The first time I met Jennifer Brown of Vestavia Hills high school was at the annual Alabama Teacher of the Year event last spring. I congratulated her, wished her well and headed for home, never thinking what the next few months would bring and how much I would interact with her and come to know her well.
She has probably been the most active TOY we’ve ever had. She has traveled thousands of miles visiting schools and encouraging teachers across the state. But I have little doubt that her biggest impact has been at the statehouse weighing in on legislation, especially the RAISE/PREP Act. She is a science teacher and passionate about what she teaches, about her students and about her fellow teachers. Like the average citizen, her knowledge of the political process 12 months ago was very limited to say the least.
She has now communicated with many legislators, especially those in the Senate where the RAISE/PREP bill has yet to be introduced on the Senate floor. She was there to testify on March 8th when the Senate Education & Youth Affairs committee held a public hearing and then voted 5-4 in favor of the bill.
And along this journey she came to realize one thing very clearly–the average legislator has little knowledge of what is going on in our schools these days.
“Educators have just not been proactive in letting lawmakers know what we are doing,” she says. “And how can they know unless we get them in our schools and classrooms.”
If Jennifer is anything, she is a doer. And she is now on a mission to get as many legislators to visit her school as she can. So far, she’s had four house members and one senator spend several hours visiting classes, asking questions of students and talking to teachers.
“It’s been super,” she says. “Feedback from both lawmakers and school folks has been outstanding. And my overarching message to the legislators is that there is an abundance of knowledge in our schools and when they have questions about education, they should turn to their local experts (teachers and principals) before they listen to anyone else.”
Who can argue that point.
Here is a report about her latest outing with Birmingham area legislators.
This is the kind of effort we need throughout the state.