By Sue Moore
A week’s trip to Dubai to consult with this city-state’s teachers is just one of the many activities that Laura Chang, Michigan’s Teacher of the Year from Vicksburg for 2018-2019, has experienced.
Dubai educators identified a need to do things differently in teaching science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) subjects in this global world, Chang said. They invited educators from the Teacher of the Year program throughout the states to come for a week and work with them on best practices. “I was happy to be one of the several teachers invited to attend. They are such extraordinary people who have the same concerns as educators as we do. It was very humbling,” Chang said.
That was just one of the many experiences she has had this school year that have broadened her horizons in the teaching profession. “I’ve learned so much. It’s like I’ve been wearing shoes that are too small and now they fit. I’m ready to run.”
She has been highly involved with reaching out to legislators in Michigan to discuss standardized testing requirements and their impact on students. “I’ve told a lot of teaching anecdotes to help them focus on the impact of their legislation when it comes to teaching the whole child and the laws they promulgate. Real stories from the classroom can make a big difference.”
“Meeting with the State Board of Education each month allows me a chance to share stories of Vicksburg’s successes which can serve to spotlight the inequities we face in education throughout the state. Kids don’t always have the same opportunities as they do here, so I volunteered to work on a state-level committee that studies equity in education,” she said.
“I have to use the voice I have as one size does not fit all,” Chang said. She has visited classrooms in other areas of the state where she will go in and read, teach a lesson and chat with students. “I learn as much from them as they might from me.”
Her team of Teachers of the Year met in San Francisco last summer for a week of sharing ideas with all 57 honored teachers, including those from the U.S. protectorates. “It was sponsored by Google and allowed our peer group to learn from one another. These teachers are solution seekers who value education above all others. We even designed a doodle for Google that will appear on their web site in May.”
She will attend a “space” camp in Alabama for a week in July where the participants pretend to be an astronaut for a week. The group will be honored during the college football championship playoff game in January 2020.
In May she will meet with a group of the Teachers of the Year in Washington D.C. with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to emphasize the importance of education.
“I wish that all of my colleagues could have this opportunity,” she said. “Teachers can learn so much from each other. “I have new best friends from all over the country. These are incredible people whose voices are powerful.”