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Here's why teachers should always be at the table. The Arizona TeacherSolutions Team embodies a concept that is at the heart of the Arizona K12 Center’s work: Teachers should be at the table. Whether that table is where education policy is being designed or where new ideas about teaching and learni

Nov 02, 2015

Here's why teachers should always be at the table.


The Arizona TeacherSolutions Team embodies a concept that is at the heart of the Arizona K12 Center’s work: Teachers should be at the table. Whether that table is where education policy is being designed or where new ideas about teaching and learning are being hatched, teachers must be there, be participating, and be heard.

With that in mind, the Arizona K12 Center brings together 20 teacher leaders every year — some returning year after year, and some new—to tackle challenges in education, and to provide a community of teacher leadership that is conducive to sharing and growing. The Arizona TeacherSolutions Team plays a major role in the Center’s annual Teacher Leadership Institute, but the members’ contributions stretch far beyond those three days in June.

Robbie Ramirez and Elizabeth Rushton, two Arizona TeacherSolutions Team members, exemplify the spirit of the group. Ramirez is a National Board Certified Teacher and an Arizona Master Teacher/Mentor. She works in curriculum, instruction and professional development in the Tucson Unified School District’s office of the deputy superintendent. Rushton spent the 2013-2014 school year as a GEAR UP grant coordinator, and next year will be an instructional specialist at Bradshaw Mountain Middle School in the Humboldt Unified School District.

Both have been involved in the TeacherSolutions Team since its inception, and both remain highly active on the team.

“At the beginning, it was the idea of, ‘how are we going to be a voice for all other teachers for Arizona?’” Rushton said. “We had to start thinking broadly about Arizona, outside the realm of the classroom.”

Members of the Arizona TeacherSolutions Team, like Rushton and Ramirez, have had the opportunity to participate in round-table discussions with the U.S. Department of Education, speak to university students about the teaching profession, participate in State Superintendent John Huppenthal’s Teacher Advisory Group, lead and promote the Arizona K12 Center’s Ed Week…Every Week! discussions, and more this year. Additionally, they are able to bring their learning around policy and teacher leadership back to their own districts.

“It has given me the opportunity to bring forth some great professional development ideas and opportunities,” Rushton said. “Before, I didn’t really have that conduit. It’s given me the confidence to go to other teachers and say, ‘there’s this opportunity,’ or ‘here’s this article.’ I can bring some different ideas and thoughts to the classroom.”

Additionally, both women attest to the fact that the Arizona TeacherSolutions Team offers support and camaraderie for teacher leaders in Arizona.

“I feel like I’m part of a community—a family—with a common focus and a common theme of making education the best that it possibly can be in Arizona,” Rushton said.

“The relationships we have built are amazing, in the sense that we’ve really become better listeners, focusing on understanding rather than just hearing, and valuing those different opinions,” Ramirez said. “You get very few opportunities where you can walk into a group of people and say what you’re really thinking and feeling.”

Both are enthusiastic about continuing their own teacher leadership as part of the TeacherSolutions Team, and sharing with others at the Teacher Leadership Institute and beyond.

“I think the Institute is just one step on our journey to show teachers what they can do within their circle of influence, how they can start those conversations, and how to start thinking beyond their own school and district,” Ramirez said.

Learn more about the TeacherSolutions Team here.

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