When asked to name the people in your life who've been most influential, I can almost guarantee a teacher makes the cut.
Teachers are the backbone of our education system, and as such, shape our future. Teachers set the foundation for young lives, have the power to transform students headed in dangerous directions and can inspire career choices. Without strong teachers in the classroom, our schools, students and our state suffer.
As a state legislator, one of my most vital duties is to pass education policies that will help teachers reach their students and fuel success in the classroom. Of course, these policies don't mean much without truly passionate and effective educators who give learning a meaning.
Fort Wayne Community Schools recently announced their 2013 Teacher of the Year – World History teacher Emily Oberlin at South Side High School. Oberlin is the embodiment of this type of educator, one who goes above and beyond the call of duty for her students. Instead of educating solely from a textbook, Oberlin actively works to give a larger significance and context to her subject.
For those of us who experienced a great teacher growing up, we know what an impact that can have. When a subject is interesting and meaningful to a student, it can become the student's passion for life – it can give students a direction in their academic journey and encourage postsecondary attainment.
"I want students to leave my classroom and do something in this world," Oberlin said during her interview for Teacher of the Year. "Go try it!"
What a great philosophy. These are the kind of people we need in our classrooms, and that starts with making sure we have the best training and support for our teachers.
During the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly advanced an initiative requiring the Department of Education to develop performance standards for teacher education programs.
Because teachers are so important to the success of our students and future workforce, we must be sure our colleges and universities are properly preparing their graduates to become impactful educators.
I look forward to seeing the results of this new push and hope it will lead to future teachers having the strongest tool kit possible for educating our youth.
Indiana needs teachers who can motivate students and help prepare them to pursue a 21st-century job. We need teachers to be equipped with the skills to fuel interests in math, science and technology – areas that are growing in significance and value in this globalized economy.
I challenge young Hoosiers headed to college and seeking a career path to consider education. It is one of the most noble and influential jobs a person can pursue. I also challenge those of you who were impacted by a great teacher in your life to let them know. Write a note, send an email – I'm sure it will mean the world to them.
I would like to personally thank teachers like Emily Oberlin who work hard every day to shape and inspire our young students. We are forever in your debt.