When school opens this fall, I will begin my 48th year of teaching. What a long, strange trip it’s been. I actually retired twelve years ago, but the passion for teaching didn’t retire. I still substitute teach and usually have several students I tutor on an individual basis.
I began teaching English at Litchfield High School in 1969. At that time I was a wife and mother of two small children. My husband was a pipeline welder, and we owned a small farm, growing corn and soy beans, and raising pigs. I would never have been able to attend SIU at Edwardsville if it had not been for federal loans awarded to students who promised to teach in economically depressed districts for a certain number of years to repay the money.
Where are those innovative types of financial help now? One of the reasons I am supporting Carl Spoerer is to ensure we have a voice in Washington which will call for more realistic kinds of financial aid for low income students, non-traditional students, and retraining aid for displaced workers. What we see now is a kind of “one size fits all” financial aid that burdens students with debt, even before they begin their careers. Instead we should design financial aid programs built around local and regional needs. When we care about investing in low income and nontraditional students, allowing them to share their talents within our communities, we all benefit. This is a win-win situation for all school districts-urban, suburban and rural. Our schools will improve, more workers will be added to the taxpayer rolls, and local economies will thrive. Instead of looking at a voucher system which diverts resources from the public schools, we will be sharing the talent within our own communities and truly caring about our children.
When I began teaching, I spent some time talking to one of my own favorite teachers, a wise and brilliant educator. After I enthusiastically rattled on and on about how excited I was to be in my first classroom. She said, “Keep your ideals. You’re going to need them.” Mrs. Neylon was right. I did keep them, and I did need them. So many adventures ahead.
A constant on this journey has been an active support of political candidates who understand the importance of education in our democracy and who will use their voices to advocate for teachers, students, and their families. I believe Carl Spoerer will be that voice.