Kentucky’s Getting A New Teacher of the Year. Their Job Is Going To Be Tough.

If you follow my site regularly, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t talk about myself very often. I’m an issues guy — I focus my writing pretty squarely on the policies and practices in Kentucky that impact equitable outcomes for our children, and I try to use my platform here to discuss how we can fix the obstacles that hinder our most vulnerable students from achieving all they’ve ever wanted out of life.

But today, I need to talk about myself just a little bit because I’m currently caught in the middle of something that’s going to end up being much, much bigger than me.

Three weeks ago, I discovered that I had been named a semi-finalist for 2020 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. I was shocked in the most pleasant of ways.

I was also informed that representatives from the Department of Education would be coming to visit my classroom and conduct an interview. That shocked me as well, albeit more stressfully. That visit happened yesterday, and while my lesson was solid and my kids were absolutely awesome, it wasn’t until I sat down with the KDE folks that I gained a better understanding of what this whole thing is about.

The 2020 Kentucky Teacher of the Year won’t necessarily be the best teacher in the state. They will be highly effective, for sure, but there’s always someone, somewhere, who’s doing something better.

Instead, the 2020 Kentucky Teacher of the Year will be the individual who can best represent Kentucky’s educators at this crossroads where they now find themselves.

2020 is a new decade. It represents a new era of Kentucky education, a system that’s been fraught with rapid changes these past few years. We’ve seen a beloved Commissioner come and go, a new Commissioner push for long-awaited reforms, and overhauls in everything from accountability to graduation requirements. Whoever the 2020 KTOY turns out to be, they’ll need to be able to articulate the need for these changes while building trust among their peers across the state.

He or she will need to transcend the political maelstrom that has ensued these past few years, and their platform will have to rise higher than just pensions and protests alone. We’ve reached a breaking point of sorts in Kentucky education, and whoever wins must be prepared to be the face of this new generation.

In other words… This is a big deal. A very, very big deal. And regardless of who wins, it’s going to be a tough job.

I may not come out on top; in fact, I’m just grateful I made this far. But out of the 9 semi-finalists that are still dancing, I hope whoever emerges victorious will be a representative of hope — an individual who can articulate the stresses and strains that Kentucky’s educators are now feeling and work to establish trust with them, all the while continuing to press on toward a higher purpose.

That purpose? Raising the bar, closing the gaps, and celebrating all that’s right in Kentucky schools. That’s what it’s all about.

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