national surveys of young people have shown alarming increases and the prevalence of certain mental health challenges. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among people ages ten to 34. But, if we work together for the benefit of all kids we can make a difference. For 30 years, first as a teacher, middle school counselor, assistant principal and now association executive, I have seen what students can aspire to, overcome and become when adults invest in their education and well-being. School counselors are #HerefortheKids because they matter.
PDK and Educators Rising are #HerefortheKids because they need role models that reflect the communities they are in. We’re #HerefortheKids because we need to inspire kids to serve the communities as educators. We are #HerefortheKids because we need to provide opportunities like the Educators Rising national conference to meet other like-minded kids to get recognized and fulfill their calling in the face of overwhelming odds in the media. Once you see 2,000 kids at nationals, the best of their best, empowered and passionate about education, it’s inspiring. I have a story of this kid that I met at nationals. He didn’t even know teaching was a possibility until his teacher tapped him and asked him. He thought education was right for him and this kid ended up leading his own gang and got into Berkeley and became a teacher. We are #HerefortheKids because we make a difference in kids’ lives, we create programs that excite and empower them with proven curriculum and leadership opportunities to succeed and stay in the field. We are #HerefortheKids because they need to be part of the movement so they can become role models for the next generation of kids. So yes, PDK is #HerefortheKids.
Principles are here for kids. In my experience, educators become principals because they enjoy working and spending time with kids and teachers. It’s always been a belief to provide kids with the skills that are necessary to become competitive in life with a social and academic perspective. Principals love being a part of a bigger purpose. Perhaps more than any other part of academic success, I have experienced a safe and welcoming culture that promotes an opportunity for our kids to love learning. This type of culture really hinges on the school principal. I love a school environment that promotes visibility, and communication and welcomes feedback. I love giving our kids the opportunity to share how they are feeling, to help us grow as a community in our school. It’s my belief that we must meet our families where they are. The distributive leadership for staff and kids makes our processes more efficient, however, it builds buy-in for our school environment. To fulfill an optimal school environment and to achieve equity, leaders in schools must show optimism that all kids will reach high expectations, engaging kids in a sense of wonder and curiosity, create a sense of belonging in the unique classroom bond, relate to the interest of kids and the trends of the generation and finally involve kids in choices, plans and decisions. An effective principal must consist of affirmation, rich in relevancy, rich in engagement and rich in relationships. An optimal school has a culture for energy, participation, movement, spirit, respect, learning, sharing, reflecting and goals for everyone individually and collectively.
AACTE is #HerefortheKids. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, one facilitator of most of the nation’s education and civil rights legislation, was first a teacher. During his presidency, he often referenced his job out of college as the sixth and seventh-grade history teacher in a rural, poor school in Texas serving Mexican-American students. What Johnson said then is instructive to us now. He said “I often walked home late in the afternoon after classes were finished. All I knew was to teach my students the little I knew hoping it would help them against the hardships that lay ahead. Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful faces of young children. I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here as president in 1965. It never occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help some of the sons and daughters of those students. To help people like them all over this country, but now I have that chance. I have the power and I’ll let you in on a secret, I intend to use it.” You and I have the same chance President Johnson spoke of those decades ago. The very same power and I pray that we, like him, intend to use it because we are here for the children.
I am delighted to speak to you virtually today about a program that empowers parents to become leaders and advocates for their kids and communities. At NSBA we understand the special relationship between school board members and students and their parents. In fact, many school board members were originally drawn to run for the school board after getting involved as a parent either through volunteering or, as I did, through PTA. At Pomona Unified School District in California, the parents led a program in 2008 to disseminate information on district and community resources. It has since grown to help leadership skills, pursue employment and educational opportunities and create additional opportunities for their kids.
School communicators aren’t just distributors of information. Yes, we use the tools of our trade to send emails and text messages, post on social media and websites, draft newsletters and create videos, and that information is important. Student success is directly related to the clarity and consistency of communication that we share, but the real value of our work comes when we tell the stories of the great things happening in classrooms, on playgrounds, on courts and fields, in lunch rooms and hallways and when we let the community be part of the story. At Glenview District 34, a preschool through eighth grade in Chicago suburbs serving 4,300 students, the short form of our mission is aspire, explore, discover, connect. This year our focus is on connect. We started our year with the community connect resource fair where parents organizations and community partners, agencies, clinics and businesses hosted tables to make sure all of our families could connect with valuable, often critical resources. There were games and crafts and bubbles and it had a joyous festive feel. All of those partners are a part of our student success stories. And after more than two years of limiting visitors, we’ve opened our doors wide and put out the call to parents and community members to join our volunteer pool to share their expertise in our classrooms. The pool is deep. Our teachers can call on engineers, physicians, chemists, broadcasters, entrepreneurs, artists and even astronomers from Chicago’s Adler Planetarium that will come into the classroom to support student success. They will see with their own eyes and be tightly connected to the great stories of our students. Those connections and everyone in Glenview who is part of the show in district 34 are #HerefortheKids.
AASA: The National Superintendents organization is #HerefortheKids. Being an educator is a calling. We do this work because we feel it in our hearts and in our souls, we do it solely to be #HerefortheKids. All kids no matter what state they call home; Wyoming, California, Washington, Michigan, Kansas, Maine, New York, Texas, and Florida will be our future farmers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, educators, doctors, tech developers, nurses, restaurateurs, and small business owners. School districts across the United States develop programs for all of our kids. We make sure there is a home for every single child who comes through our public schools. Eventually, we will all be dependent on them. So why are we #HerefortheKids? Because our kids are our future. We are #HerefortheKids so they become warm, smart, caring, compassionate, civic-minded future citizens and because we love every single child who walks through our schoolhouse doors. We hire the best to feed, transport, teach and provide counsel to our kids. We are exhausted at the end of the day and school year because the days have no end. We are always #HerefortheKids. The entire field of education has and will always exist because dedicated, hard-working, caring educators live their lives to be #HerefortheKids. We are #HerefortheKids because it’s noble and it matters. Frederick Douglass once noted, “it is easier to build strong children, then to prepare broken men”. We are #HerefortheKids so they will be strong not broken and one day will be here for us.
Atlantic City Public Schools is #HerefortheKids. We created a ninth period, all hands on deck, initiative to meet the intervention and enrichment needs of the whole child. Our goal is to help students grow academically, socially and emotionally, within student-centered sessions of learning intentionally designed to empower students to reach their potential. We first considered equity in education as our students’ social-emotional needs. Then we created and adopted a model that supported the idea of just schools so that every student and every educator had what is needed to navigate the new normal. The impact of COVID-19 and other school crises have left students, families, and communities struggling for basic resources and many have turned to schools for support. We are responding to their needs by helping them feel safe, comforted and included in trauma-sensitive environments while they work toward current grade-level proficiencies. Many students were learning remotely during their formative years and now feel the pangs of trying to navigate proficiencies found in 1 – 2 grade levels prior. As a national education association leader for just schools, it is my mission, vision and daily purpose to work diligently to ensure our students in public schools have exactly what they need to thrive. In my role as a social-emotional learning educator, it’s imperative that I highlight the need for educating through a trauma-sensitive lens. In an effort to support educators, students and families, advocating for mental wellness and social-emotional learning is part of what I do. As well as teaching students how to self-regulate through mindfulness moments and breathing techniques. Additionally, I check in with students regularly because I want them to feel seen, heard, valued, validated and affirmed in their school experience and beyond.
Every student, every strength; that is what guides our work. As we consider that we often hear about learning loss in ways in which they are deficient as a result of the pandemic, I make it my mission to ensure that we begin by looking at our students as individuals and celebrate the gifts and the talents and the strengths they come to us with each and every day. This has helped us reframe for our students and for our teachers and also for our community. The fact that our students are wonderful young people who are coming to us ready to learn and, while we may see deficits, we are working alongside them and their families to meet those needs so that we are able to best provide the education that they all so richly deserve. Mental wellness: I often say that the pandemic was definitely challenging, but also gave us gifts of opportunity and one of the greatest gifts I see is the fact that mental wellness came to the forefront as a result of the pandemic. Each and every day we continue to make this a word that we are a part of and we are putting at the forefront of our mission as a school. Rather than it to be something that is to be stigmatized or hidden, we basically let our students know that all of us, in some way, struggle at some time and that it’s okay to reach out for help. In addition, there’s a daily reminder we actually put first and foremost, a positivity moment at the end of each morning’s announcements. Just a reminder to our students that we see them, value them for who they are and again the gifts that they bring and that they are okay exactly as they are and they’re welcome at our school building. Equity: one of the other things that we need to recognize and celebrate is the fact that we have so many students walking through our doors, each of them as individuals and we need to recognize and meet them as such. We need to make sure we are meeting the needs of our learners who maybe haven’t gotten it yet, but we are also working to extend and to enrich opportunities for those students who are shining bright when it comes to learning in our school buildings. It also needs to be noted that we do need to make sure we are clear in our beliefs that schools are a safe spaces for all. That all students, regardless of gender, beliefs and race, all of it, we welcome it and they are here and they are to be supported. Our school two years ago drafted a statement of acceptance. Our staff came together to really articulate what is that we stand for when it comes to being a school community and we are a place where all of our students matter, all of our students belong and all of our students are valued. I’m in it for the kids. I’m in it for our kids short-term and long-term. As a high school principal it is my goal and my role to ensure they have graduated in four years having had a phenomenal high school experience, but even more important for me is about the long term. Ensuring that we’ve given them the skills and strategies to move into the post-secondary world of work or college and beyond, able to do phenomenal things as an adult. I summarize my work with the four Cs: care, connect, and celebrate so each and every one of our kids can commence. I am in it for the kids.
At our union, we know our mission is to protect, serve and develop our teachers, but we are also a social justice union and we believe that every child should have access to great neighborhood public schools. We knew that when we found out many of our schoolchildren in our underserved communities did not have access to a librarian in every school we launched and were successful in a campaign to make sure every child in wards seven and eight would have access to a librarian in their schools. We launched this campaign with the support of our parents, our librarians, our teachers, and, more importantly, our city council. Our teachers did a wonderful and heroic job teaching virtually, but we knew the best place for our kids to learn was in person and, as we returned to school in person last fall, we knew we would need to support teachers and our students in going back to school. We applied and received a $70,000 grant from our parent organization, the AFT, and we use that money to support teachers in getting much-needed supplies. We also use that money to support vaccination fairs to ensure that our children would have the vaccinations necessary as they return to school. Every child that attended vaccination fairs around the city would receive a free book of their choice. We also attended back-to-school events and supported schools’ literary events, proms, back-to-school gardens, and kids in making sure that they understood what healthy food was in the classroom. At every event that we attended we made sure that we gave a classroom library to the kids regarding the subject. We also made sure every kid received a book to take home. We also made sure that we took this around the city. We had an event where children were able to come for the weekend and we ensured we had 40,000 books for everyone in the city to come and take as many books as they wanted. This included teachers and the entire community. Lastly, we want to ensure that our work is not in vain, we support all of our new teachers with a free class, and this year we initiated making sure that our teachers not only receive a free class of their choice, but they can receive an additional class of their choice if it has to do with literacy. So, now our teachers have access to highly researched classes like beginning reading instruction, accessible literacy frameworks and introduction to reading comprehension. We hope to ensure we have a lot of newcomers who are ELL students who have entered our city of Washington, D.C. We are working closely with many of the schools in wards seven and eight so those children also receive books in their native languages. Again, we are working and supporting our kids and ensuring everyone has access to a bright and shining future despite the perils of this pandemic.
In the Beaverton School District, we serve 40,000 students and their families. The events of the past few years profoundly affected our students, our families, our staff and our community. While there were challenges and extreme challenges, for many of our families we never veered from our commitment and goal that all students will learn, grow and be prepared for success in wherever their lives take them. We are now in the fifth week of our new school year and I have had the great opportunity to spend time in schools and classrooms. I’m so encouraged about what I witnessed this year in Beaverton and I’m sure it’s the same for schools all over the country. I saw students excited about starting the new school year, seeing their friends, their teachers and the staff that care so much about them. I saw teachers and leaders that, despite the challenges of the past couple of years, were excited as well about starting a new school year serving students and building those relationships. Finally, I saw how seamlessly technology was working and is working for staff. We all learned so much about how technology is integral to student learning and the power of technology to save staff time so they can focus on students. The new ideas and practices from the pandemic are now built into the ways in which students learn and demonstrate their learning. It was encouraging to me as a technology leader to see many of the innovative practices persisting this school year in Beaverton, and I’m sure this is true for so many school systems around the country.
Our school year started with a positive focus on student learning, both from the students in the educator serving them. Our collective school system is #HerefortheKids and it makes me so very proud to say that in my role as a technology leader I am #HerefortheKids.
With 209 schools serving more than 160,000 students, we are the largest school district in Maryland and the 14th largest nationally. There are 151 languages spoken in our community, by our families. So we must be very intentional about hearing every voice from every child. We must ask our students what they need and what they want in their schools and their communities and help them elevate their voice, not be the voice for them. Each year our secondary students elect a peer to serve as a voting member of our board of education. They use the formal student government structure of town halls, listening tours and informal peer-to-peer conversations to hear from students in every one of those 209 schools. To hear about things that they might not share with adults. That information helps to shape how the student member votes on issues brought before the board of education. Other county advisory boards and commissions also have dedicated seats for students and our council PTA committees work with students to hear the needs in their schools and communities as we’re advocating for improvements. However, every child is not rushing to tell us or their peers what they need. We have to meet them where they are and work with their caregivers, their teachers, their coaches and others who work with them to ensure that they too have a voice and have what they need to reach their potential. As one of our board of education members says, nothing about us without us, inclusion is how PTA is #HerefortheKids.
PDK International and Educators Rising are #HerefortheKids. Through our student leadership model, we ensure that we are #HerefortheKids by allowing them to share their voices and make useful contributions to the world of education. As a former national student president, Educators Rising showed me they are #HerefortheKids by providing me a platform to talk about the matters I care most about. It made me realize the importance of using my voice as a young leader. Having the opportunity to use my voice through Educators Rising showed other students of color that they have the potential to lead a great organization and advocate for what they care for. Now working with younger generations of future educators, we continue to be #HerefortheKids through engagement and advocacy with student officers and our student ambassadors who help the great work of the organization. The efforts of our student officers inspiring other students through social media engagement, building relationships with other student officers, speaking to crowds of over 2,000 peers, providing community service projects and providing student perspectives at professional events show that we are all #HerefortheKids. Our annual student-led national conference gives students the opportunity to show their creativity and best talents through our competition model where they can create or present lessons, books and speeches all revolving around education. While they may not realize it right away, the work that our kids do will leave an everlasting impact on education in our country and in their communities. Here at Educators Rising we emphasize; we are not only #HerefortheKids but showing the same kids that the work they do at such young ages is also #HerefortheKids that will take on their torch.
Nader I. Twal, Program Administrator, Office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development, Long Beach Unified School District, CA, Learning Forward
I work in the fourth largest school district in California that serves over 70,000 kids and we have over 80 schools that support our community which represents a beautiful cross-section of the diversity that we see across America. We have a long history of success and achievement but recognize that the needs of the kids that we serve today differ from the ones who preceded them. Our students today have a greater political consciousness, have endured the trauma of a pandemic that disproportionately affected kids of color and have demonstrated a resilience that we can only hope for as adults. So, as we work to serve these students, these kids, we have chosen to embrace a “what kids can do” approach to teaching and learning. In Long Beach, we believe all students and communities come to us with cultural and linguistic gifts and deserve to be treated with dignity, fairness, respect and unconditional positive regard. You see, we believe that our kids are more than our future, they are our present. When we only name their future, they wait for their voices to matter. They have meaningful contributions to make today. Nowhere do I see this value more lived out than in our current approach to strategic planning. This year we are engaging in a year-long process of revisioning what we want for our education system by 2035. Instead of imagining that future for them, we have invited our kids into the conversation because their lived experience in our system provides some of the richest data that we can find and they deserve to take an active role in the process. As members of our guiding coalition, students are helping to define success and to identify opportunities in the current system so that we can bridge to them. They are defining a clear graduate portrait that can serve as our Northstar in addition to an adult portrait so we know what they need most from us in their journeys. With their collective genius and our collective effort, I’m confident the division we set will not only be one that we can achieve but we can exceed because it’s a shared feature that amplifies their agency, we are #HerefortheKids and we’re better for it.
Every kid deserves a school counselor. I represent the thousands of school counselors who are #HerefortheKids every day to ensure students have equitable and inclusive opportunities, to protect their social and emotional wealth, their academic opportunities and plans for post-secondary success. Being #HerefortheKids is what led me to be a school counselor. As an educator, I saw the need students have on a daily basis for an advocate who will support them and help them find their voice, particularly in situations where they feel they have none. My journey started when a student came to me because a friend of his was in the hospital. Because he sacrificed football practice to be with his friend, his teammates abandoned him and he felt he had no one to share this hurt with. His grades started to decline and he questioned his own path. As I visited with him about his pain and how he could overcome it, I asked why he had waited so long to share this with anybody. His words caused me to pause even now, “Mr. Heckman you’re the only one I can talk to”. Like this student, many kids have a connection with a trusted adult in the school, but many more continue to look for that trusted individual, someone they know that they can share anything with, someone who is #HerefortheKids. Since that day I, and school counselors across the nation, continue to be the individuals students can talk to. School counselors are also #HerefortheKids because we know all it takes is for one person to make a difference in their lives. We get to work with students every day and, in partnership with other educational professionals, support their growth. Kids are amazing and for every difference a school counselor makes in their life, there are so many more ways they impact ours. School counselors are #HerefortheKids.
At Fort Foote Elementary we are #HerefortheKids because we never forget what it means to be a kid. This is my kid and I make sure I create a school community that I want my own kid to be a part of. We bring joy to our school for kids because this is what we do and at our school, we keep kids at the center of our decisions by including them in the decision-making. Kids are used to determine what resources should be prioritized for the school budget, kids are used to determine how we structure our learning environment. We personalize the learning environment, the experience, and the resources so they fit the needs of our kids. We don’t make our kids fit the needs of our school. We design a school that fits the needs of this kid right here and every kid behind her. Nationally, we are facing a teacher shortage, but kids are still coming to school every day, and parents are still trusting school leaders to give their best to their kids. At Fort Foote Elementary School we become gap fillers in our building. We step in when we are needed, our teachers will take on additional duties to ensure that our kids do not miss any opportunities and do not lose access. As we move out of the pandemic, we understand we can’t go backward, our kids need us to reimagine education. They need us to color outside of the lines, and think outside of the box. We here at Fort Foote Elementary School are for the kids because we never forget what it means to be a kid.
Rhonda Jeter, PhD, Dean, College of Education, Bowie State University, Maryland
I’m #HerefortheKids because it’s so important that trained teachers, counselors, superintendents, and principals are ready to go into the public schools and work along with making sure the children have the very best that they can have. And so I see every public school as a community and we know all communities aren’t created equally. I was so impressed when COVID came and hit us that students were still there learning, teachers were still giving and our families stepped up. Our communities, our business communities came forward and saw the inequities and provided connectivity for students who didn’t have connectivity. We saw them come forward and people donate computers and laptops so the students could work. We saw community centers open up places where students can get connections and they can do their homework and the testing that they need. I say I’m here for the children. I know the public schools do a wonderful thing and make it possible for children to dream big and succeed, and so I continue to be here for the children and I support them in every way that I can.