As a teacher with 34 years of experience here in Utah, I know the rewards and the challenges our public school teachers face each day. It is from this perspective and through daily communication with dedicated classroom teachers across this state that I share my thoughts and hopes on the upcoming legislative session.
Utah teachers recognize the enormous responsibility our lawmakers have in carrying out the business of our state. The members of the Utah Education Association stand ready to engage in positive conversations surrounding public education and our efforts to create a great public school for every child. We know that mutual respect and collaboration make a difference for our children. Education excellence is everyone's responsibility.
We have seen what can happen when the voice of the teacher is respected and valued during the legislative session. Last year, Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, listened to Utah teachers and together with the UEA and other education stakeholders, he crafted a landmark public education employment reform bill, which was signed into law. This bill raised the bar for administrators and teachers and had overwhelming support from legislators and the entire education community.
It is important that our policymakers take into account the current morale of our educator workforce. Our teachers have been inundated with literally hundreds of new rules, mandates and "reforms" in recent years, which they have worked tirelessly to execute.
But what I hear over and over again is that these policies are outpacing the capacity of superintendents, administrators and teachers to execute them with integrity and fidelity. I urge our legislators to refrain from mandating major new education proposals and give teachers the needed time, resources and professional development to ensure successful implementation of those initiatives already underway.
Our primary focus must be on students, but we cannot forget those who are charged with the sacred duty of educating those students: the teachers.
Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh is president of the Utah Education Association, a national board-certified teacher with more than 30 years experience in Utah public schools and the 2009 Utah Teacher of the Year.