“If You Want to Serve Your Country, Be a Teacher”

capitol buildingThose words were spoken by Shanna Peeples, NCTE member and 2015 Teacher of the Year, in a conversation with Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA. A strong advocate for students and teachers, Shanna encourages every teacher to be a “warrior of kindness and hope and to advocate for students.”

In introducing Shanna and Lily at the NEA, Jennifer Locke, senior policy analyst at the NEA, likened them to Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey. She described all three women’s advocacy and passion for young people, particularly those who are at-risk and face tremendous struggles. (I had the privilege of listening to Sonia speak at the 2014 NCTE Annual Convention.)

Before Shanna became a teacher, she was a journalist who covered education. She found she preferred being in the classroom rather than covering it. At the talk a few weeks ago, she explained that she tried to resist becoming a teacher because she knew the profession would “break her heart,” but she said, “Teaching chose me.” She stated simply, “If you want to serve your country, be a teacher.”

Shanna encouraged teachers to tell their stories. “Poverty is abstract,” she noted, and by telling their stories, teachers “put a face” on each and every child.

Shanna believes strongly that “there is no lone teacher” and that “true collaboration is vital and necessary.” Comparing teachers to doctors, she notes that doctors gather together to review and discuss difficult medical issues. They receive adequate training through residencies and internships. More important, they are respected. She believes teachers deserve all of these things: time for collaboration, mentoring and support, and, most important, respect. She resents the micromanagement of teachers and believes that it is time we “trust teachers,” just like we do doctors.

Shanna Peeples, NCTE member, 2015 Teacher of the Year: what a stellar advocate!

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About Lu Ann McNabb

Lu Ann Maciulla McNabb is the Policy & Alliances Associate for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Lu Ann has long been an advocate for teachers, students and education. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently said, "Education is the anvil upon which democracy is forged."

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