(Photo credit: Julio Ibarra)
Recently, Nashville had the pleasure of welcoming President Obama to McGavock High School, one of our local public schools. It was a moment of great pride for our city as the president highlighted the work in Nashville schools that he would like to encourage throughout the country.
The event was joyful, with plenty of happiness and buzz among the many people who work long hours and early mornings, and tackle intellectual, political, and societal problems to make sure every child in our city has a great education. These folks—teachers, students, parents, district leaders, school leaders, political leaders, religious leaders, nonprofit leaders—often work in anonymity toward this goal, so it was fun to take a moment to celebrate.
For me, the best part of the event was when President Obama recognized McGavock High School teacher Barclay Randall. Mr. Randall, a broadcast teacher (who was taping the event with a few students and wiped away tears of joy as he was being lauded) had transformed the lives of many students—and in particular, that of Sara Santiago.
“When Sara was in Mr. Randall’s class, he helped her discover this passion for filmmaking,” President Obama said. “And pretty soon, Sara’s grades started to improve. She won the school’s ‘Best Editing’ award. Then she got an internship with Country Music Television—one of [the school’s] business partners. And then she was accepted to the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design. And she gives credit to Mr. Randall for this. She says, ‘Mr. Randall gave me a second chance. He saw things I never saw in myself. He’s the person who helped me change.’”
I appreciate that President Obama took the time to recognize the work and accomplishments of a teacher. As districts around the country are deep in recruitment season, I am trying to reconcile the collective celebration and appreciation we seem to have for teachers with the reality that far too many prospective teachers still hear: “You are too”—fill in the blank: smart, driven, etc.—“to be a teacher.”