Hey all! As we approach the first anniversary of Kentucky School Talk’s launch, I’ve decided to start digging deeper into the great work that’s going on in schools and districts across the Bluegrass. Throughout 2019, you’ll see short Q&A sessions like these pop up with fantastic educators, parents, and students from around the state. We like to call it “Spilling the Tea.” (Because who doesn’t love both gossip and sweet tea here in the South?)
And for our first-ever guest, we’ve got Allison Slone, a special education teacher in Morehead, KY. She’s here with us to spill the tea on her social media savvy and passion for connecting educators around the state. Enjoy!
Allison Slone Spills The Tea
Garris: Allison, you’re perhaps best known around the state for founding the group Kentucky Teachers in the Know (KTITK). What inspired you to start the group, and how did you manage to build it up to its current level of influence?
Allison: Kentucky Teachers in The Know was never meant to be as large and as instrumental or influential as it has grown to be in social media. I simply started what I thought would be a small group of my professional learning network and closest teacher friends, to share and discuss important issues in education.
I wanted to be able to distribute information about conferences and leadership opportunities quickly and efficiently. Then, like many things over the past year… Bevin happened. Just a couple of weeks after starting Kentucky Teachers in The Know, Governor Bevin began discussing a special session to address the pension “crisis.” Members began adding their colleagues to the group and within just a few short weeks, we reached hundreds, then thousands of new members. We have since grown to a little over seventeen thousand members, including educators, classified employees, parents, public school advocates, and legislators.
Garris: Something went right, obviously. I just checked your membership earlier and it’s currently over 17,000 members. I think that shows us that something is going on in Kentucky education right now. Why do you think this type of group is resonating so strongly with teachers in our state?
Allison: For many years, myself included, educators believed that public education was valued and respected among our state leaders and those who represented us in Frankfort. The pension situation and the attacks by our Governor, some legislators, and the public opened our eyes to a new possibility…. we would have to advocate for ourselves, because no one else understood our professions the way we did.
Members of Kentucky Teachers in The Know were hungry for information. They poured themselves into the page seeking knowledge and understanding of what was happening across the state. Administrators were asking their faculty and staff to check-in daily with the group to stay informed. Information came pouring in and sometimes, honestly, it was difficult to make sure what was shared was accurate and helpful to the cause. However, it was our belief that the dissemination of information was most important. Unlike, other leaders who wanted to stifle the flow of information, we at KTITK felt it was vital to the cause to keep everyone informed. It was important to us that educators and our supporters were highly educated and armed with facts as they advocated for the cause with legislators and the public. Stifling information, as had been done for many years, had created a problem of complacency and ignorance of the problem that had been brewing for a very long time.
Garris: I agree, more knowledge about what’s going on in Kentucky schools is never a problem. However, some policymakers have read into all of this buzz and suggested that Kentucky teachers are anti-reform. Do you think Kentucky teachers really fear or oppose changes, or is there something else going on?
Allison: Kentucky teachers do not fear change. We are the creators of change daily. We are constantly asked to rethink, redesign, and redo everything we know as educators. We re-evaluate and re-invent our own teaching styles and techniques. As educators though, we are most known for our ability to research and find information. We quickly realized the pension “crisis” was no crisis at all. Pension reform is not necessary when all data shows that our retirement system is already on the right track.
As with anything, do changes and adjustments need to occur? Sure. We are not above compromise and healthy discussion. We are not anti-reform. We are anti-shenanigans occurring behind closed doors and in the dark of the night. We are anti-stinky bills turned into sewage problems. We are anti-propaganda that attempts to make us look stupid. We have ideas. We have suggestions. We just want a seat at the table.
Garris: Nicely put. I definitely agree that teachers have to be included in that process. Speaking of which, before we go, one of the issues you’ve really been vocal about on your site is equity. Tell us a little more about your equity work.
Allison: Equity in education has been a platform of mine for several years. I was not always a “speak up” type of educator. However, working with children with special needs, I quickly learned no one else was going to speak up for them unless I did.
Finding my voice came in handy years later when my son was diagnosed with dyslexia. Having little to no knowledge of the specific learning disability, I had to teach myself how to advocate for him in the public schools and help him at home. No one was going to do it for me. This lead to realizing that while helping my son, I could also help make the public schools equitable for all kids with dyslexia. I founded my own organization, KYREADS, worked with tons of other advocates and legislators across the state, sat on the Kentucky Department of Education’s Dyslexia Task Force, and helped with dyslexia legislation. The inequities were not just in my district, but across the entire Commonwealth and nation. My work with dyslexia and other advocates and teacher leaders has opened my eyes to many inequities in our schools.
Thanks for all the great work, Allison. Advocacy like yours is making all the difference for kids in the Bluegrass.
Allison Slone is a special education teacher from Morehead, KY, and is also an alumni Fellow of the Hope Street Group Kentucky State Teacher Fellowship of 2015-2017. She has her own organization, KYREADS, that advocates for students with dyslexia by providing professional learning to teachers and was a member of the KDE Dyslexia Task Force. Recently, Allison created a social media space called “Kentucky Teachers in The Know” which has over 17k members. The growth of teacher leadership and engagement, as well as impacting education policy and the outcomes for children with special needs, is Allison’s passion and life goal.