Picture of members of KDE's Teachers Advisory Council sitting around tables during a meeting.

The Kentucky Department of Education’s Teachers Advisory Council met on March 7, discussing advocacy efforts related to teacher retention.
Photo by Toni Konz Tatman, March 7, 2023

2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Mandy Perez joined the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) Teachers Advisory Council (TAC) on March 7 to discuss advocacy efforts related to teacher retention.

Perez, a 6th-grade English language arts teacher at Crittenden County Middle School, is currently on sabbatical at KDE as a part of her Teacher of the Year achievement and is using part of her platform to encourage teachers to “shine a light” on why they choose to stay in the classroom.

“Our voices are more important than ever,” she said.

2020 Kentucky Elementary School Teacher of the Year Melanie Callahan, a teacher in Laurel County, said she enjoyed Perez’s messaging and agreed that teachers being present where education decisions are being made can improve the overall visibility of the profession.

“Shine a light on why we do choose to stay is a beautiful way to put that,” said Callahan. “It does sometimes seem like teaching is a dark place, so by shining a light, we are showing that hope.”

Perez invited teachers to share their own ideas for teacher retention strategies. Carla Criswell, a teacher from Christian County, said district support has shifted to recruiting teachers and not retaining teachers.

“A lot of districts are offering money to have for people to go back to school, but what about the teachers that have their masters? What are the incentives there?” she said.

Criswell believes districts would retain more teachers by “offering incentives for them to continue on,” similar to incentives offered to new teachers.

McCracken County teacher Chad Davidson said a new statewide teacher mentor program would help teachers stay instead of leaving after the first few years. According to Davidson, one of the biggest areas of support teacher leaders could offer is behavior management.

“With now, if you have a new teacher that comes into the building, they are fish flopping out of the water unless their team is helping them,” said Davidson.

Kennita Ballard, a teacher in Jefferson County, agreed with Davidson and said mentorship should come with adequate compensation for teacher leaders. Ballard said teacher leaders take on more responsibilities and leave their jobs because there are places outside of education that are giving “compensation for the investment people (are) putting into their jobs.”

Perez encouraged the teachers to explore tools for advocacy, such as letters, policy groups, verbal and written testimonies, op-eds, social media and memos.

“As teachers, you stand at the intersection of policy and practice. Your voice counts, your voice matters and it needs to be heard,” said Perez.

Visual Performing Arts Standards Update

KDE Arts Consultant Jessica Greene from the Office of Teaching and Learning joined TAC to discuss an update to the visual performing arts standards revision process. The process began in December 2021, with implementation set for the 2024-2025 school year.

Currently, committee meetings are being conducted to develop the layout of the standards. Once the committee reviews the standards, it will go back to an advisory panel for review and then up for one more round of public comments.

Callahan, a theater teacher, said it’s important to help KDE receive public comment on the standards.

“I think it’s important we hype those standards and really have everyone on board,” said Callahan. “Reading and math and English get so much feedback and there is so much awareness about them. I just really want to encourage that endorsement from the KDE.”

Council members advocated for districts to receive more funding to offer arts programs. Russell County teacher Donnie Wilkerson said that many districts would be glad to implement the standards, but don’t have the money to hire a dedicated arts educator.

“Every school should have at least one arts educator in their building and we don’t have that right now across the state, especially in the rural areas,” he said.

Greene said that once the standards are complete, information will be disseminated through social media, statewide education groups and newsletters.

In other business, the council:

  • Selected members to serve on the selection committee for the 2023-2024 nonvoting Kentucky Board of Education teacher member. The TAC committee will review the nine submitted applications and select three candidates to forward to the KBE for consideration at its April regular meeting;
  • Heard an update from Associate Commissioner Byron Darnall on the 2023 legislative session;
  • Heard an update from Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass on United We Learn, the state’s vision for the future of public education; and

Received a debrief on the 2023 Kentucky Educators Rising state conference, held March 2 at Bellarmine University in Louisville. Over 500 students from across the state gathered to compete, attend workshops and network with fellow aspiring educators.