Until a few short months ago, Jennifer Brown’s world revolved primarily around her science students at Vestavia Hills high on the south side of Birmingham. Then she was selected as Alabama’s most recent Teacher of the Year and a whole new world unfolded. This one involves politics to a large degree
This was largely precipitated by news that Senator Del Marsh was planning to introduce what he called the RAISE Act of 2016. Jennifer was alarmed the first time she saw the bill.
“It just made very little sense,” she says. “And it was apparent that whoever put this bill together is far removed from today’s classroom and has very little idea of what happens in Alabama schools.”
Her first reaction was to blame legislators. She began to talk to her own lawmakers in the Birmingham area and to make trips to the statehouse in Montgomery.
“I was right,” she says, “they don’t know much about what happens in our schools. But then I realized, that is as much the fault of educators as it is of lawmakers. We are not proactive in telling our story and inviting legislators to visit schools and classrooms. That needs to change.”
Given that she is someone who takes her own advice, Jennifer immediately began inviting lawmakers to tour Vestavia Hills high and interact with teachers and students in the classroom
Already one state senator and two house members have spent several hours at Vestavia Hills. And National Public Radio’s reporter Dan Carsen tagged along. Here is his broadcast that aired on NPR’s All Things Considered.
“These visits were a great success,” explains Brown. “Feedback from lawmakers was extremely positive. I hope many more educators will join in this effort. Every school has amazing stories to tell. And right now the audience we most need to hit are those folks making laws in Montgomery.”