Many Mississippi teachers become students in the summer. MPB’s education reporter, Annie Gilbertson, reports how this year, many are learning a lesson in navigating politics.

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Teachers Taking Lessons in Political Navigation This Summer

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 08 Jun 2011 06:50pm | comments
Lorraine B. Gayden, retired high school English teacher, speaks at the MAE conference. She explained her plans to mobilize teachers in her home district.

Many Mississippi teachers become students in the summer. MPB’s education reporter, Annie Gilbertson, reports how this year, many are learning a lesson in navigating politics.

Budget cuts left close to one thousand Mississippi educators out of work last year and those that still hold their jobs will come under a new system of evaluation this fall.

Joyce Helmick is an advanced placement English teacher at Olive Branch High School in Desoto County. She said teachers should communicate more effectively with policymakers, and she offered her peers the same advice she gives students studying parallel structure.

"Martin Luther King uses parallel structure in his "I Have a Dream" speech. It is repetition. Repetition is good to get people to understand what you want them to understand."

At a conference held this Wednesday by the Mississippi Association of Educators, teachers were given the tools needed to help influence policy.

"Many people don't believe teachers should be involved in politics, but we beg to differ. We think that as long as educators and politicians are molding and shaping the education system in the State of Mississippi, we as educators deserve to have a right at the table."

Teachers do have a history of affecting policy change in the state. State Representative Cecil Brown, Chairman of the House Education Committee, said he talks with educators about a multitude of issues from the age of school readiness to whether or not twins should be in the same classroom.

But this year it may be critical for teachers to get involved with politics.

"We lost about 800 teachers this year as a result of budget cuts. So I think in some districts, where they've got severe budget crises, teachers are afraid for their jobs and with good reason."

The conference ends this week, and the teachers in attendance will be headed to their home districts to engage more educators in the political conversation.

From the Education Desk, for MPB news, I’m Annie Gilbertson.

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Lorraine B. Gayden, retired high school English teacher, speaks at the MAE conference. She explained her plans to mobilize teachers in her home district.


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