Guest post by Allison Kephart, originally published in the Pacifica Tribune
As I enter my seventh week studying for a Master of International Relations degree at the Australian National University in Canberra, I’d like to take a moment to thank the educators who brought me to this point and to make one thing clear: Don’t underestimate Pacifica schools.
My current university is ranked sixth in the world for the study of International Relations and is the top university in Australia. I earned my undergraduate degree with a 4.0 from the University of Melbourne, the second-highest ranking university in Australia and again one of the top universities in the world. During lectures, I handwrite my notes using the structure I was taught in Jonathan Harris’ fourth- grade class at Ocean Shore School. When people ask me why I chose International Relations as my field, I explain doing my Oceana High School Sophomore Exhibition Project, through which I predicted the Syrian Revolution days before it broke out.
This past Wednesday evening, as several Everett parents were preparing for our annual International Night community event, a Walton funded organization called “Innovate Public Schools” had their own plans. They had organized a meeting with Interim Associate Superintendent Tony Payne at Everett Middle School. Unknown to the administration and staff at Everett Middle School or to Tony Payne himself, the meeting was widely published on social media outlets. “Innovate Public Schools” has a corporate privatizing agenda to diminish resources for local public schools and open charter schools.
On my first day of teaching fourteen years ago, I welcomed 35 students to a first period high school Spanish I class. I cried by the time lunch happened. I could not believe that the state of California had entrusted the care of 160 students to me, and that each student would bring a different set of skills, experiences, attitudes, and abilities. It was an overwhelming feeling of responsibility. And not only did I need to teach all these teenagers how to communicate through listening, speaking, reading, and writing in a new language, but one of my students had never learned to read or write, and physically struggled with speech. She was a 14 year old girl with cognitive and gross motor skills impairments. As a county special ed day student, she was to be integrated into two mainstream classes on the school campus. This was her mainstream class, along with art. She was also a Spanish speaker from a monolingual Mexican Spanish speaking family who understood everything I said in Spanish – much more than in English. But she was in my beginning Spanish class. How or what was I going to teach her?
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
This last week marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech.
In this speech, Martin Luther King talked about an integrated society in which black and white children would go to school together. I listened to parts of this speech over 15 times when I was a freshman in Clara Luper’s American History class at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City.