Though the weather is having a tough time showing it, spring is definitely here and another year has begun its race toward the finish line. During the winter months and into the spring, I have had the privilege of getting into a number of classrooms and witnessing the amazing work our members are doing across this great state.
Oregon educators face great challenges. Our schools continue to be under-resourced, and the message all educators are hearing is, “We need you to do more with less.” Yet across the state educators are standing up and making their voices heard.
At a school board meeting at Treasure Valley Community College, more than 200 students, faculty members, ESPs, and community members packed the largest lecture hall on campus — as well as two over-flow rooms — to send the message that they valued their instructors and that the board should value them, too. At Linn-Benton-Lincoln ESD, educators from Greater Albany EA, Greater Albany ACE, and Jefferson EA joined the educators of the ESD in an informational picket during the board’s executive session and then packed the board room to send the message that increasing the 40-hour work week to 42.5 hours was unacceptable. At West Gresham Elementary School, I walked into the building in the middle of a room clear. I saw a teacher in the building calmly lead her class of 36 students into the gymnasium where the PE instructor, who had a group of 38 students, did not miss a beat in immediately changing his lesson and bringing the new group of children into the activity. And in Salem, I spoke with an instructional assistant who showed me the maneuver she executed to get out of her hoody when a child attempts to bite her. Instead of anger or frustration at the situation, however, her emphasis was on how at each instance the focus was on child’s social and emotional growth needs and how to meet them.
And, on April 2nd, I was honored to be in attendance at Lee Elementary School in Salem where Maureen Murphy-Foelkl, recently retired but a 32-year veteran of the Salem-Keizer School district, was honored at an evening assembly with the announcement of her induction into the National Teacher Hall of Fame in Emporium, Kansas. I listened as her colleagues, her neighbors, her former students, her administrators, and parents talked about the impact she has had on their lives.
With so many attacks on public education both from politicians and the media, it is heartening to see how our members meet these attacks with the passion, grace, and dignity our professions so richly deserve. The job of a public educator is more difficult today than ever before, and it can often seem as though no one cares. Though it often goes unseen and unexpressed, people definitely care about our public schools and the people who make them work, and I am so proud to have the opportunity to represent the unbelievable professionals in this state. Thank you for all you do each and every day to ensure all Oregon Students are receiving the education they deserve.