Two local educators to offer their 2 cents to state superintendent
Stacey Smith was a systems analyst at Georgia Pacific for 10 years before he became a teacher, while Bridgette Gilmore went straight into education from college.
Both believe teaching is their calling, but being a teacher means more than just filling a child’s head with knowledge.
The pair have been selected to serve on the first ever Mississippi Teacher Council.
The purpose of the council is to provide feedback to Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, on the initiatives of the Mississippi Department of Education, the state Board of Education and the Legislature. The teachers council aims to empower teachers to discuss topics critical to their success in the classroom and how MDE can assist.
“We want to learn from our teachers in the classroom who often implement effective strategies that can be shared and replicated statewide,” Wright said. “They provide valuable insights that could improve MDE initiatives. Additionally, the MTC will provide a venue for teachers to become advocates for their students and their profession through input into the decision-making process.”
More than 150 teachers from around the state submitted applications to serve on the council, but only 61 were chosen.
Smith, 58, who teaches Algebra I and geometry at Loyd Star Attendance Center, is eager to attend the first meeting in Jackson later this month.
“Dr. Wright seems to really want to get into the heads of the Mississippi teachers and understand where we are,” he said.
Smith, a former Loyd Star salutatorian and Star Student, has taught at the school for nine years. He’s also taught at West Lincoln and Enterprise attendance centers and at Lipsey School, where his wife, Debbie, is a music teacher.
He’s the lead math teacher at Loyd Star.
He submitted his application for the teacher council so he could be a voice for Lincoln County educators.
“I don’t feel like MDE truly understands the plight of classroom teachers and what they’re expecting of us, and I think it’s an opportunity to make education more realistic while at the same time creating relevance and rigor,” he said.
Smith believes the challenge of being a teacher is to make education “relevant to kids with all types of struggles.”
He’s talked with teachers across the state and they come to the same conclusion, Smith said.
“We all tend to deal with the same issues. We don’t get cookie cutter kids. We get kids from all walks of life,” he said. “We are going to throw every kid into the same pot and expect to get the same product. That’s never worked. Very often, the child ends up suffering as we as educators get them through this process of obtaining their diploma.”
Gilmore, 38, applied to be on the council in June. She teaches language arts to fourth-graders at Brookhaven Elementary, where she’s been for 11 years. She’s worked in the Brookhaven School District for 13 years.
She’s excited to represent her school, her district, her co-workers and, most of all, the students.
It’s their welfare she’s most concerned about, and she doesn’t feel the state department of education always represents their best interests.
“Most of the decisions made are by the state house and not the school house,” she said. “I could no longer sit idle and be passive.”
She said teachers know the students the best and didn’t have a platform to share that information with the people in power at the state level.
“I want to help students succeed more than in the classroom and on standardized tests,” she said.
Gilmore said the state wants to hold teachers accountable when students don’t perform at the standards they’ve set, but at the same time, teachers are lacking in resources necessary to perform their jobs.
“We’ve got to be heard. We’ve got to have the resources to teach these kids,” she said. “They say ’No child left behind,’ but they’ve forgotten about the teachers.”
Smith and Gilmore will be attending the first meeting of the Mississippi Teachers Council Sept. 22 in Jackson.