Viewpoint: Peeples and people like her give us hope for next generation

Teachers from across the country this week gathered in Florida for the National Education Association’s Annual Meeting.

The inspirational speakers included one of our own, National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples who grew up and still lives in the Texas Panhandle.

While the list of problems with public education in America is a long one, Peeples has offered eloquent solutions in her speeches, media interviews and blog posts since she received the award in the spring.

Mostly, she talks about one-on-one interaction with her students; that one-size-fits-all education is the wrong approach, especially for those with learning disabilities or diverse backgrounds, such as the refugees she teaches in Amarillo.

“A standardized test won’t reveal these skills and experiences,” Peeples told the teachers Monday, according to a NEA news release.

Telling the personal stories of students “gives you more insight into them than reams of scores that label them as ‘below proficient.’”

Peeples draws her inspiration from teachers of her childhood in Borger, Texas, where her own young life was sometimes full of drama.

“I had teachers who made school like my safe place and who gave me a real sense of belonging, and treated me with such kindness,” she told The Washington Post in an April interview.

“I never forgot that. It went deep into me. It doesn’t matter what I teach, it really matters how I make that kid feel, each student, what they feel before they leave me each day. I think, ‘How can I make this kid feel safe, welcome, give them some sense of small success?’”

She speaks often about finding different ways to solve problems.

We’re not sure there is hope for public education in America. But teachers like Peeples — and we’re convinced there are hundreds like her in eastern New Mexico and the Panhandle — give us hope for the next generation anyway.

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