Gov. McDonnell Declares 2013 the “Year of the Teacher”

Who was that special teacher in your life?  We all have one (mine was Mrs. Sandra Parece, my 4th grade Social Studies teacher) who inspired us to dig deeper into a particular subject, encouraged us to keep going when we felt like quitting, or was there for us when we needed someone to talk to.

Great teachers are an asset to any school: they give of their time and energy, inspiring and motivating their students in the classroom—an exhausting task in and of itself—while also working long hours outside the classroom preparing for their upcoming classes.  All too often, their efforts go unnoticed.  Gov. Bob McDonnell wants Virginia’s great teachers to know that their hard work is appreciated:

“Teachers are charged with the responsibility of passing on traditions, knowledge and character to the next generation.  They instill a love for learning, a respect for fellow mankind and a belief that the American dream is achievable by all, regardless of ZIP code or station in life.  Today, I am pleased to announce that we will recognize teachers throughout the year for their commitment to excellence in education.”

The first such recognition of 2013 is an essay contest called “My Favorite Teacher.”  In the contest, Virginians of all ages are encouraged to submit essays on their favorite teacher.  Submissions must be no longer than 100 words and are due by 5 p.m. on January 30th.  They can be sent to K12EDUCATION@governor.virginia.gov.   Submissions will be posted online for all interested parties to read.

Yesterday’s proclamation comes after Gov. McDonnell released a series of education reform proposals for the upcoming General Assembly session, including a state contribution of $58.7 million toward a two percent pay raise for all teachers and school personnel—the first statewide pay raise since 2007.  The pay raise requires a local cash-match.  The Commonwealth will also provide additional incentives for teachers to pursue professional development.  These benefits are tied to a measure that would amend the process by which teachers are awarded continuing contracts, extending the probationary period from three years to five before a continuing contract is issued to a newly hired teacher.

The governor’s proposals have been widely praised by school divisions across the Commonwealth and have even pleasantly surprised members of the Virginia Education Association, who have described themselves as “cautiously optimistic” about the proposal until they see additional details.

Gov. McDonnell made education reform a central piece of his opportunity agenda when running for governor.  Now that he is in office, the governor has continued to promote significant reforms.  With education being central to our nation’s competitiveness in an increasingly globalized world, not only will Virginia’s students be better positioned to thrive in the 21st Century economy, but Gov. McDonnell could be well positioned to run as the “education governor” should he opt for a presidential bid in 2016…not unlike another reformer-turned-president.