Kimberly Shearer

Kimberly Shearer

Dear Commissioner,

It’s good to be back in the Bluegrass! I just returned from Dallas, where I participated in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year conference. For five days, I worked alongside the state Teachers of the Year from all across the country. It was a remarkable learning experience for me, as I engaged in meaningful discussion with some of the best educators in the nation.

The value of our time together and the impact our collaboration will have on our students are immense. There was change in the air, and if you listened closely to the excited chatter in those conference rooms, you would hear one phrase repeated often: “Go ask Kentucky.”

Kentucky – that was me! And I have never been prouder to represent our state. The incredible ways we support education in Kentucky, and the courage we have to do what’s best for students, has made us a model for the reimagining of education in our nation.   

Want to know not just what the Common Core Standards are, but what they look like in practice? “Go ask Kentucky.” We were the first to adopt and implement the Common Core Standards, telling the nation we want all students to be college and career ready. Information literacy, collaboration, critical thinking – we know these transferable skill sets will empower our students to be successful in the 21st century. We want thinkers. We want problem-solvers. We want students who are creative, innovative and so much more than answers on a bubble-sheet.

Want to see a model for a teacher evaluation system that recognizes true learning and quality instruction that cannot be reduced to a student’s standardized test score? “Go ask Kentucky.” Our draft for the new teacher evaluation system provides teachers with choice in documenting instruction. It celebrates technology, collaboration and leadership. Just as we hope to empower our students, we know that we must empower teachers to be innovative in the classroom. And we know that accountability systems that rely primarily on test scores have no understanding of what the Common Core movement represents.

I wanted to thank you, Commissioner, for making Kentucky a model for the nation. As all the Teachers of the Year came together this past week, we asked questions, we listened and we aspired to affect change. The only difference between Kentucky and the other states may be that my job is easier than most – they want to start a revolution, but ours has already begun.

Please continue to make Kentucky a model for the nation, and please continue to work for funding and policy that support innovation in the classroom. Rick Melmer, dean of the School of Education at the University of South Dakota, said that good administrators “don’t mess with people who are dedicated.” Kentucky is like a good administrator. We know our teachers are dedicated, and we strive to support them in their endeavors because we know the students are the ones who benefit most. And what we really want, when others ask how to put students first, is for the nation to reply, “Go ask Kentucky.”

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.