First of all, I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to everyone who voted for me for Best Local Teacher. I absolutely love my job, and I am so happy that it is clear to my students, past and present, colleagues, and parents with whom I work.

Teaching is something I knew I wanted to do ever since I was young — just ask my poor brother Justin, who was bossed around and made to play school. When I taught him to read before he was even in 1st grade, my mother knew I had found my niche.

Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar (finally!) in 2016. Instead of doing the stereotypical thank you speech, he highlighted a major issue in our world today. He brought awareness to climate change, demanding we aid in the war on our environment. His pleas were vehement and well-received. In a Leo-esque tribute, here is this teacher’s plea:

The state of education is in a state of emergency. Lawmakers, who have never set foot in a school building, let alone a classroom to teach, are calling the shots: not educators, not informed citizens, and certainly not students. Please, I beg of you: Vote pro-education every time you vote. We need to preserve the integrity of the classroom and trust that teachers, who have undergone numerous years of schooling, know what they are doing.

Lawmakers are suggesting teachers are paid too much, but many of us have student loans to pay off while still living paycheck to paycheck. They are suggesting that we have too much time off due to summers and vacations. I do not know many teachers who do not sacrifice time with their loved ones to make sure that students are given valuable feedback, engaged in meaningful tasks, and assessed in order to improve their learning. We work multiple jobs in the summer, many at our schools to revise an develop curriculum, IEPs, 504s, etc. In fact, as I write this, on a beautiful Saturday, I am at the high school, assessing student research projects on social justice.

We love your children. We want them to succeed, but we also want to be consulted when huge shifts are coming in educational pedagogy so that we can add our expertise. All we want is to be treated like professionals and compensated for our labor of love.

Thank you,

JESSICA SMITH

326 Glebe Road

Westmoreland