Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion Blog


Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform.

Education Opinion

Just a Teacher

By Zak Champagne — July 11, 2011 2 min read

Note: Zak Champagne, an award-winning teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, is guest-posting this week.

I have been a classroom teacher for thirteen years in Jacksonville, Florida. I have taught hundreds of students, received numerous awards for my teaching, completed an advanced degree, and have only just begun to master the craft of teaching. As a result of my successes I have been offered countless “opportunities to grow” in this field. Those are the facts. However, it must be clarified that these “opportunities to grow” have all included me leaving the classroom. Whether it is as a curriculum specialist, school or district based coach, or principal, none of those are the path I feel that I must take as a classroom teacher. Currently, there is little room for growth socially or financially for me to stay in the classroom. In fact, the opposite is the norm...the only way for me to advance is to leave the classroom, the very place where I feel I can make the greatest impact on students.

So many of these opportunities began with a conversation that starts with something similar to, “Zak, you are too good to be just a teacher.” And, quite frankly, I have always taken offense to that statement. Please don’t misunderstand me: many of these opportunities came from people that I thoroughly respect and I do not believe their intention was for those words to be portrayed as demeaning to teachers. However, we as a culture tend to pay much lip service to the importance of teachers...yet we also view the only next step for a teacher is to pursue the path of an educational leader. This road would take me out of the classroom...the exact place where I have experienced much success and impacted hundreds of students.

After all, I got into this because I love working “directly” with students. Trust me, I understand that I could potentially impact students in a larger and less direct way by working with teachers and/or leading a school. I have heard that many times as well. However, for me there is something to be said about having a direct link to a classroom that is mine. My classroom: where the students know me as their teacher, where I can work with their parents and families, teach them on a daily and consistent basis, grade their work, work with them before and after school, and do what I believe I was called to do.

The answer to this predicament is quite simple, yet with the bureaucracy of unions, local school boards, archaic pay scales, and state government it becomes exceedingly complex. The answer lies in a classroom teacher career ladder. There must be a step “up” both socially and financially for classroom teachers who prove that they are successful in advancing their students academically and make a difference in the lives of students. This path could provide opportunities for these teachers to mentor other teachers, share best practices, research educational practices, and write, all while still having a classroom of their own. The complexity comes in trying to combat a system that has been in place for hundreds of years, one that has many paths out of the classroom and only one to stay in...unfortunately, a system that pigeonholes exceptional educators to become “just a teacher” in society’s eyes.

--Zak Champagne

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read