By Charlie Cummings

This blog post was originally published on Education Post on April 25, 2017.

Over the past week, 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee has been in the media spotlight, sharing the recipe to her success with numerous outlets that have sought her wisdom on behalf of educators and families everywhere. Advocates for public schools want to know what makes Ms. Chaffee excel so that we can replicate her success and put more students on a pathway to college and a fulfilling career.

Fortunately for the field of public education, more and more great teachers are answering the call to share their insights and firsthand experience about what their students need to be successful. Through programs like the Educator Voice FellowshipTeach PlusEducators for ExcellenceHope Street Group and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, teachers are elevating their voices in public forums, on social media and in the news.

For the past four years, I’ve had the incredible privilege of helping great teachers and principals from coast to coast leverage their expertise to influence education policy. The organization I lead, the Educator Voice Fellowship, supports educators to advocate for the policy issues that they believe are most important to their students’ success.

True to our mission, we encourage fellows to elevate their first-hand perspectives authentically, in their own voices. Here are a few recent must-reads, focusing on equity and inclusion, teacher retention, diversity in the teaching workforce and elevating teacher voice.

  •  Bronx teacher Mark Anderson appeared in Ebony Magazine comparing his own school experience to that of his students and suggesting ways that we can tackle the segregation that impacts us at a societal level.
  •  Queens teacher Lexie Woo published a blog at EdLife about teacher retention, sharing her personal story of why she ended up switching schools.
  •  Philly principal Sharif El-Mekki wrote on his blog about the need to hire more Black teachers, writing: “Communities must ask our districts and charter schools to be transparent about their data and the plans to address the need for more diversity in our schools and classrooms.”
  •  Kentucky educator Katrina Boone takes to the The Huffington Post to advocate for teachers to be more involved in education policy decisions.

These educators are working to influence education policy because they want to make a bigger impact for students beyond their schools. The best thing we can do is listen.

Charlie Cummings is the senior director of the America Achieves Fellowship for Teachers and Principals and the founding partner of Educator Voice Strategies. His career began as a fifth-grade teacher in St. Louis, where he started an after-school sports club to teach students how to play popular sports while practicing sportsmanship and teamwork. While in graduate school at the University of Maryland, he co-founded the Do Good Challenge, a campus-wide social impact prize competition. Charlie attended public schools in West Virginia and Indiana and holds a BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame and an MPP from the University of Maryland. Charlie loves playing sports, exploring the great outdoors, cooking and listening to live music. He volunteers with Higher Achievement and Capital Cause in DC and is on the executive board of New Leaders Council D.C. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Jess.

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