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Educators Should Stand Together With Parents and Community Members

Michelle Shearer (right) shares the stage with NEA President Dennis Van Roekel while accepting the Teacher of the Year Award at the 2011 NEA Representative Assembly in Chicago, Il.

2011 Teacher of the Year tells delegates to “bring the public into public education.
 

July 05, 2011
By John Rosales

Michelle Shearer, the 2011 National Teacher of the Year, urged more than 8,000 delegates attending the National Education Association (NEA) 2011 Representative Assembly in Chicago to swing open the doors to their classrooms so others can drop by and see the creative work being done by students and teachers.

“I invite people to my classroom all the time so they can see first-hand my students in action,”

Shearer said Tuesday on the final day of the assembly. “At first, I wondered if anyone would come ... but I found that people are desperate to get a glimpse into our classrooms and see how we connect with students.”
Shearer said students can benefit greatly from collaborating with community members since teachers alone cannot provide students with all the resources they need.

“We need parents, business leaders, members of our boards of education, and our elected officials to rally around our students and with us,” said Shearer, a member of the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA). “Bring the public into public education. Share inspiring stories. Pose challenging, thought-provoking questions. Steer the conversation about public education in a positive direction.”

One way to draw positive attention to education news, Shearer remarked, is for national news outlets to perhaps introduce a segment titled, “Highlights in American Education,” which could “energize our nation” with stories of successful public school programs and students.

“The dialogue surrounding public education can leave us all discouraged, disheartened, and demoralized,” she said. “These are challenging times.”

Shearer admitted that even some teachers themselves may be affected by the barrage of negative news stories that too often demonize public school educators.

“I hear too many teachers say, ‘I’m just a teacher,’” Shearer said. “Take the “just” out of the statement. A teacher is a great thing to be. Teachers change lives and do the work from which all society benefits.” 

In his introduction, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel noted that Shearer is the daughter of two teachers.

“She recognized that she wanted to be a teacher early on,” Van Roekel said.

Shearer was named national teacher of the year by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony in May on National Teacher Day. A chemistry teacher at Urbana High School in the Frederick County Public School System, she was awarded the prestigious title in part for her commitment to helping children who have traditionally been underrepresented in science, and for employing innovative approaches to classroom technology. She will serve for one year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for public education.

Shearer, a 14-year veteran of Maryland public schools, has taught all levels of chemistry and started the Advanced Placement chemistry course at her school. In between two teaching stints at Urbana High School,

Shearer also taught science and math at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick, Maryland.

MSEA President Clara Floyd said Shearer is a highly professional teacher who understands the needs of students, colleagues, and the community.

“She has a natural instinct for bringing them all together in way in which they all benefit,” Floyd said. “We’re proud to have her represent our state, and also teachers from across the nation.”

During her speech, Shearer acknowledged the three finalists for the National Teacher of the Year. The other finalists (named by the Council of Chief State School Officers), all NEA members, are Annice Brave, a high school English and journalism teacher at Alton High School in Alton, Illinois; Cheryl Conley, a fourth-grade teacher at Osceola Magnet Elementary School in Vero Beach, Florida; and Paul Anderson, a biology teacher at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Montana.

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