By: Angelique Kwabenah – Incarcerated Youth Program
I was recently awarded an Education Champions Fellowship through America Achieves and I must say that it gave me a renewed passion for the work that I do. America Achieves is a non-profit organization that aims to help America become a global leader in educational excellence and prepare all young people for success in careers, college and citizenship. The Education Champions Fellowship gives teachers from across the country the opportunity to leverage their collective voices in order to work towards effective changes in education policy.
One of the semi-annual conferences taking place in New York during the Education Nation Summit this last week, allowed the fellows to participate in work sessions each day from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm and the Education Nation Teacher Town Hall meeting that was held at the New York Public Library. We were fortunate enough to also participate in small group discussions with the US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg , Teach Plus CEO Celine Coggins, Movie Director Davis Guggenheim, Colorado Senator Mike Johnston, Harlem Children’s Zone CEO Jeffrey Canada and California Congressman George Miller. In addition, we participated in a discussion on the Parent Trigger Law with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and were awed by the inspiring dinner speech given by Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association. We also listened to a passionate discussion about education by Rosie Perez, Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the stars of the movie “ Won’t Back Down”. We attended the world premiere of the movie and participated in lively discussions the next day, regarding the implications that the movie had on the country’s perceptions of teachers and the state of education today.
On the final day, we listened to a town hall panel discussion with Mitt Romney and viewed a webcast interview given by President Obama. We ended the day with a small group discussion and question/answer session with DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. This conference opportunity gave me the chance to connect with teachers around the country and renewed my commitment to providing excellent instruction to all of the students that I service. It also made me aware that teachers have a very important role to play in the arena of education policy, but it is up to us to make our voices heard!