What we believe about great schools

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Mary Bell
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Robin Doell is a kindergarten and first-grade instructional aide and volleyball coach from Pulaski who has worked with hundreds of students at Glenbrook Elementary School, is active in her community and is about to become a more recognizable face.

Robin has offered her likeness and her words, as have more than 100 educators, parents, students, business leaders and community members, to an effort to start discussions about Wisconsin’s great schools. They are featured on billboards and in TV commercials, magazine ads, newspaper ads, Web sites and other venues, and they volunteered to come forward and talk about what they believe in.

“I believe students deserve individualized attention, and that is why class size is so important,” Robin says.

One observation from my 30 years of working in the classroom is that many of the same educators who are so articulate when they are talking to and about their students become shy and tongue-tied when it comes to talking about themselves. Part of my role as president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council is to talk on behalf of WEAC’s 98,000 members.

But I am just one person, and WEAC is just one organization. That is why we are featuring a variety of voices from across a diverse range of perspectives. The top-notch, innovative public schools we have today have grown out of Wisconsin’s traditions of openness, honesty and close-knit communities.

Investments in great schools build strong communities, and the excellent public schools Wisconsin has today are the result of the ingenuity and commitment of our parents and grandparents. Creating and maintaining great schools is a tradition in our state and something at which Wisconsin has always excelled.

In my conversations with parents, educators and others over the course of my career in education, I have found that Wisconsin residents strongly support their public schools because we all share a set of core beliefs. No matter what our walk of life, we seem to define a great school in starkly similar ways:

n They are places that are welcoming, where kids learn more than academics, including how to get along and work with others and to problem-solve.

n They provide students with an opportunity to succeed, whether it is focused on going to college or preparing for work through vocational training.

n They are built around teamwork among educators, parents, principals and the community as a whole.

n They are the embodiment of a great tradition of educational excellence in the state and one that is worthy of constant renewal and maintenance.

We hope this effort evolves into a grass-roots movement that everyone wants to be a part of. You can start by going to WEAC’s Web site at weac.org and reading about what people throughout Wisconsin believe about public education, and adding your own perspective. What do you believe about public education in Wisconsin? How have schools impacted your life?

Great schools benefit everyone, and that includes you. We want to hear from you.

Mary Bell is president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union; address 33 Nob Hill Road, P.O. Box 8003, Madison, WI 53708-8003; Web site weac.org; phone 1-800-362-8034.

Last updated: 2:06 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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