Teacher forum gives educators a voice

Richland School District Two held an Education Advocacy Forum on Thursday at the District Auditorium.  The district invited the news media and legislators to come hear teachers speak up about these critical times in public education.  Christi McCollum, former teacher of the year for 2002-2003, is now a mentor and coach for all first and second year teachers in the district.  She says the special meeting was an opportunity for teachers to have their voices heard.  As the economy begins to impact education, McCollum says it is time for teachers to end their silence.
“Our goal to accomplish today is to keep educators informed, to bring them up to speed on what some of the bills are and then to ask each teacher to make their own decision.  We’re not about telling teachers what to believe.  We’re simply saying that for too long educators have been silent in voicing their opinions.  This is a critical time and we can no longer remain a silent profession.”
McCollum says one of the areas of major concern is the National Board Certification Program.  McCollum, who is board certified, says the program has been very successful in how teachers are able to impact their students in South Carolina.
“We’re third in the nation for the number of national board teachers.  What we see is national board teachers become reflective practitioners at what they do.  They have a strong impact in student achievement even though there are those who will argue there is not a lot of research to prove that.  In our own district we’ve done research and we do know these are the teachers that make a difference in the lives of students.  They go above and beyond to be sure that they teach every child as an individual.”
She says an amendment read earlier this week in the legislature dealing with national board certification could be a big blow to classroom quality in South Carolina.
“The amendment that was read this week cuts the number of teachers that will be able to go through the process and also will not let any teachers renew (their) certification or those who do to receive the state supplement any longer.  That will impact two things in our state.  First of all, it will impact retaining these teachers in the classroom and secondly, it will impact recruitment for our state,” says McCullum.
Her concern is that once the program is removed, it will be gone for good.