Here is something for Texas educators to brag about—Shanna Peeples, an English teacher at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, is the National Teacher of the Year! Just back from being honored in Washington, including sharing a cup of joe with President Obama, Shanna gave an interview to the Texas Tribune. Here are six things worth noting from that interview.
- Relationships matter. When asked how she motivated students to take more challenging classes, Shanna spoke of the importance of relationships: “A lot of students come in and eat lunch in my room. We have a lot of dinner table conversations that maybe they are not having with a parent, but they are having with me or another teacher. That is kind of how we build that relationship with them to help push them, based on what they say they want to accomplish.”
- We need more training. Shanna came to teaching directly from journalism which she said gave her a “depth of experience.” My sense is that she was speaking of “fresh out of college teachers” when she said: “I think for many teacher candidates, we almost need to do what they do with doctors. I don’t think one semester is enough of student teaching.”
- Student mental health. When asked if she sees trauma in her classroom, she said: “That is the most woefully underfunded need of students. It is a sort of invisible need that we don’t think about and that is mental health services…We need a dedicated mental health counselor. We see students that have struggled with depression, severe anxiety, what really seems like post-traumatic stress disorder. They have seen horrible things, and that’s not just my refugee students. That includes regular students growing up with domestic violence. Safety is the number one thing you have to deal with with children in trauma. They have to feel physically safe and emotionally safe. You can’t learn when you are terrified. That is something I hope to bring more attention to in this position. There are particular needs for students in trauma and how trauma is related to poverty.”
- Teacher evaluation. “I am concerned about the idea that is being floated about tying teachers' salaries to test scores. A discussion we need to have is how you make that system fair.”
- Pre-K. “It sounds crazy, but you can tell at the high school end who had Pre-K. You can see. Tons of research supports that early intervention pays off in huge dividends down the roads. It is an initial investment up front, but you are not having to remediate at the other end, which requires expensive solutions.”
- Standardized testing. “What you assess drives your curriculum. The assessment can see what you know, but it can’t see what you can do. It is notoriously difficult to pick up character, persistence, creativity, innovation, collaboration off a standardized test.”
Members of the Texas Legislature: are you listening to this? It would be nice if our leaders paid more attention to Shanna Peeples than to Bill Hammond.
The entire interview is at www.texastribune.org/2015/05/08/shanna-peeples-tt-interview/
DAWG BONE: SHANNA PEEPLES KNOWS MORE ABOUT PUBLIC EDUCATION THAN DAN PATRICK DOES. LET’S LISTEN TO HER.