—by Christine Beverly, Golden Apple Fellow—
There is much hand wringing over education in New Mexico these days: What’s wrong with New Mexico’s educational system? How can we improve our kids’ reading and math scores? How can we lower the drop out rate and raise the graduation rate? How do we ensure every student across the state receives equitable access to a high quality education? How can we fix what seems to be broken?
If only there were a way to insulate discussions of these questions from entrenched positions and political infighting, to re-focus on the outcomes all New Mexicans want for children in the state. If only there was a way to gather expert stakeholders from across the political spectrum, from across the state, with experience with the rainbow of abilities of our students, and with solely a focus on what happens between students and teachers that leads to learning. No contractual disputes. No bashing of reforms. No incendiary tweets. No playing to the media for the optics of it. Just thoughtful, reasoned discussion…
Dream no longer—such a group exists and is currently functioning in the state today. The Golden Apple Academy of Teachers is a group comprised of Golden Apple award–winning teachers from across the state of New Mexico. Each teacher in the Academy has been through a rigorous vetting process: a nomination from a community member for being outstanding in the classroom; an extensive application reviewed by Golden Apple Foundation volunteers; and a full day site visit for each finalist including observations and interviews of students, parents, colleagues, and administrators.
Yes, folks, this Academy is comprised of some of the top educators in the state. Among the Academy are teachers of all grade levels (K-12), of all ability levels (Special Education-Advanced Placement), of all regions of the state, and of all ethnicities. They are the teachers from the schools that your own children or grandchildren attend. And they are the educational leaders in those schools.
And here’s the kicker: this Academy has not been formed to represent the special interests of teachers or students or parents. This group’s sole focus is to improve teaching and learning across the state. It seeks to serve policy makers by acting as a sounding board before policies are finalized and by reflecting the effect of policies at the school after they are enacted. It seeks to serve New Mexico educational systems by identifying and spreading best practices for classrooms and schools, and by mentoring novice teachers.
As New Mexico approaches another election season, the Golden Apple Academy of Teachers will be here to offer candidates what we can only hope they all seek: the attentive ears and impartial advice of those who have served and are still serving thousands of children across this beautiful state.