I believe that teachers have the most direct and measurable impact on student achievement. And although sharp criticisms have been offered in recent years about those who enter the profession through non-traditional pathways – I am convinced that time has come to upend the treachery of this debate. I’d rather focus on something that we can all agree on: This nation’s public schools are in crisis, and if we are to ever solve this enduring problem, we need to support our teachers while working to identify a new generation of professional educators.
As a principal, I know too well how a tough, smart, and unrelenting teacher can change a student’s life. For me, it was Mrs. Crawford – my third grade teacher. To an 8 year old, she was a tall woman with an intimidating presence. By all standards, Mrs. Crawford could be best described as “old school” – a strict disciplinarian and a lover of structure and routine. She managed our class from behind her desk and could bring swift order with the narrow squint of her eyes alone. Our assignments were on the wall-length chalkboard each day, and her impeccable classroom – smartly decorated with bright colors, posters of famous Americans, and a variety of motivational sayings.