Students Need Champions

Rita PiersonAugust 26th is “Women’s Equality Day,” so what better time than today to reflect back on the women who have made a difference in this world.

For me, a very special woman comes to mind. She was a teacher from Texas who changed so many lives and affected so many other teachers and students. Her name was Rita Pierson. And though I never met her, listening to her talk about teaching and learning provided me with the foundation I try to base my work on every day.

Mrs. Pierson gave a Ted Talk back in May 2013 that now has almost 5 million views. In her talk she shared some of the best advice I’ve ever heard about teaching. Here are just some of the beautiful words Rita shared with us and just a few reasons why she is a woman I admire greatly.

“Every child deserves a champion!”

As a young college student, studying in the College of Education at The University of Central Florida (Go Knights!), I first thought teaching was the process of the teacher imparting her knowledge on the students. As I started my teaching career I quickly realized that my job would not just be to share knowledge with my students. I would need to be their cheerleader, their most adoring fan, and without fail, every day my eyes would need to light up as soon as they walked into my class. Even on the toughest days, and with the toughest kids. In fact it’s probably the toughest kids that need the champion the most. I’m so grateful for Rita teaching me to be a champion for children. Sometimes when people ask me what I do instead of saying “Oh I’m a teacher,” I think about saying, “Oh, I’m a champion for children.”

“Teach, anyway.”

There are always going to be reforms in education. There will always be new policies and directives and standards that seem impossible to meet.  Teachers can feel overwhelmed sometimes by the loud shouting of policies and standards and forget to listen for the quiet whisper of the reason they started teaching in the first place. To this, Rita says teach, anyway. What a powerful sentiment packed into such a brief phrase; such depth in those two short words.

Rita Pierson was an incredible woman.

She spent more than 40 years being a champion for children and her legacy lives on in every teacher who embraces the principles she passed on.  So on this Women’s Equality Day, I say thank you to Rita Pierson and to teachers just like her who strive to love kids and teach anyway. I am honored and humbled to be among the ranks of women given the opportunity to be a champion for children, and thankful for women like Rita Pierson who have taught me how.



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