Make an educator your valentine this year


by Brian Washington/photo courtesy of Lisa Clarke

Without a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day? Below are several stories about stand out educators who may inspire you to show some love to the men and women who are helping our children achieve their best in our public schools.

Sara Ferguson, a teacher with the Chester Upland School District

If you work in a public school, chances are you already know just how much educators are willing to sacrifice for their students. And now thanks in part to Sara Ferguson, a teacher with the Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania, millions of people who watch The Ellen Show may understand as well. Ferguson appeared on the show to talk about what was happening in her district—where severe state budget cuts made it unable to meet payroll for its teachers, support professionals and administrators.  However, the Chester Upland Education Association, the Chester Upland Education Support Personnel Association, affiliates of the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the National Education Association banded together to keep the schools running—even if it meant deferring compensation—so that the students of this predominantly low-income community would continue to receive an education.

“Every child deserves the right to attend a great public school, and they need to have a good teacher in front of them,” Ferguson told host Ellen DeGeneres, whose show is watched daily by about 3 million people.

Ferguson, who was also First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest during President Obama’s State of the Union address, said she was proud to represent the passionate and dedicated educators of her district. Talks with the state are currently underway in an attempt to solve the district’s budget problems while a temporary deal is in place and, so far, no employees have missed a paycheck.

Dave Arnold, Support Professional and Columnist

Child labor laws are designed to keep our children safe—a fact that is apparently lost on GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, who recently proposed firing public school janitors and replacing them with children. Fortunately, Dave Arnold, a custodian in the Brownstone Community School District in Illinois, was on hand to set Mr. Gingrich straight. Arnold, who is a former ESP of the Year, used his column—“Dave’s View”—to outline the job risks custodians face on a regular basis and why assuming children can easily take on these responsibilities is foolish.

“Uninformed folk, and Mr. Gingrich, are unlikely aware, for one thing, of the job hazards custodians face—particularly with the chemicals and equipment they work with everyday,” said Arnold. “That’s a money and liability question I would have thought he’d consider.”

Arnold is using his column to give voice to other ESPs who work in our public schools. In his column about Gingrich, he shared the stories of other custodians who take pride in their work and disagreed with Gingrich.

Natalie Passarelli, a Junior at Ohio State University

Who says college students don’t care about politics? That’s certainly not the case with Natalie Passarelli, a future educator who is now a Junior at Ohio State University. In addition to working part-time and carrying a 20-hour course load, Natalie also found time to organize hundreds of students on her campus to work against an Ohio ballot initiative last year that would have harmed children attending public schools.

“If I step back and am not involved in political action, I’m going to hurt myself and my students,” said Passarelli. “You’re not just fighting for your rights but for your students’ rights.”

Ohio voters defeated Issue 2 in November. Meanwhile, in addition to to her coursework and job, Passarelli is doing her part to make sure public education students have a bright future.

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