November is often considered as a month of thankfulness. With Thanksgiving and the official start of the holiday season, November is a good time to remember all of the positive things that have happened in our lives.
First, I want to say thank you to all of the people who have reached out to me and provided support and encouragement since I took over as interim commissioner on Sept. 30. Although I have served at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) for a while now as associate commissioner in the Office of Finance and Operations, the move to interim commissioner is a big one and your encouragement and support has been appreciated.
I also want to thank the staff at KDE. I think that often we do not recognize the depth and breadth of knowledge of the staff here at the Sower Building in Frankfort. They are dedicated professionals who have extensive experience in their field and are dedicated to the students our schools and districts serve every day. As the Kentucky Board of Education searches for the next commissioner of education, the services we provide to your students, schools and districts will not change.
I want to thank the Education Professional Standards Board and the General Assembly for their work in trying to expand the ways people can find their path into teaching. Over the past few years, we have increased the number of pathways available to people who are not going the traditional way of entering college after high school and earning a degree in education. Some people find their passions later in life, and we should welcome them and the experience they bring into the classroom.
I also want to thank our school and district leaders. I know the roles you play are not easy ones – filled with long days, big demands on your time and numerous challenges – but know that you are an essential part of the services provided to Kentucky’s students.
I want to say a big thank you to our non-certified staff. You are often the unsung heroes of our school buildings. You are the ones who keep the buildings safe and comfortable, keep our students fed and healthy, get our students to school and answer phones all day long. You usually are the first face people see when they come into our buildings. Thank you for your service year after year.
I want to thank our 45,000 educators who are with our students every day to help them learn the skills they will need to forge their own way in life. Not only do you impart knowledge to our students; you are also there to provide a kind word to the student who needs it. You watch out for how your students are doing academically, socially and emotionally.
When thinking about why our teachers do what they do, I like to go back to something our 2023 Teacher of the Year Mandy Perez wrote earlier this year about why she chooses to stay in the classroom.
“I chose to become a teacher because I wanted to make a difference,” she wrote. “I still want to be the person who creates positive changes in the lives of the students who come in my class. I yearn to see the sparkle and magic of the ‘aha’ moments when I help a student achieve a learning breakthrough. I’ve never given up on a student and I have no intention of doing so.”
That dedication and desire to help Kentucky’s children is why we do what we do every day at KDE.
And finally, I want to thank our families. Thank you for trusting your children to our public schools. Thank you for attending open houses and taking your students to the school book fair. Thank you for answering the call when we or your local school or district ask for help at an event or input on a council.
Collaborating with communities is one of the three big ideas of United We Learn, Kentucky’s vision for education in the Commonwealth. By working together, we can better meet the needs of the Commonwealth’s children. Please know that KDE stands ready to continue working with you and seeking your input on major education decisions.
Even though the world can sometimes seem overwhelming, there are many things to be thankful for this November.