Her address centered around the reasons that teachers feel called to teach—to change the world, to encourage curiosity, to make our democracy better. “Teaching is unlike any other profession in terms of mission, importance, complexity, impact, and fulfillment,” she said. “Teachers get the importance of their work. So do parents and the public.”
However, she cited statistics showing that teachers and other public school employees are leaving their professions, and there aren’t enough teachers. At the root of this problem and others, according to Weingarten, is disinvestment and deprofessionalization.
Weingarten offers solutions to these problems, too. Some include a culture of collaboration, the creation and maintenance of proper teaching and learning conditions, and the assurance that teachers have voice and agency befitting their profession.
The We the People program, of which Weingarten was a teacher, is one example where teachers are allowed creativity and agency. As a result, she saw “powerful learning” within students. “We’d spend hours after school—working in teams, deciding their best arguments, practicing and polishing. We developed deep relationships with each other and a meaningful understanding of the Constitution.”
It is the personal investment of teachers and students, the creativity, and the learning that drew her to the We the People program. Her speech ends with an emphasis on these qualities, as well as a call for better treatment for teachers. To teachers she said, “You are making a difference not only in your classrooms but in reclaiming our profession.”