Zombies, teaching and Kentucky education’s bright future

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I just spent the past hour looking for zombie movie clips on YouTube. My English III students are studying allegory, and I found an interesting article that discusses the relationship between allegory and zombie films.

The whole notion behind allegories — that a story can have one meaning on the surface and an entirely different meaning below the surface — has hit pretty close to home for me this past week. Just days ago, I stood on a platform in the Capitol Rotunda and was named the 2012 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. After spending all day meeting and speaking with Kentucky educators, I realized, like any good zombie movie, there are two layers to public education: the scary, horrific side that the public sees on the surface and the reality that is too often hidden from plain sight.

We’re all well aware of the negativity that has surrounded public education in recent months, and if you are like me, you have probably felt helpless and frustrated that the public does not see what you see in your classrooms and in your schools. The public hears about corrupt politicians, overzealous unions and replaceable teachers who can’t come together for the good of the student. That’s not the Kentucky education system we know — in fact, the reality is the exact opposite. We know the high-quality instruction that goes on in our classrooms and in our colleagues’ classrooms. And after spending this past week getting to know educators, politicians and business leaders from across the state, I cannot help but feel proud and optimistic about the present and future of Kentucky education. We put the needs of our students first, and sooner or later, if we continue to work together, that reality will begin to overshadow the scary facade that unfortunately has become the face of public education.

I believe in Kentucky education because my life revolves around it. I’ve taught 11th-grade English at Boone County High School for all seven years of my teaching career. My husband, Jason, is an assistant principal at another school in my district, and he was a social studies teacher prior to that. We both have spent the past seven years working on our Rank I and Rank II degrees. Our two daughters, Mila and Stella, both attend an elementary school in our district. We invest ourselves, our lives, in Kentucky education, and we know there is no safer, surer investment.

I begin my tenure as 2012 Kentucky Teacher of Year excited for the months to come. I cannot wait to meet more of my colleagues across the state, and I am honored to represent such amazing educators. We stand miles away from the negativity that is currently surrounding our profession, and I know that our efforts make a difference in the lives of our students. And after spending an hour searching through zombie clips for my lesson tomorrow, I walk away with an important reminder: those brain-eating zombies might start off strong in the beginning of the movie, but the good guys always win in the end.

Kimberly Shearer, an English teacher at Boone County High School, was named the 2012 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 18, 2011. During her year-long reign, Shearer is writing a monthly column for Kentucky Teacher that chronicles her experiences as a classroom teacher and as Kentucky Teacher of the Year. The column runs the second Thursday of each month.

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