Public School Proud…Georgetown visit a reminder that first we are human.

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Denmark and meet with union leaders to discuss their education system.  Though much has stuck with me from that trip, the piece that stands out foremost in my mind is their underlying philosophy about teaching children – the notion that “first we are human.”

I was reminded of that core philosophy when I visited Georgetown Exempted Village Schools a few weeks ago.  Full disclosure, I must first confess that Georgetown is the town where I spent my entire life before becoming President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.  I graduated from Georgetown and taught at Georgetown, my husband graduated from Georgetown as well as taught and coached there, and my five children all graduated from Georgetown, so I have deep roots in the system.  Of course, anytime you have spent a lifetime somewhere, you accumulate both good and bad memories, so I tried to approach this visit with a fresh set of eyes.  After all, approximately half the staff has turned over since I left six years ago though several of those spots have been filled with students I once taught.

You can’t help but feel welcome as soon as you walk through the doors at either building.  In the high school, you will be greeted by Christy Lucas who has lived in Georgetown her entire life, probably already knows everyone who walks through the doors, and treats them all as if they are family.  In the elementary, you will be greeted by Karen Colwell, whose warm smile and genuine love for kids makes everyone feel immediately at home. The warmth these two show visitors to the schools is multiplied in the care and attention that they give the students who come to the office for multiple reasons – sometimes even just to get encouragement from one of these ladies.

The overall atmosphere in each school is also inviting.  In the elementary school, the walls along the hallways are covered with impressive art work done by the students – so impressive that I stopped in unannounced to compliment the art teacher Lynette Garrett, on the quality of work.  Her art room is a treasure trove of materials used to engage the students in art projects.  She clearly loves teaching art and has inspired her students.

The jr./sr high school has transformed its library – my former space – into a student learning/resource  center.  The space is designed not only for comfort, but also for learning with an area for classroom presentations and a large whiteboard covered with information about college visits, scholarship information, and other items to help students think about their futures.

In the elementary school, teachers are experimenting with flexible seating options, as evidenced in some of the pictures above.  The idea behind this is that optimal learning doesn’t necessarily take place when students are sitting in traditional desks in straight rows but rather when students are comfortable and can adjust according to their needs.  For example, many students are kinesthetic learners and learn not only learn through motion but can also concentrate better when they can fidget a little – kind of like an adult who doodles or clicks a pen.  Seats that look like bouncy balls can provide that movement without being a disruption to the rest of the class.  Also, flexible space within the classroom allows for students to work together in different types of groupings or even find isolated space for when they need to minimize distractions and focus alone.  I, admittedly, was a little skeptical of how these type of classrooms might function because I was imagining a classroom management nightmare, but after observing 6th-grade math teacher Molly Ellis in action, it was clear that not only did she have command of the room, but the students were actually deeply engaged in figuring out a complex word problem with fractions.  This type of atmosphere fits in well with the notion that first we are human – instead of treating everyone the same, the space accommodates the different comfort levels and learning styles of students.

Physical space is just one of the aspects of putting students first though.  The deeper aspect of this is how the teachers interact with the students.  Georgetown, like several schools I have visited, has an advisory period during each day that they use to build mentoring relationships with the students.  The elementary has advisory once a week, but the middle school and high school have it every day.  Each week, the advisory groups throughout the whole district focus on some type of personal characteristic or social responsibility.  For example, when I visited, they were discussing leadership.  Prior to that , they had discussed responsible use of social media.   The week starts with a video message from the superintendent about the topic of the week.  The advisory group then discusses the concept more in-depth with the teacher and ends the week by talking about examples they saw throughout the week.  During the week, the advisory teacher meets with each student individually to check on the progress being made in all classes but also to identify if the student is struggling in any way or just needs to talk about an issue.  This type of relationship is intended to provide each student with at least one caring adult who is checking in with him or her on a human level and showing an interest in that student as a person.  I had the opportunity to observe Heather Bertram’s advisory period which was rich with discussion about the many different ways to display leadership and the people they viewed as leaders within the school.  The conversation was very open and fluid which indicates to me that the students have trust in Heather and feel comfortable have open conversation in that advisory space.

After Heather’s advisory period, I also talked with her about the additional work she and another colleague, Krista Cahall, do with younger students in the system. They run a program called Girl Strong (check it out on Facebook or Twitter – @GEVSGirlStrong).  Originally started as a program to get girls in grades 3-6 physically active, the group has grown into a mentoring program where Heather and Krista work with students  in grades 9-12 to provide mentorship to the younger girls in the Girl Strong program.  In addition to staying physically active, the girls work on various projects and raise money for special causes.  More importantly though, this group, which includes over 90% of the girls in grades 3-6 has become a  place where girls can be a part of something bigger than themselves, build friendships, and have positive role models.  In addition, the older girls providing the mentorship are learning the value of giving their time to help others, and will tell you themselves, as I heard one senior express, that they think twice about their own decisions now because they know they have younger students looking up to them.


I started the afternoon by visiting Rachel Bishop’s kindergarten class.  I try to do this anytime I am back in Georgetown schools because Rachel has always amazed me a teacher.  Several of my own children had her as a teacher, so I have seen her skills from the parent perspective.  As someone who worked with her in the school though, I can attest to her ability to both command respect from the children while also nurturing them and helping them to develop confidence in their learning abilities.  Somehow, she could walk into the library after I would read a rousing rendition of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus that would get the students very rambunctious and somehow within three seconds have the students quiet and ready to move on their next activity.  And her students adore her.   During this visit, Rachel’s students demonstrated their counting abilities – all the way to 100- and also taught me everything they knew about the letter “Y.”

After finishing in Rachel’s room, I went to Molly Ellis’ sixth-grade math class.  They were studying fractions.  Earlier in the week, I had testified before the House Education Committee about Ohio’s Learning Standards and had been drilled by some legislators about “new math” (funny that people have been talking about new math for 50 years), and had specifically been asked why students are asked to demonstrate their math work through different models.  I wish those legislators could have observed Molly’s class with me.  The class watched a short video math problem in which a container of Kool-Aid was partially emptied into another container.  The class had to estimate how much was left and give answers in different fractions.  After spending some time discussing whether the estimates looked too high or too low, they moved to the next part of the problem.  In this part, they were told that the original amount of fluid was 1/2 liter and that 3/8 of a liter was left.  They then had to use models to figure out how much had been poured out. I thought I could do this problem in my head, as I’m sure did many of the students.  AS the students started drawing the problem out though, I could see, as could Molly, where many of us were making a mistake.  The models, as well as the manipulatives that Molly used, helped the students visualize the concepts they were working with.  Instead of just applying a math formula, they could see how the numbers interacted with each other and why an answer was right or wrong.  Molly was able to coach the students through their work instead of just showing them how to work a problem by writing it on the board and trying to explain the concept.  This style of teaching will help build a stronger foundation for much higher level math down the road because students are actually developing an understanding of deeper concepts rather than just memorizing math facts.

I wish, as I wish every time I end a day at a school, that I had had more time to see more classes.  I know that what I saw while visiting Georgetown was just the tip of the iceberg of all that is happening, but that tip was impressive.  High-quality teaching combined with treating the students with individual care and attention is laying a foundation for future success.

Georgetown teachers, thank you for understanding that while academic achievement is important, caring about kids and teaching them how to interact with each other, care about each other, and work with each other is the underlying structure that allows for that success to happen.

Though this visit was back on Nov. 3, it is now the day before Thanksgiving. (yes – I am way behind on my blogs.  I have done two visits since this which I will be writing about over the course of the next few days.)  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to say “Thank you” to some special people I saw while in Georgetown but did not get to spend much time with:

John Copas – thank you for believing in my ability to move on to this job even when I had given up on myself

Chad McKibben – one of my enduring memories is the night my step-father passed away. I was at a basketball game at the school when I found out and rushed immediately to the hospital.  I don’t know how you found out so quickly, but when I got out of my car at the hospital, you were pulling up behind me to check on me.  Thank you!

Deanne Cooper – I miss seeing you and talking with you.  Thank you for always being a good friend.

Tuesday Nichols – I always admired not only your great teaching but also your kind spirit.  Thank you for being a positive influence.

Heidi Hyde – Thank you for always making me laugh and for always stopping in to see how you and your students could help me.

Tanja Haughaboo – Whenever I ask my children to list best teachers, you are always on that list.  Thank you for making school challenging yet interesting for my children.

Donna DeVries – Even before you became a teacher, your presence in the school had a strong impact on my children.  Thank you.

Carrie Hudson – I do not know anyone who works as hard as you but you are still always smiling.  Thank you for being a role model for me.

Karen Colwell – It would take a book to thank you for all the ways you have touched my life and the lives of my children- plus I’d probably have to share some embarrassing stories.  Thank you!  Love You!

Rachel Bishop – Most dependable person I have ever met in my life.  Thank you for everything you have ever done for me.  Really miss you.

Donna Day – Such a beautiful spirit.  Thank you for your gentleness and kindness.

GiGi Grant – I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to a lot of places, but no trip will ever mean as much to me as the one you let me take with you.  Thank you for your friendship and for continuing to check up on me periodically even now.

Christy Lucas – Not enough words.  You have been such a positive influence on my whole family.  Thanks for always caring.

Cary Gray – I always enjoy seeing you.  Thanks for always taking an interest in my family and for being someone my children continue to want to stay in contact with.

Holly Woodruff – Wish I could have actually talked with you while I was in Georgetown.  Thank you for being that teacher who makes students think.  And thank you for all the investment you have made in Georgetown schools.  Every time I think of you, I smile.

Brent Caldwell – Why didn’t I see you?  You are another teacher my children list as a favorite.  Thank you for being a positive male role model.

Faith Ecker – I didn’t see you either.  Thank you for your friendship.

Matt Cameron – You are such a great guy.  Wish I could have talked with you while there. Thank you for stepping in for me after I left, and thank you for all the laughs over the years.

Dee Dee Faust – I didn’t get to see you either.  Thank you for all you have done through the years at Georgetown and for always being a friendly person to talk to.

Rachael Osman – You are an amazing leader and teacher!  Just this week, I was bragging about you to someone in Columbus.  Thank you for taking the union work at Georgetown to  new levels.  You impress me!

Gar Seigla – If you made it all the way to the bottom of this blog, then you truly are a good friend!   I’m glad that there was still a door across the hall from you when I was at Georgetown.  Having you there to listen to me vent on bad days or to share a laugh with on good days was one of the best parts of being at Georgetown.   Thank you for always being a good friend (and for rescuing me that day when I was screaming for help!).  I truly miss you!

Tony Becraft – I know we lost you years ago, but there is no way I can step into that school ( or even drive into the town) without thinking about you.  You were Georgetown schools to literally hundreds (thousands?) of students.  You always took the time to really get to know your students and to treat them as important individuals.  You truly cared, and your students felt that.  Thank you for all the laughs, all the encouragement, all the friendship you gave me in the too short time that I knew you.

I apologize for those I am sure that I have missed. So many of you have had a positive impact on my life.  Thank you all and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Interested in having OFT visit your classroom?  Contact Jill Jones to schedule a visit.






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Public School Proud… social interactions a key part of learning at New Knoxville


On Thursday,  Oct. 26, I had the opportunity to visit New Knoxville Schools.  What a fun day!  As you can tell from the pictures, Thursday was costume day.  This just added a special touch to all the learning that was happening.

New Knoxville is a small school ( a little over 400 students) in Auglaize County.  Coming from a small town myself, I loved the feeling of being back in a school where a student can  walk through the halls and be known by almost every teacher in the building because that teacher has either taught him, or his brother, sister, mother, father, and so on.  Knowing each other, working with each other, supporting each other seemed to be the culture of the school that naturally flowed throughout all the instruction that I saw.

I started the day in Linda Wolf’s 4th-grade classroom where students were getting ready for the school wide Read-Together.  After morning announcements, all the students in the school went to the gym where younger students were paired with older students to share a favorite  book.  This opportunity was not only exciting for the younger students but was also a way for the older students to be a positive example to those students following in their footsteps.

After the reading time, we went back to the 4th-grade classroom to watch the students presenting the poems they had memorized.  I was quite delighted to see that students not only recited the poems, but did so theatrically with lots of expressions and emotion.  The students then paired off  to do a Flipgrid video of their book club book.  Since the students paired with someone who had not read the same book, this gave them an opportunity to promote a different book to a classmate while also creating  video that the teachers and other students could also watch later.

I next visited Kim Crow’s 7th-grade classroom where students were beginning a brand-new STEM class (they affectionately referred to themselves as the guinea pigs).  This 9-weeks class was beginning the quarter by breaking down “design theory” so that they can later apply that to working with others in the class to solve problems by designing solutions.  One of their first projects is going to be working within a team to design a structure with only cardboard and tape that would hold the weight of a kindergartner.  And since they have kindergartners in the same building, they can actually test their designs out on site.  What a fun way not only for older students to creatively solve problems but also for younger students to get excited about learning by being a part of  what older students are doing.

The next stop was in Kelly Mele’s 1st-grade classroom.  First-grade is one of my favorite grades because of the enthusiasm of children at that age.  At the same time, I am always in awe of teachers who can get a classroom of students engaged in several different learning opportunities all at the same time.  It is astounding to me how much is going on in one of these classrooms at any given point in time.  While there, we watched a group of students go through their calendar time.  If you have never observed this happening in a first grade classroom, you should try to watch sometime.  Led by a student, the children went through days of the week, months of the year, letters of the alphabet, math problems using calendar dates, and so much more.  Again, mind-boggling how much is actually happening.

After doing their calendar session the students practiced counting to 100 by 2’s by singing and dancing along with a video.  This fun activity allowed them to get up and move around a little bit while also practicing a math concept that had been challenging for several of the students.

Before leaving, I spent some time talking with Jenny Heitkamp, the guidance counselor, about how New Knoxville is connecting students with career options.  New Knoxville students have several opportunities to explore career options.  In the 8th-grade, students make their first trip to Tri-Star, the local Career Tech Center.  As 9th-graders, they can be part of the Career Academy which works with the local Chamber of Commerce to host various career-related sessions throughout the year.  The Business Tech class, taught by Karla Eilerman, focuses on the skills students need to be successful in the workplace. Field trips to places such as the Honda plant and local medical facilities also provide exposure to various career options.

As juniors and seniors, students can attend a Talent Connection Forum hosted by the Auglaize-Mercer Business Education Alliance.  Prior to attending, students fill out a career interest survey.  Organizers use this survey to connect students to the area business people who participate in the forum.  Students get the opportunity to talk with people in the career field to discover if this is really a career option they want to pursue or not.  About 85% – 90% of students participate.

Thank you to New Knoxville Education Association President Linda Wolf for arranging his visit for us.  This visit reinforced that learning is about so much more than memorizing content.  Learning is about interacting with others, sharing knowledge, encouraging and supporting each other, designing and problem-solving together, singing and dancing to help embed knowledge, connecting with community for discovering career passions.  Learning is a social activity.  Thank you, New Knoxville, for building up this social component.

Next stop…Georgetown Exempted Village Schools.  Interested in having us visit your school to see the positive impact you are having on students?  Click here to contact Jill Jones.




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Public School Proud… Technology integration at Genoa highlights first stop on school visit tour

There is a bounty of wonderfully awe inspiring work being done in schools and classrooms across Ohio. I spent much of August and September travelling around the state to meet with the presidents of our OFT locals. At every visit, I was inspired not only by the union work these leaders were doing for our locals and members, but also by the stories they told me about the engaging work of our members in classrooms.

Because my visits took place outside of school hours, I did not get the chance to actually meet the teachers or see them in action. Their stories though, are the stories that need to be told – stories of what is really happening in our classrooms on a daily basis and stories about the roles our members play. Whether they are teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, social workers, bus drivers, school nurses or custodians, our members play important roles in ensuring that our children feel nurtured, supported and prepared for the future. To help make these stories known, OFT has made a commitment to be in as many classrooms and worksites as possible this year to see the great work our members do and celebrate it.

We started these classroom visits in Genoa Area Local Schools. When I met with Holly Kimpon, president of the Genoa Area Education Association, this summer, she told me about all the technology integration happening at Genoa. In fact, that August day, Genoa was actually hosting a technology summit for area schools. Her enthusiasm about how teachers are incorporating technology into daily instruction compelled me to go back as soon as possible to get a closer look at how their program benefits students.

Anyone would have been impressed by our member Christine Danhoff, who serves as the district’s technology integrationist. Yes, a technology integrationist! In this day and age, many schools have technology coordinators, IT people, roles that are highly important in making sure the right technology is in place and working properly. But a technology integrationist? This critical role is one that often gets overlooked by schools. Christine’s role is to help teachers find ways to incorporate the technology into their everyday instruction, and WOW, she is good at it! She bubbles over with excitement talking about the different tools that are available, the way teachers use the technology, and student projects. We could have talked for hours, but Christine wanted us to see how the technology was being used. To give us a broad scope, Christine took us to a kindergarten classroom, a high school Spanish class, a middle school language arts class, and a high school emerging technologies class.

Though the integration of technology looked different in each classroom, three commonalities became obvious:

  • technology helped with differentiation of instruction
  • using the technology created more instructional time
  • the technology engaged the students in the learning process

 Differentiation of instruction

Lori Traver’s middle school language arts students were working on their “Book of Knowledge” assignment using an online program with access to current news stories. They read the stories, keep track of facts in their Book of Knowledge, then record a summary of what they read on a program called Flipgrid. What the students do not realize, Lori explained, is that she can assign them stories based on their reading level. Using this online program and another called Common Lit., she can make sure all students are being taught the standards and being assessed on the standards but at their own reading levels. It’s done in a way that it is not obvious that some students struggle with reading more than others. All students can participate, and all students can share their knowledge with the rest of the class.

Holly Szepiela is also able to use the technology to differentiate instruction in her Spanish class. Using an online textbook and online programming, students can choose to learn through flashcards, reading in context, playing games or other modes. This flexibility engages students in their learning by empowering them with options.

 More Instructional Time

Lori Traver and Holly Szepiela both also talked about how programs like Flipgrid help create more instructional time by reducing the amount of class time spent on assessing student progress. Flipgrid allows students to create a one-and-a half minute video. It gathers videos from all students in a grid that is accessible to the teacher and all students. Before having Flipgrid, Holly said she would spend two days at a time doing speaking assessments in class. Now all students can record themselves on their own time instead of doing this assignment during class.

With using Flipgrid, Lori’s students still experience sharing knowledge out loud, but again because students can all record when they are ready (everyone has access to a Google Chromebook), she does not have to spend a whole class period having students report out. This saved time allows for more classroom instruction and interaction.

 Engagement in learning process

Jenna Britt’s kindergarten students enjoyed showing us how they use their Google Chromebooks. These students have access to a site that gives them multiple options for practicing numbers, letters and other kindergarten concepts all presented in fun interaction. The students have so much fun playing theses games, they don’t realize they are practicing skills and learning new concepts.

Lori Traver shared with us how she uses technology to bring stories to life. Each year her students read a wonderful story set in a rice field in Vietnam about an anaconda, but some students struggle with imagining the setting. Using technology, she has students use their computers to find Vietnam on a map and locate pictures of rice fields and anacondas. After seeing these images on a computer and getting some background information, the story took on a whole new meaning for students, and they could discuss it with enthusiasm.

Students in Matt Hirt’s Emerging Technologies class get to experience the self-confidence that comes from thinking up an idea, making a plan for developing it, then actually creating a final project. With the help of tools such as 3D printers and carving machines, these students create carving boards, house signs, posters and more products than I can even think to name. While creating these items, students are learning and practicing concepts such as proportions and scale. The added bonus is the self-satisfaction of seeing an idea through from conception to finished product.

We could have easily spent a week in Genoa seeing all the different ways technology is being integrated into the curriculum. Even during our brief visit, we saw way more ideas than can be covered in an article like this. We saw breakout boxes (think escape room, except that students are competing by using clues to unlock boxes instead of escaping from a room), review competitions using smart boards, and Makers Spaces where students can use their creativity to turn materials into items. I know that we definitely want to return someday to see the Makers Space fair in the spring and some of the crafts that the emerging technologies students create for an auction.

I want to send a huge “Thank you” to Christine Danhoff, union President Holly Kimpon, all the teachers who opened their classrooms to us, and the Genoa administration for supporting the integration of technology in the classroom. What you showed us, beyond the concepts listed above, is that technology is a tool that, when put into the hands of a great teacher, makes the learning experience even more powerful. The way you use technology does not isolate students from learning, rather it creates interaction among students, allows them to share their work, help each other with concepts, and advance with each other at a pace that is both comfortable and challenging. As teachers, you use the technology to meet each student’s needs and to expand the possibilities for how each student can learn. Thank you, teachers, for being learners yourselves, for pushing yourselves to try new concepts, and for continually looking for new ways to make learning meaningful to your students.

Next up – New Knoxville. Can’t wait to see the teaching and learning happening in our New Knoxville classrooms.

Want to share your classroom with us?  Please contact our Coordinator of Field Services Jill Jones to schedule a time.


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Not the back-to-school blog I wanted to write…

Not the back-to-school blog I wanted to write…

Posted on August 17, 2017by melissacropper

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
― Nelson MandelaLong Walk to Freedom

This is not the back-to-school blog I wanted to write. After more than 2,000 miles on the road last week meeting with presidents of OFT locals, and with more visits scheduled in the next two weeks, I wanted to share with you plans our members have for the upcoming school year. I wanted to tell you about how I intend to observe classrooms throughout the year to see firsthand the creativity and expertise our educators bring to the learning process. I wanted to bring you a message of hope. This past weekend’s incident in Charlottesville, Va., compels me to write a different narrative.

I was fortunate to have been brought up in a home where hate was not ever a consideration. I never thought about color or that I should treat someone differently simply because that person did not look like me, believe like me or love like me. Granted, in my small town, I did not have a lot of exposure to diversity, but as I grew into an adult, the values instilled in me led me to “do unto others as I would have them do unto me” regardless of how they looked or chose to worship.

At my age, you would think that I have seen and heard it all; however, I am still stunned by the level of hatred that exists in our country. I am fortunate that I have never personally been a victim of it, yet I hurt and fear for those I love as well as for all the millions of people I have never met who are victims of hate every day.

I know that many of you are like me. You are stunned, shocked, and angry. I hope that we never stop feeling that way – that we never become immune to hate. But these emotions and reactions we feel are not enough. We have to act in some way. In these situations, I always go back to who I am – who we are. We are educators. So we teach.

Our federal and state governments mandate what we must teach at school – those things that are tested and by which our schools and teachers are judged. Our society and our conscience demand that we do much more.

Our students need us to teach:

Openness to new ideas  Some people might call this tolerance, and tolerance is certainly needed, but I think it needs to go further than that. Simply tolerating is not enough. Our students need to approach differences with a sense of curiosity and with a desire to understand. We need to give them opportunities to explore differences and to ask questions and to have discussions with an open mind.

Empathy – Our students need to understand that just because they have never experienced prejudice or hate or mistreatment of some type does not mean that it has not happened elsewhere in their world. We need to teach our children to listen to what another person is saying and to try to experience it from that other point of view rather than denying the experience or trying to justify it in some way.

How to find commonalities – We need to teach our children that instead of focusing on differences, they should look for commonalities and/or shared experiences. Our children should know that some students may speak a different language, be a different color, follow a different religion, come from a different country, but those students probably still like to play games at recess, share secrets, listen to music, and watch TV. Our children should understand that deep and rich friendships can be formed from these commonalities if they are willing to give them a chance.

Conflict resolution  Our students should learn that they are not always going to agree with everyone – and that is ok. Sometimes they are even going to be upset by something that has been said or done. What’s important is how our students handle those situations. We need to teach our children the skills for dealing with conflict and for confronting hurtful situations in a productive way.

Courage to stand up against hate and prejudice  Children are going to see and hear inappropriate language and behavior. The temptation is for them to follow along with the crowd. This growing problem is evident in the amount of bullying, particularly cyberbullying, that is being reported. Our classrooms need to be safe places where students can stand up to this kind of behavior and be supported in calling it out as inappropriate.

How to choose the right role models  Our children need to learn that not all adult behavior is appropriate behavior. Just because the president of the United States uses social media as a platform for bullying people does not mean that it is acceptable behavior to emulate. We need to expose our children to adults who are worthy role models – people in history, in the media, in our communities, who demonstrate the qualities I have listed above. More importantly, we need to be those role models ourselves.

Interestingly, if you ever watch a group of young children play together, the truth is that the above behaviors are what actually come naturally to them. Children, by nature, are curious, loving, accepting individuals who just want to enjoy life. Our role as educators is to nurture that natural beautiful spirit that resides within our children and to give them a learning environment that reinforces the positive behaviors, rejects intolerance and hateful behavior, and provides opportunities for exploring and embracing differences.

Read the AFT press release on the Charlottesville incident here.

For teacher submitted lesson plans on civil rights, bullying and helping students cope with traumatic events, please visit Share My Lesson.








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Activism Now: #OHPublicSchoolProud

I’m proud of the public schools that are nestled in neighborhoods across our state. Our public schools are a strong thread in the fabric of strong communities, and I am proud of the role I play in all of that. I am #OHPublicSchoolProud.

I hear this pride echoed everywhere I talk with teachers, bus drivers, school nurses, classroom aides and others in the schools we represent. I hear it from parents and community members interested in how they can support their children on a path to success. These people are #OHPublicSchoolProud.

I am proud of our public schools. This is why I support the #OHPublicSchoolProud campaign.

For too long, public education, and we as public educators, have been the target of unjustified criticism, even outright bashing. Whether it be derogatory labels or unfair grades or rankings that overlook the depth of work being done, these constant attacks on public education undermine the high quality work that we know is being done every day in our neighborhood public schools.

So why are we letting others define us?

In Ohio, there are more than 120,000 educators and 1.8 million students. Add to that millions of parents and grandparents as well as graduates of public schools. We all have at least one positive story to tell about public education.

So why don’t we tell it?

Today we invite you to tell your stories by supporting the #OHPublicSchoolProud campaign.

Are you a teacher? How have you impacted a child’s life? What have you done recently in your classroom to ignite a passion for learning? What are your former students doing now?

Are you a student? How have you been positively impacted by a teacher? Which classes do you look forward to each day and why? What project have you done in your school career that has helped you grasp an important concept or taught you a useful skill?

Are you a former student? What are you doing now? How did public school help you be successful in your current situation? Do you have a teacher that helped you become the person you are today?

Are you a parent? How has your local public school helped your child grow and develop this year? What opportunities (art, music, sports, internships, etc.) keep your child engaged?

No matter who you are, we want all of Ohio to hear the positive influence that public education has on children day in and day out. #OHPublicSchoolProud

Why is this so important now? Though I could write pages about this, let me sum it up in three quick bullet points:

  • Today is the first day for a hearing on Senate Bill 85, state Sen. Matt. Huffman’s voucher expansion bill – a continued attempt to privatize education.
  • Last week, President Trump proposed a budget that would cut education spending by 13.5 percent ($9.2 billion), including cuts to after-school programs and professional development, while increasing federal spending on school privatization programs by $1.4 billion with the ultimate goal of reaching $20 billion. This despite the fact that research studies continue to show dismal results (see
  • US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who barely made it through the confirmation process, has a history of pushing school privatization through charters and vouchers, without quality controls, in Michigan. When asked about Trump’s budget proposal of $250 million to private-school focused school choice, DeVos indicated that she would collaborate with stakeholders to get it right in each state ( Let’s be clear though that just last week, DeVos released a new ESSA template that eliminated consultation with stakeholders. According to the template, the only consultation necessary is with the governor, so when she talks about consulting with stakeholders on school choice, she is not talking about working with you or me. She means consulting with those who support her school choice privatization agenda.

We – the 120,000 educators, 1.8 million students, the millions of parents, the former students, and all of us who care about public education – have to be proudly proclaim the value of public schools in order to drown out those who defame public schools to push their own privatization agenda. #OHPublicSchoolProud

What can you do?

  • Show that you are #OHPublicSchoolProud by changing your profile picture on Facebook and Twitter. Simply go to, follow the directions, then share with others so that they can participate too.
  • Post your stories on social media using #OHPublicSchoolProud.
  • Encourage your school to hold a #OHPublicSchoolProud event May 1. More information will be forthcoming.
  • Like and share the #OHPublicSchoolProud Facebook page  Also post your #OHPublicSchoolProud moments here so that we can grow the awareness of the great work being done in public schools.

Let’s make this a movement.  Get everyone you know to post and re-post so that we can take back the narrative on public schools and celebrate them for the critical role they play in shaping our country.

Start today by going to to add the #OHPublicSchoolProud to your profile picture.  Then take five minutes to go to and post on the page.  Maybe even share a short video clip.

I look forward to seeing your posts!

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Activism now: shifting focus from DeVos to ESSA

Thank you everyone for your activism in fighting back against the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.  Because of your activism, you brought a greater awareness to public education.  While we are disappointed that DeVos did receive the appointment, we cannot stop our activism now.


Ohio recently released its draft ESSA plan.  This plan is devoid of an overall vision for education and does nothing to move Ohio away from a testing culture and towards a culture that is more responsive to the needs of children.

The Ohio Department of Education intends to submit this plan on April 3 even though they have the option to wait until Sept. 18.  When asked why they are choosing the earlier submission date, the response has been that that is what the field wants.

We MUST let the Ohio Department of Education know that submitting this plan in April is unacceptable.  They must bring stakeholders back to the table to set a course that will change the culture of education on Ohio.

Continue your activism.  Take the online ESSA survey now.  In each section, feel free to add whatever comments you might have about the topic, but make sure to include something that indicates that the plan does nothing to change our current testing culture and that the state needs to wait until September to submit so that it can be rewritten to reflect the vision Ohio wants for its students.

Yesterday, the State Board of Education discussed the ESSA plan, and it was obvious that several Board members have heard complaints from the field and are concerned about submitting this plan now.  I testified today about delaying the plan.  My testimony is copied below.  We have to keep the drumbeat going though on delaying the submission date until Ohio sets a vision that changes the testing culture.  We need literally thousands of survey submissions that make that statement.  Please take the time to take the online survey, then post on social media and ask others to do the same.  Deadline for comment period is March 6.

Thank you again for your activism.  Please take the time to read my testimony below.

Testimony to the Ohio State Board of Education on ESSA

President Elshoff, Vice-President Hollister, and members of the State Board of Education:

I am Melissa Cropper, a library-media specialist from Georgetown, Ohio currently serving as the President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. I come here today to speak not only in the role I serve representing educators, but also as the mother of a son who wants to become a teacher and the grandmother of a kindergartner and a one-year old who I hope will have the privilege to go through an education system that is vastly different from the current culture in which our children are educated.

In starting my testimony, I would like to draw attention to page two of the State Template for the Consolidated State Plan Under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The last paragraph of this introductory page says, “When developing its consolidated State plan, the Department encourages each SEA to reflect on its overall vision and how the different sections of the consolidated State plan work together to create one comprehensive approach to improving outcomes for all students. The Department encourages each SEA to consider: (1) what is the SEA’s vision with regard to its education system; (2) how does this plan help drive toward that vision; and (3) how will the SEA evaluate its effectiveness on an ongoing basis?”

For the past year, the Ohio Federation of Teachers has been calling for the Ohio Department of Education to use ESSA as an opportunity to set a vision for what we want for our children. In fact, it was around this time last year when I gave the attached testimony that says much of what I am repeating today. Yet we have been told over and over again that ESSA is basically a set of technical questions that need to be answered. You heard multiple times yesterday that this is not a complete plan but complete enough to be compliant with federal guidelines and that this is just the infrastructure that can be worked out more fully later. I ask you though, how can you have an infrastructure without first knowing the overall design?

We have an opportunity in Ohio right now to work together – State Board, educators, parents, community members, House and Senate Education Committees, and the Joint Education Oversight Committee- to set a vision for what we want for our children. That should be the foundation for any plan that is submitted. An ESSA plan, as the template document clearly states, should drive Ohio toward that vision.

I am not here today to lobby for any specific change that needs to be made to make the plan more amenable to OFT members. I am here to ask that we all work together to shape the vision that this plan needs. I do want to share with you what I have heard as I have traveled across the state. I can basically summarize the conversations in three main points:

  • Our children, in all parts of the state, are bringing an increasing number of non-academic challenges to the classroom.   These challenges impact their learning.
  • Our children are very disconnected from the value of learning because learning has been reduced to a test score.
  • Educator morale is at a dangerously low point that is impacting the system

We have a responsibility with ESSA to address these issues, and that starts by together setting a vision that focuses on the well-being of the child, creates conditions for powerful learning, builds teacher capacity, and fosters cultures of collaboration. Once we have a vision, we can then look at each section of the plan and ask what needs to be included or changed to drive us toward the vision. Furthermore, as future decisions are being made, we will have some guiding principles that we can use as a litmus test.

I mentioned in my testimony last year that what Ohio desperately needs right now is to rebuild trust. I believe that this is still true. I have been told that a document cannot build trust but rather implementation builds trust. While I somewhat I agree with this, I would also contend that a document can engender distrust, and if the public has gone through a process to give input into a plan and then does not see the input reflected in the plan, then the state has continued to feed into the distrust. I do not think this is the type of culture that you want to perpetuate.

I know you heard that the federal ESSA guidelines do not require the approval of the State Board of Education; however, you represent the people of Ohio, and you are the ones who will have to answer to your constituents. From what I heard yesterday, you have heard from your constituents that they are not comfortable with this plan. I am asking you to call for a Sept submission date and to use the extended time to bring together a representative group of stakeholders to review input that has been given so far, use it to help set the vision for the state, and work with the Department to ensure that every part of the ESSA plan drives that vision.

As I said in my closing statement last year, I believe in the promise of our public school system. I believe that when we combine the voices of the educators who can bring their expertise to the table with the voices of the parents and the community who care deeply about our children, we can create a positive, supportive system that works for all.   We can have high quality early education programs that prepare children for learning. We can design community learning centers that focus on educating the whole child and on helping each child overcome non-academic barriers. We can use data in a way that informs instruction and drives achievement. We can have accountability systems that support professional growth. We can turn around schools that face seemingly insurmountable odds. We can bring wonder and curiosity back into the classroom. We can encourage our children to dream big then help them achieve those dreams. We can only do this though if we take the time to work through a thorough inclusive process that is driven by a vision rather than by a contrived timeline.

Thank you for listening. I will be glad to answer any questions.


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From her own mouth…DeVos’ testimony verifies that she is the wrong choice.


For the past two months, we have been sharing information with you about Betsy DeVos, the devastating impact she has had on public education in Michigan, and the threat she poses for children and education if she becomes secretary of education.

You had the opportunity to listen to her yourself during the Jan. 17 Senate confirmation hearing. What you heard from her own mouth was even worse than what we had told you.

You heard that she doesn’t believe that private schools should have to follow federal law in protecting children with disabilities.

You heard that she will not hold charters to the same accountability as traditional public schools.

You heard that she thinks guns should be allowed in schools – after all, we have to protect children against grizzly bear attacks.

You heard that she refuses to enforce the law concerning sexual assaults on campuses.

You heard that even though she wants to be secretary of education, she does not know the difference between proficiency and growth – concepts that have been debated for years in education.

You heard that she refuses to commit to enforcing gainful employment laws to ensure that private universities do not cheat students out of thousands of dollars.

Thank you to the more than 1,500 members who have sent emails to Senators Portman and Brown urging them to vote against the DeVos nomination.

Thank you to the countless numbers of you who have made calls into the offices of our Senators.

Your actions are making a difference.

  • Brown has committed to voting against DeVos – thank you Sen. Brown!
  • The confirmation vote has been delayed.

Please continue to take action. Continue to call Sen. Portman’s office to request a “no” vote on the DeVos nomination. DeVos is wrong for America’s children. Tell Sen. Portman to reject her – call him at 202-224-3353.

Ask others to join our efforts by urging others to call him. Ask your family members and friends to make calls. This action might take 3-4 minutes and could make a significant difference in the lives of our children.

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