Education Policy Summit Inspires Teachers to Elevate Their Voices

RALEIGH — The Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership along with the Public School Forum Beginning Teacher Leadership Network (BTLN) and the Lee County Schools Beginning Teachers partnered to organize and deliver a joint 2018 Education Policy Summit on June 12-13.

During the two-day summit, educators from the Kenan Fellows alumni network, BTLN and the Lee County Beginning Teachers learned how to effectively communicate and build relationships with policymakers, navigate complex state and local education issues and advocate for policies that support teacher leadership and benefit students. They met with education stakeholders including state lawmakers and representatives from the Governor’s Office. During these meetings, they were able to share their experiences, exchange ideas and perspectives and ask questions about the policies that matter most to them, their students and their communities.

A goal of the summit was to provide the K-12 teachers with an opportunity to learn how to frame education issues strategically and gain a deeper understanding of the complexity and the importance of including teacher voice in policy discussions. The sessions included an overview of the organizational structure of the NC General Assembly, NC Department of Public Instruction and local school districts and how this influences education policies as well as how to write opinion pieces, the importance of getting out the vote, and one-on-one discussions with legislators.

Throughout the two-day summit, participants identified and studied a policy issue where they wished to make a difference. The educators chose to tackle a variety of topics from improving student mental health services to teacher retention. They researched legislation and statistics related to their selected topic and framed talking points for engaging in fruitful dialogue with stakeholders.

“We had the ear of our representatives and members of the State of Board of Education and just having been afforded that opportunity was amazing,” said Emily Warnke, a 2017-18 Kenan Fellow who teaches in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

A showcase of advocacy organizations including BestNC, the NC Justice Center, Public Schools 1st NC, EducationNC and others allowed the participants to learn about the variety of approaches different groups take to influencing policy and how they as educators can get more involved and become leaders outside of the classroom.

“The 2018 Education Policy Summit was an amazingly empowering and informative experience,” said Jennifer Stalls, a 2015-16 Kenan Fellow who teaches in Greene County Schools. “I am so glad I was able to connect with organizations such as the Hope Street Group, NC Association of Educators, NC Policy Watch and many more.”

This is the second year the Kenan Fellows Program has offered the Education Policy Summit for its alumni network but it was the first year the program has partnered with the BTLN and Lee County Beginning Teachers to open the professional development to other teachers. By bringing together this group of educators, the summit gave the teachers a chance to collaborate with one another and form a statewide network of active and engaged teacher advocates.