My kids, your kids, our kids: As educators, we’re all advocates for high-quality education for EVERY single kid in America.

Over the past seven years, I’ve used the phrase “my kids” countless times in multiple ways. My kids are so good this year, my kids are so funny, my kids are needier this year than ever before, my kids really impressed me!  Yet, I don’t lay claim to the title of parent just yet. My first child is due in September. I can’t imagine all the ways I’ll brag about him and say “my kid” with a whole new connotation. As a teacher, when you spend every single day for an entire school year with a student you start to feel a sense of ownership of a child’s successes, failures, and ultimately future. The hands-on work I do in the classroom is by far the most rewarding aspect of my job. Seeing a student’s writing improve from the beginning of the year to the end of the year is so validating and tangible. I can look at two pieces of writing and literally see how a student has grown under my guidance.

In education advocacy work, or my other “baby,” progress is not always as tangible. In my time working as both a Teacher Champion and now with teacher outreach work with Educators for High Standards, I am constantly inspired by the work of the educators I serve alongside. In our form of advocacy, we ask teachers to tell stories of their classrooms in a way that will move policymakers and other stakeholders to take action or be more informed. It sounds easier than it is. Can you remember the last time you tried to tell an actually entertaining and enlightening story about your profession while making a point that doesn’t go against those holding the purse strings?

We ask our teachers to be vulnerable because their vantage point on education is the most important and can be the most cogent when our students’ futures are on the line. In this work, we rarely see the needle move a lot but “our kids” need us to continue. In 2011, my first year of teaching, I didn’t know anything about teacher leadership, except for the idea that being a department chair was a big deal. I didn’t know anything more specifically about teacher advocacy. I’d even go so far to say that most people in my building didn’t either.

Now advocacy is a part of my professional identity. I regularly read and write about high-quality standards and assessments and their impact on educational equity. I work alongside educators from across the country doing the same things. We call them Teacher Champions because they fight for their kids, our kids, your kids. They fight to promote the main goal: high-quality education for EVERY single kid in America.

In a recent study completed by RAND, they gathered Louisiana teachers’ reactions to recent major education reforms in the state. According to The 74, In addition to reviewing academic and demographic data, the researchers conducted more than 200 interviews and focus groups with teachers and others within the system and drew on a national educator survey RAND conducts periodically. A majority of those surveyed said they supported the policy shifts, likely the result of early efforts by state officials to communicate directly to stakeholders and to support teacher leadership.”

Here is an example of teachers working alongside policymakers to bring about more equitable learning experiences for students. This is education advocacy at its best! While they may not be our specific Teacher Champions, the teachers in Louisiana who worked with the leadership teams in the state deserve the title of “Teacher Champion.” Over the course of seven years, educators in that state worked diligently to move the needle. It makes education advocates like me proud to be a part of a group of people that stick with it, even when there are not quick results.

While I’m stepping away from a formal role within the advocacy sphere – to take care of “my kid” for real this time – I remain optimistic about where teacher-led advocacy can take the education system in our country.  I believe in the work that “Teacher Champions” are doing formally with Educators for High Standards and informally with policymakers across the country. I am left with a sense of pride having been a part of teacher-led advocacy and, though I may not be in the role, will continue to encourage high-quality teachers to amplify their voices within broader changes in our education systems. Our communities and kids deserve it!

Outgoing Senior Advisor of Teacher Outreach and Innovation, Kari W. Patrick, is a high school English teacher at STEAM Academy in Lexington, Kentucky. She is also a member of the STEAM Teacher Advisory Council, where she serves as a liaison between educators and administrators to drive teacher and student-centered policies for the school. In her six years in the classroom, Kari has taught in both rural and urban settings and was recognized for her outstanding teaching in 2016 when she was named the Kentucky Council of Teacher of English High School Teacher of the Year.