I educate because it’s my true passion. It’s so amazing to establish rapport with students and engage them and their families in learning. I find extreme satisfaction in my ability to pass on knowledge, empower others, and build the capacity of those around me. However, like the students I serve, I have basic needs that, if met, yield the best from me and thus the best for my students.
Virginia has not only the means but the opportunity to meet the needs of the professional educator. My locality simply does not have funds for a well-deserved salary increase for us. There must be a collaborative effort between the state and the locality. Veteran educators like me have worked long and hard building the best and brightest in Virginia. We are your current and former teachers of the year, the transformational leaders in your buildings, leaders of partnership and volunteer efforts, and instructional specialists. We’ve given so much of ourselves, wearing multiple hats because we care so much—why not support us?
We have to supplement our income with part-time jobs, both within and outside of education, in order to meet the needs of our families. This adds extra physical and mental strain onto already overworked educators. It is time to value our professional educators and their families through state funding.
Recently, I’ve observed a growing number of students with mental health concerns and behavior issues, as well as character concerns. Parents have asked for strategies and suggestions on topics such as self-esteem, making friends, and behavior. Our schools need to have adequate funding to support these needs if we’re to launch students into becoming the highly-skilled critical thinkers we need them to be. We need additional guidance counselors for group and individual counseling sessions, lessons and discussions on character building, and assistance in handling behaviors and crisis intervention. There is simply an inadequate number of professional school counselors, creating an increased safety risk to teachers and students—and the primary goal of schools is to keep students in a safe learning environment. It’s time we demonstrate that we put school safety first, that the safety of students and teachers truly matters.
Without a serious look at substantial salary increases for professional educators across the Commonwealth of Virginia, we simply will not retain them. Educators may be forced to consider relocating out of state, accepting recruitment offers for better-paying jobs, or simply leave the field. I have children in elementary, middle, and high school, and I want the best educators providing their daily instruction. I also want to be in Virginia and be a part of continuing to build this great state. The commonwealth needs to send a clear message that it values its amazing educators, and appreciates and supports the work they do, by significantly increasing school funding.