The last time I saw Carri Hicks in person, she was wearing her newborn baby in a carrier on her chest as she filled out paperwork to register as a Democratic candidate for state senate, in Oklahoma’s Fortieth District. This was during a statewide teacher walkout, which came after a decade of cuts to the state’s education budget. The strike brought tens of thousands of educators and their supporters to the state capitol, hoping to influence their legislators, and culminated in some of those teachers resolving to run for office. Hicks, who is thirty-five and a mother of three, has the efficient beauty of someone who has done more than you have today but who still seems happy to see you. Until recently, Hicks was working as a fourth-grade math and science teacher; she has taught in three different public schools in the state and is also the daughter of a public-school teacher. Being a political candidate was something new.
On Election Night, Hicks began her evening at a watch party held by Let’s Fix This, a local nonprofit group that helps Oklahomans interact with their legislators; her husband performed a standup-comedy routine. Later, they went to their own watch party at a pub, where a local band called the Nghiems was playing. Hicks learned that she won around 9 p.m.; not long after, her friend Kendra Horn—a Democrat running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Fifth District, which went for Trump by sixteen points in 2016, and which includes Hicks’s local district—learned that she had also won. When Hicks got home late that night , she found her four-year-old son, Sawyer, still awake. “Mom did it!” he said. All seven seats in the Oklahoma legislature that flipped from Republican to Democrat were won by women.
In Oklahoma, nineteen candidates in the “educator caucus,” an informal but informative term for candidates with strong personal ties to education, won positions in the state legislature, including John Waldron, whom I wrote about for this magazine, in June. But numerous teacher candidates lost, too, including Karen Gaddis, a Democrat and retired teacher who won a special election in 2017 in a heavily Republican area, and Cyndi Ralston, another retired teacher, who ran against an infamous Republican lawmaker who had been caught on film during the teachers’ strike whining that he wasn’t “going to vote for another stinkin’ measure when they’re acting the way they’re acting.” Both teacher candidates were popular, but they weren’t running as Republicans, and, in this election, Oklahomans voted more predictably than in previous elections this year. “In the first part of 2018, we were seeing unusual things happen in Oklahoma, with surprising special-election victories, and Republican incumbents being voted out in their primaries for being against the teacher-pay raises,” David Blatt, the founder of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, told me. “But, in this midterm, party loyalty ultimately won out. The elections became nationalized, with Team Red and Team Blue, and Republicans enjoy a growing partisan advantage here.”
Over all, it is difficult to say whether Election Night was encouraging or depressing for those who followed the teacher walkouts across the country with hope. The states that saw the largest teachers’ movements were also among the nation’s reddest, and most (but far from all) of the candidates ran as Democrats. One of the the biggest blue swings of the midterms went to Richard Ojeda, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in West Virginia’s Third Congressional District, who was strongly associated with West Virginia’s teachers’ strike. He received more than forty-three per cent of the vote in a district that President Trump won by nearly fifty points—but Ojeda still lost.
In Arizona, Red for Ed—a nonpartisan movement that advocates for public education, and was formed in the lead-up to that state’s walkout—worked hard to support teacher candidates, and also to encourage Arizonans to vote against a proposition that would expand school vouchers. They succeeded in defeating the proposition, and state Democrats saw some modest electoral gains, which David Lujan, the director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, attributes to the strength of the movement. “The House is now likely going to be thirty-one Republicans to twenty-nine Democrats,” he said, referring to the Arizona state legislature. “I am fifty-three years old, and it has not been close to that in my lifetime.” At the very least, Red for Ed has sufficient influence that candidates now feel the need to pretend to support it; in the last week of the campaign, J. D. Mesnard, the current speaker of the state house and one of Red for Ed’s main electoral targets, sent out mailers that included photos of the movement’s activists, as if he were their champion rather than their adversary. Mesnard’s mother, who also ran for the state legislature, appears to have been narrowly beaten in the Seventeenth District by Jennifer Pawlik, a teacher of seventeen years. (The race awaits a final vote tally.)
In Kentucky, a teacher walkout had already led to a vivid political unseating: in the Republican primaries, a math teacher named R. Travis Brenda beat out the speaker of the house, Jonathan Shell, who had been considered one of the country’s rising conservative stars. “Teachers and public employees responded to the threats the governor made to the pension system in part by forming Kentucky 120,” Josie Raymond, a teacher who ran for the state house in the Thirty-first District, said. “Earning the endorsement from that group this cycle was as important as earning the endorsement of older groups, maybe more.” On Tuesday, at least forty teachers ran for office in Kentucky; it was not a champagne evening of unexpected results, but some races went well. Raymond, who won national attention for a lawsuit in which she argued that she should be allowed to use campaign funds for childcare expenses, won her race. “Education is anti-poverty,” she told me on the morning of the election. Raymond had grown up poor—a beneficiary of Medicaid and free school lunches.“It’s about generational change—that’s why I ran,” she added. Even some of the losses were encouraging. Paula Setser-Kissick, a technology-education administrator, ran in the Twelfth District; her campaign had little money, no experience, and no name recognition, but her volunteers knocked on thirteen thousand doors, and she lost by only one percentage point. Many of the candidates I spoke with wished that they hadn’t needed to run in the first place, but they thought that legislators simply weren’t listening to their constituents on the state of their schools. The teachers felt that they were acting as a fire wall for democracy.
In Wisconsin, Tony Evers, a former teacher and state superintendent of schools, ousted Scott Walker, the Republican governor, who had received more than two million dollars from donors who support private-school vouchers. The new governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, is also a former teacher. In Kansas, where Laura Kelly beat Kris Kobach for the governorship, the race hinged on education policy. The dream, maybe even a realistic one, is that going forward it will become politically untenable to siphon funds away from public education. Perhaps the most moving win in the country was that of Jahana Hayes, the National Teacher of the Year in 2016, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District. She will be the first African-American woman to represent her state. “Yesterday marked fifty years since Shirley Chisholm was elected as the first African-American woman to go to Congress,” Hayes said in her acceptance speech. “Today we made history. This history teacher is making history.”
In Oklahoma, Carri Hicks, the newly elected state senator, told me that the aspect of the teacher walkout that meant the most to her was the way that parents got involved. At one point during the strike, when Republican legislators said that they were no longer willing to meet with the teachers, Hicks contacted the heads of various parent-teacher organizations, who volunteered to meet with the lawmakers in their place. “We called those moms and they showed up,” she said. “They sat in meetings for twelve hours—at the end of that day they were sobbing. But they turned their anger into action. They formed P.L.A.C., a Parent Legislative Action Committee.” P.L.A.C. advocates in the state capitol for the parents of public-school children. For years, legislators in Oklahoma could take comfort in the fact that few residents knew their names; now, parents were watching. One evening during her campaign, Hicks was going out to knock on doors, and asked if her husband wanted to come along. “No, Daddy can’t go,” Sawyer, her four-year-old, said. When Hicks and her husband asked why, When Hicks and her husband asked why, Sawyer replied, “That’s mom work.”
“Education is the answer to so many of the world’s problems. I wanted to be part of the solution,” says today’s #TeacherTuesday, Melissa Elison. She teaches seventh grade Language Arts at Upper Merion Area Middle School and is a member of the Upper Merion Education Association.
She believes that “Public schools are at the forefront of exciting, innovative initiatives focused on the education of every child. Differentiated instruction can help all students be successful.” Andshe adds, “The most valuable part of a public school education is the appreciation of diversity and equality, so important in a democratic society.”
Melissa firmly believes that “Public school teachers do not just teach language arts, math, or science. We also teach how to be a productive and caring member of society.”
See the TV spot about Melissa on FOX 29 and let us know about other phenomenal teachers who could be featured in the TV ads too!
On this #TeacherTuesday that’s part of American Education Week, we’re proud to feature Shawn Miscioscia, a seventh-grade science and social studies co-teacher in the Upper Merion Area Middle School and a member of the Upper Merion Education Association. As a special ed teacher, “I share the responsibilities of teaching, planning, adapting and modifying lessons, and tracking of student achievement with a general education teacher in our classroom every day.”
Says Shawn, “My favorite part of being a teacher, especially in the district that I graduated from, is having the opportunity to give back to a community that gave me so much growing up. Each and every day I have the chance to change a student’s life; whether it is academically, socially, or emotionally.”
He believes that every public school provides opportunities for all students, regardless of whether they have disabilities, to be successful in meeting age and grade level curriculum” and loves the fact that students in public school have the chance “to become culturally aware of the diverse communities in which we live and work in every day.”
Nominate another inspiring educator as a #TeacherTuesday, and you can see his or her profile on Fox 29 too!
A theme that continued to pop up in our #TeacherTuesday series was how public schools and public school educators teach much more than the basics – they teach students how to be good citizens, inspire self-confidence and motivate them to become life-long learners. Find out more.
Says Bob, “The overarching question for the government class is… What is the role of government? This question remains there, written on the board, for my students to contemplate. It is for them to decide.” And he continues, “They examine the historical foundations of our United States system of government and the issues as well as the political behaviors of the most recent 90 years, and they critically analyze the information, also evaluating source material.”
Bob adds, “Students learn about the voter registration process as well as the importance of voting.” He further states, “I am inspired by the knowledge that my students are utilizing what they have learned, and that they are making a positive difference.”
Tell us who else is galvanizing their students through their lessons and life, and we’ll feature that educator in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.
Congratulations to Sarah Pribis who is about to be inducted into the Wissahickon Hall of Fame for her work as a professional actress, producer and host. She made her Broadway debut in Les Miserables while attending Wissahickon HS and continued her education at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, double majoring in Theatre and Journalism. She is currently making good use of both majors as one of the hosts for HQ Trivia.
Says Sarah, “Wissahickon had a fantastic performing arts program that fostered my passion, and the faculty really encouraged me to pursue my dreams.” And she added, “Being one of the first high schools to get the rights to put on Les Miserables (my junior year), I was able to get discovered by Broadway talent scouts — that’s just incredible!”
Her previous TV roles include: Bravo’s Dirty John, CBS’s The Bold & the Beautiful, TruTV’s Hack My Life, and several appearances on The Ellen Degeneres Show after an infomercial she starred in went viral. Sarah has also been working on a number of independent film projects including: Clinton Road, Jake & Julia, and Inside Game, and is now writing and producing her own content including her first film, The Consultant.
Visit her website to learn more about Sarah’s incredible journey.
A huge shout-out to North Penn High School senior Moira Shoush — who spent her junior year studying in Toulouse, France — on her outstanding achievements on the Baccalauréate Exam during the 2017-2018 school year.
Moira not only chose to attempt this high-stakes exam used to admit students into French universities, but also scored a 17.75/20 with a mark of “Mention Très Bien,” which translates in English to “Highest Honors/Summa Cum Laude.” For reference, the highest scores of 19 and 20 are incredibly rare. Moira was the very first American at her French school to take the exam and has set an incredible precedent.
Without a passing grade on the French “Bac” exam, a student has a difficult time advancing in the professional world. The “Bac” exam is said to be much more all-encompassing than the American SAT exam.
Congrats to Moira and her teachers, Anya Fuga, left, and Manda Clancy, right, who prepared her so well for this amazing opportunity and accomplishment.
This weeks #TeacherTuesday is a K-6 Instructional Support Teacher that comes from Rolling Hills Elementary School in the Council Rock School District. We learned from her colleagues that she recently stepped into a new position, flawlessly, and that she is a go-to person that approaches each and every situation in a gentle yet strong and calm yet comfortable manner.
Focusing on reaching students with learning differences, meeting the needs of a diverse group of learners in the classroom, and enriching the students who are ready for the extra challenge, our #TT, “Believes that the public education system is great because it nurtures all learners at a level that is just right for them, and that it helps them reach their potential.” We couldn’t say it better ourselves.
So without further ado, we celebrate Colleen Aubel as this weeks Teacher Tuesday, and we thank her for her commitment to helping students learn and grow to the best of their capabilities!
Lise Marlowe is a sixth-grade teacher who’s a member of the Cheltenham Education Association and teaches at Elkins Park School. But beyond that, she’s a remarkable human being whom we are proud to feature as our #TeacherTuesday this week.
Lise has educated her students about the Holocaust for more than 20 years, written three books on local Holocaust survivors, and was the 2006 History Channel’s first recipient of the Teacher of the Year award in 2006. The award, which was presented by First Lady Laura Bush in the White House, recognized her book and film project about a Civil War training camp for African American soldiers located in Cheltenham.
With some of the prize money, Lise hired a Temple University student to film interviews with Holocaust survivors. She says, “I tell my students that when they go off into the world and hear ‘the Holocaust never happened’ from a denier, that they can say, ‘You are lying, because I met a survivor,’ ” she said. “I tell them after they hear a survivor story, that it is now their story to tell to others.”
Let us know what other teachers are making an incredible impact on their students and the greater community, and we’ll feature them in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.
It’s hard to know where to start when talking about global thinker and lifelong learner, Amy Migliore, a Ph.D. candidate, board member of Pennsylvania Art Education Association, frequent conference presenter, and digital design teacher at Quakertown Community High School.
Amy comes from a family of teachers and is the great granddaughter of immigrants from Hungary. She notes, “Initiative and making the most of your assets has always been part of my life’s blueprint. While pursuing my Bachelor’s in Fine Art, I realized that I valued being a champion for others to realize their creative potential, as much as and even more than I loved the media and content with which I was working.” She adds, “I love what I do! Learning with and alongside youth is one of the greatest privileges and thrills in life. Twenty years in education has solidified my belief that teachers are the community’s greatest investors.”
We couldn’t agree more! Let us know who else motivates and inspires your students, and we’ll feature them in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.