By Candice McQueen, Tennessee Education Commissioner
This past Friday, on my most recent Classroom Chronicles visit, I had the honor of spending the day with teachers, administrators, and students in Giles County and Franklin Special School District. It was a pleasure to celebrate the final day of Teacher Appreciation Week in the classrooms of our talented teachers and bright students. I was inspired to hear students explain why they value their teachers and how their teachers have inspired them to grow and learn.
May 6 also marked an important moment on my Classroom Chronicles tour. As of Friday’s visit, I’ve met with over 10,600 teachers, in 121 schools, in 74 districts. I kicked off this tour just over a year ago with a visit to my home district, Clarksville-Montgomery County. At this time, I set the goal of connecting with 10,000 teachers across the state because I believe it’s important for leaders to listen and learn from teachers. While I’m humbled to say I’ve had the opportunity to engage with so many of our talented teachers, the goal wasn’t really about the number – it was about the journey along the way, and it’s been an incredible journey.
In Hamblen County, I was encouraged to see students connected to the local business community, as they learned job skills while working toward a Work Ethic Diploma. At Moore Magnet Elementary in Clarksville, I saw teachers creating interactive classroom environments, with high levels of student engagement. In Trousdale County, I saw dedicated counselors who have been instrumental in creating a culture focused on postsecondary opportunities, and beginning these discussions with students early in their academic careers. When I visited Sherwood Middle School, a Shelby County school within the district i–Zone, students shared with me that their teachers have high expectations for their academic performance and behavior. These are just a few highlights from a tour that has allowed me to engage with incredible leaders and teachers across the state, working together to ensure all students learn and grow.
While the exceptionally strong schools I’ve visited have all been unique, they also have had quite a bit in common. Our best schools have teachers who are laser-focused on students. These teachers are highly engaged in their own learning and can be seen collaborating with one another to ensure all students are progressing toward their goals. This translates into students who are also highly engaged, as the respond to high expectations and opportunities to work with one another and think critically. Teachers and students in the best schools are also united by strong leaders who are focused on measurable student growth and positive outcomes for all students. These leaders set a vision aligned to the state’s vision and their communities’ needs while proactively and creatively using all possible methods to support this vision.
As I reach this milestone on my Classroom Chronicles tour and reflect on teacher appreciation week, I want to extend a special thanks to those of you who have welcomed me into your districts, your schools, and your classrooms. I also want to thank the department’s Teacher Advisory Council and the Governor’s Teacher Cabinet. These groups are comprised of outstanding teacher leaders who regularly share candid feedback and thoughtful solutions with leadership. I’m also appreciative of the hundreds of educators who have been involved in critical work with standards and assessment. Whether it’s item review, range finding, content coaching, or standards review work with the State Board, I’m deeply appreciative and proud of the educators who offer their time and expertise to some of the most critical parts of our work. Finally, thank you to all Tennessee teachers for your dedication to your craft and a sincere devotion to your students. I look forward to meeting many more of you as I continue my travels.