A guest blog post by Ellen Wood, a Public Voices Fellow at Texas Woman’s University. Ellen is the co-founder of the Teaching Trust, a non-profit dedicated to preparing talented educators to take on the challenges of leading urban schools as principals and policy leaders. She received an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BBA in Acounting from the University of Texas at Austin.
The experience I’ve gained from participating in the Op-Ed Project through the Dallas/Texas Women’s University has been invaluable. We’ve had the opportunity here in Dallas to mix non-profit leaders with faculty from the University. I’ve met wonderful women who are strong advocates for issues that matter significantly in our community and country. Even though our last session is this week, I hope that we all will continue to share our experiences as advocates with each other.
When I decided to apply for this program, I knew the timing was perfect. Teaching Trust, the non-profit I co-founded—where our focus the first two years has been in developing school principals—was about to launch several initiatives related to education policy, something we strongly believed had to be part of our strategic plan if we were going to have broader impact sooner. In December, we launched a program for teacher-leaders who wanted to learn how to advocate for policies that would attract, develop and keep the best people working in education. Our plans included helping strong teachers activate their “voice”—through speaking to school boards and legislative committees that determine the district and state policies while also writing op-eds and blog entries in various venues that could broaden their audience.
The teachers who are in our first cohort of 25 Ed-Policy Fellows are on fire (similar to my Op-Ed cohort!) They have practiced putting their voice as well as written words on the line….and are energized by that action. Last week 4 teachers testified in Austin to the Senate Education Committee on the teacher quality bill that was being discussed. One teacher wrote about the experience on our new blog “Let me say first that to be taken seriously as a constituent and to be respected for your experience and perspective about your field is one of the most empowering experiences you can have. As the four of us gave our testimony, the energy in the room was electric.”
The experience I’ve had in the Op-Ed project…through the workshops and the feedback from my advisor on writing and pitching op-eds has helped me turn around and use that to train the teachers and leaders in our programs. I’ve never been a teacher or principal, but I feel very strongly that those who are great educators should be speaking up. Thank you to the Op-Ed Project—Katie, Chloe, Rose– for challenging me to define my expertise, developing the teacher voices that should be the real experts at the table.