By Ann E. Lebo
Iowa is a state of tradition, small-town stubbornness, and pride. All of which I know well.
I was born and raised in Grundy Center. My mother was a teacher while my father ran the family business in this same town where he was raised. They instilled in me the values of loyalty and community — what it means to be an Iowan.
Yet when we cross through the doors of education, we see a separation from these ideals in terms of how our schools are truly designed to function. Teachers are not placed in environments structured for collaboration or communities. They are isolated, placed into their silos of learning where we hope four years of study has prepared them to survive. We praise those who find ways to excel despite their circumstances and criticize those who have not, having no understanding of the time, effort, and commitment it takes outside of those walls for teachers to reach the level we have come to expect.
We argue over why teachers should be paid more and then wonder why our applicant pool doesn’t entice the top of the class. We want improved student performance, but we look for scapegoats rather than avenues for change. We are quick to blame those same teachers who are doing the very best they know how rather than looking at what we need to do as a system to support them. Then we wonder why we see burnout, turnover, and shortages.
If we are serious about investing in our students’ futures, we must make a real investment in our teachers.
Most successful systems, whether in businesses or in schools, invest in people and work environments that inspire, support and send the message to employees that “we believe in you.” How many educators in Iowa go to work knowing that their system believes in them?
By recognizing the talents of our teachers through expanded leadership roles and increased compensation as proposed by the governor, Iowa can send the message that we believe in you — we want to provide you with opportunities to thrive because the greatest impact on student learning is you.
It is time we honor our teachers with more than just our respect. Raising the minimum salary and creating career pathways that offer financial and professional growth while retaining ties to the classroom substantiates our commitment to establishing communities of learning that bring together all of the good that is happening in our schools and turn it into something great.
I am proud to be an educator and an Iowan. I ask that we let go of our Iowan stubbornness and revive our traditions of educational excellence by creating avenues for change, letting teachers lead the way.Ann E. Lebo, a teacher for 14 years, is a language arts instructor and Second Dean at Grundy Center High School. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org