As they learn students’ names, allergies and bus schedules during the first weeks of school, addressing Congressional staffers in Washington, D.C., is surely the last thing on the mind of most teachers.
But that’s exactly where two Seattle educators — Kristen Le and Rachelle Moore — were on Tuesday, invited to share their experiences with representatives of Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. David Reichert and a slew of other politicians interested in better preparing educators for the classroom.
Teacher training, or the lack of it, looms large in the public conversation about problems in public education. Seattle has attempted to address this with an apprenticeship program, the Seattle Teacher Residency, aimed at preparing educators in ways similar to young physicians-in-training. Those accepted into the intensive, year-long program receive a University of Washington masters degree and, often, a job with Seattle Public Schools.
Moore, 27, had nothing like that when she began teaching first-graders at Madrona K-8 five years ago. Since then, all four educators who started there with her have left, and two quit the profession altogether.
“That’s why I got involved with the Seattle Teacher Residency, and why I wanted to talk about it in Washington, D.C.,” said Moore who now has more experience at Madrona than anyone else in building except the gym teacher. “I know a lot of really great people who ended up leaving, either for burn out or feeling isolated.”
Last year, she mentored Le, who has gone on to lead her own classroom at Van Asselt Elementary.
What follows is a brief interview with Moore about talking with government officials on Capitol Hill:
Q: How did you react to the invitation to speak in Washington, D.C.?
A: “I was a little nervous — I only have 5 years experience and I was thinking, ‘Why me? Why not somebody who’s been in the profession for 20 years?’ But this was about sharing the nitty-gritty groundwork with people who know all these buzz words about education and never, ever talk to real teachers.”
Q: You spoke with staffers from the House of Representatives and the Senate. What kinds of questions did they ask?
A: “In the Senate, they were really interested in this idea of a residency program and how it was different from traditional preparation. On the House side, it was more focused on where to put money — early education versus something else. They kept asking us, ‘What are the outcomes that are going to measure this residency approach? What’s going to be the evidence that will tell us this is an effective program?’ ”
Q: How did you respond to that?
A: “The teacher residency program requires a five-year commitment to staying in the district, and it encourages residents to pursue National Board Certification. So one way we’ll be able to measure success is by seeing how many people stay after their fifth year, pursue board certification and become teacher-leaders themselves.”
Q: Did anything surprise you?
A: “I’d imagined all these older people who had their minds made up. But no, these were young people who were really driven to do great things. It was much more dynamic than I expected. I wasn’t so politically knowledgeable before, but now that I’ve met all these different people I’m excited to get a little more involved with policy. I love being in the classroom — that’s where my heart is and I don’t plan to leave any time soon — but now I see that it’s part of a much bigger picture.”