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EDUCATI N The magazine of the Virginia Education Association JUNE 2019




Editor Tom Allen VEA President Jim Livingston VEA Executive Director Dr. Brenda Pike Communications Director John O’Neil Graphic Designer Lisa Sale Editorial Assistant/Advertising Representative Yolanda Morris Contributors Melodie Henderson Chuck Ronco Courtney Cutright



Vol. 112, No. 6

Copyright © 2019 by the Virginia Education Association


Members step up in local budget battles.

The Virginia Journal of Education (ISSN 0270-837X) is published six times a year (October, November, December, February, April and June) by the Virginia Education Association, 116 South Third Street, Richmond, VA 23219.


Non-member annual subscription rate: $10 ($15 outside the U.S. and Canada). Rights to reproduce any article or portion thereof may be granted upon request to the editor. Periodicals postage paid in Richmond, VA.

4-7 This month: Kids in motion, real listening, and cooties.

Postmaster: Send address changes to Virginia Journal of Education, 116 South Third Street, Richmond, VA 23219.


Article proposals, comments or questions may be sent to the editor at or Tom Allen,116 South Third Street, Richmond, VA 23219, 800-552-9554.

14 Fill in These Blanks! The teacher shortage is a threat to our schools. 17 It’s Ugly Online How do we protect our students from online hate?

Member: State Education Association Communicators


VEA Vision: A great public school for every child in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

20 Membership Matters VEA convention delegates take to the street. 24 Insight on Instruction Keeping some time for yourself. 30 First Person Fresh coat of paint, fresh outlook. Cover and contents page photo by Jake Lemann.

“My teacher wants to talk to you? Wow—what did you do wrong?”

VEA Mission: The mission of the Virginia Education Association is to unite our members and local communities across the Commonwealth in fulfilling the promise of a high quality public education that successfully prepares every single student to realize his or her full potential. We believe this can be accomplished by advocating for students, education professionals, and support professionals.


Listen for Real! Listen beyond the color of my skin or the sway of my swag Hear the content of my verbiage beyond the hustle of my flow…. Filled with the articulation of my hood Mixed with the rhythm of my ancestral beginnings

A Kid in Motion is a Kid Learning

Better Words mean Better Problem-Solving

The federal government recommends children and adolescents ages 6 and older get at least 60 minutes of “vigorous” exercise daily. But in 2017, a study

Sentence starters aren’t just for writing prompts. Students

found fewer than 1 in 3 U.S. students does so regularly, and the rate of child-

need to be taught what many adults may take for granted:

hood obesity has more than tripled in the last three decades.

the “magic words” needed to piggyback on an idea, disagree

“We are so used to telling students, ‘Sit in your desk, be quiet, be still,

with an idea respectfully, or voice a personal opinion without

pay attention.’ That goes totally against how kids learn. A classroom

shutting down others. If you think creating a quick anchor chart and asking

should sound more like a construction site than a museum.”

students to use it word for word is too easy to be effective,

— Brad Johnson, author, Learning on Your Feet, and a 15-year

try it and watch how kids respond. Some examples:

classroom teacher “Children need to have more built-in movement throughout the

Receive the message that I attempt to communicate Often to ears that close at my mere presence

day—not just recess or even P.E., but getting up and moving around,

Listen to the beat of my heart as it presses forth towards ideas, dreams and goals That you choose not to hear simply because I speak them differently than you can imagine

A&M University School of Public Healthl

wiggling, wobbling, fidgeting. All those are small acts of daily activity that 100 years ago, people just had as a function of life. We’ve got to find new ways to build movements back in, because we are dynamic creatures.”

— Mark Benden, the director of the Ergonomics Center at the Texas

Could you explain that again in different words?

I’m not following you.

I respectfully disagree, because…

I see things differently.

I agree, because…

I wonder if…

I’d like to finish my thought.

Could you give an example? What evidence are you thinking about?

Do I hear you saying that…

We seem to be on the same page.

Overall, I think… This may take some modeling and orienting from you;

kids’ first attempts at using these starters can look an awful lot like them staring at you while you go crazy using

Just once meet me in my space instead of always expectin’ me to be present in yours Hear who I am as I exist in this moment versus who you deem for me to be in the next moment...of time.… just ... so you can finally pay attention and listen…. for real!l

all the verbal and nonverbal cues at your disposal to remind them to refer to the chart while they’re talking.l “Who told you there was a cooties epidemic?”

Source: MiddleWeb

By Chesterfield Education Association member Photo on page 4 by iStock

Melodie Henderson (above), after she witnessed an unnecessarily uncomfortable exchange between a minority student and a white teacher. She read the poem at VEA’s recent Recruiting and Retaining Teachers of Color Conference. “All my answers were locally sourced from the girl sitting in front of me.”






Digital Gap Leaves Too Many Disconnected

Average age, in years, of an American public school building. SOURCE: NEA

It will take a village to build bridges that ensure children grow up with equivalent digital opportunities regardless of their economic station or where their parents live.l From an editorial in the (Newport News) Daily Press



A New Approach to Cutting Teen Phone Dependency? Given that adolescents are highly reactive to perceived intrusions of their independence, a better cell phone policy would involve a schoolwide effort to frame limited phone use as a way to “stick it to the man.” Students could be encouraged to view reduced phone use as a way to resist a powerful, profit-seeking industry that seeks to undermine individuals’ willpower through addictive technology.l Simone Ispa-Landa, an assistant professor, and Heidi Gansen, a postdoctoral fellow, both at Northwestern University




As more VEA members are seeing how their careers are affected by political decisions, more are becoming candidates for those decision-making positions. Two examples are in Prince William County, where PWEA member Maggie Hansford and county resident Lisa Zargarpur, a Fairfax Education Association member, will be on the ballot this fall. Hansford is running for the Board of County Supervisors; Zargarpur for School Maggie Board. Hansford Hansford, a speech therapist, is disgusted with the fact that Prince William has the lowest paid teachers and largest classroom sizes in Northern Virginia. “I am running to put our kids first by adequateLisa Zargarpur ly funding our schools, providing multiple levels of transportation choices so families can spend more time together, and strengthening local businesses and helping attract new ones,” she says. Zargarpur, a music teacher, wants teachers to have more say in policymaking. “I intend to bring a teacher’s voice to the board, so that when we make policy decisions that impact classroom size, teacher workload, and student achievement measurements, those decisions are made with teachers and students in mind,” she says. You can follow both candidates on Twitter at @HansfordMaggie and @LisaforColes.l



Photos by iStock

“No, you may not leave early to beat the traffic.”

Technology is a foundational part of our lives, yet hundreds upon thousands of children have been left out of this digital revolution because they are too poor or live too far out of the way to access computers and high-speed internet. In Virginia alone, an estimated 660,000 people still lack access to high-speed internet. We are, unwittingly, allowing a rift to grow in our society between a social class where young people are digitally literate and keen to the exponential possibilities these technologies can create and one in which the internet is tantalizingly just beyond their reach because they cannot afford or access such devices.

Off and Running!




Union members are fighting—and winning—in local budget debates around the state.

In local battles to secure funding that will ensure the state’s 5 percent teacher salary increase, and on a range of education issues, VEA members are standing up and speaking up, letting governing bodies know, in the strongest way they can, that schools and educators can no longer be neglected. And, in finding their voice, they’re demonstrating our power. MONTGOMERY COUNTY EDUCATION ASSOCIATION members were a constant, dogged presence during the months the Board of Supervisors and School Board debated the budget for county schools, and will now reap the benefits of their efforts. “We went to many meetings of both groups,” says MCEA President Matthew Fentress, “as well as having individual conversations with our superintendent and local politicians. Our members continued to advocate, both in person and through email.” Late in the process, MCEA brought in a secret weapon: Delegate Chris Hurst, who addressed the Board of Supervisors while sporting an MCEA shirt. “He was a rock star,” Fentress says. “Funding our schools and

valuing our teachers is the fundamental core role of state and local government,” Hurst told county leaders. “School employees must be our priority in every budget we prepare on behalf of the taxpayer and it certainly should never be the first line item to start cutting just because it’s often the largest pool of money.” When all the talking was over, the county’s School Board had kept its promise to MCEA and presented a 3.5 percent raise and no health insurance premium increase. Fentress called it a “win for MCEA and a win for all of MCPS,” and noted that both Superintendent Mark Miear and more than one Board member said publicly that it wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of MCEA members. †††

Back in Black: members of the Montgomery County Education Association sport their union’s black t-shirts with “We have your back!” emblazoned on them. MCEA President Matthew Fentress says the shirts effectively “reinforce the sense of unity in our members,” and MCEA sported them at numerous public meetings and events.

LYNCHBURG EDUCATION ASSOCIATION members are celebrating, too. City Council there voted, by a paper-thin 4-3 margin, to fully fund LEA’s push for a 5 percent raise, also approving a step plan for staff, which guarantees increasing pay until employees reach the top of the pay scale. “It took us three years,” says LEA President Karl Loos. “We created a compensation committee, laid the groundwork with the school board, created multiple proposals to present to school administration, spoke numerous times to the School Board and City Council about the need for pay increases, shared the struggles of our staff, held public events to bring the community into the discussion, built relationships with school leaders, got a seat at the table as new pay schedules were created, and advocated for the new pay schedules individually with candidates who became city council members. “We kept up those relationships with council members and it helped sway a very tight vote,” he


says. “Now, every LCS employee will earn a living wage!” WINCHESTER EDUCATION ASSOCIATION members will also enjoy raises beginning this summer: 3 to 6 percent for teachers and 3 to 8 percent for education support professionals. “My biggest takeaway for local action is just to be consistent, positive, and try to work with whatever hand we are dealt,” says WEA President Michael Siraguse. “I’ve built positive relationships and really try to meet my local School Board and City Council members as individuals, in order to develop a personal relationship.” In the past, WEA has also run an email campaign directed to City Council members. Earlier this year, Siraguse had a letter to the editor calling for salary increases published in the Winchester Star, telling the community, “We come in early, stay late, bring work home, and still manage to get a student to absorb and internalize thousands of ideas or actions in their journey from pre-K student to high school graduate.”


Email blasts, extensive use of both Facebook and Twitter, rep meetings, even videos were a big part of the effort made by members of the FAUQUIER EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, and they helped generate so much enthusiasm that more than 200 FEA representatives trekked to Richmond for VEA’s Fund Our Future rally in January. “Some folks were most interested in the rally and march,” says FEA President Lauren Brill, “and others were excited about meeting legislators and lobbying. We definitely came to do both.” FEA made their presence known in Richmond and for months back home at School Board and Board of Supervisors meetings, public hearings, and work sessions. When the process wrapped up, all school employees had at least 5 percent raises. In HENRY COUNTY, HCEA members spent two years building their case and working hard to elect Board of Supervisors candidates who understood it, including the division’s former superintendent. HCEA also spent years working for a stronger school board, which now features six former educators among its seven members. The results? An additional $400,000 for schools and a 4.5 percent raise for school employees, over two years, plus one step on the salary scale next year to make up for some previously lost ground. “Elections matter,” says Dorothy Carter, HCEA’s executive vice president. “When the right people are in office, HCEA’s job is proactive rather than reactive.” In YORK COUNTY, members also began advocating several years

ago and, as a result, they got 3 percent raises last year. When the state put up money for a 5 percent raise this year, YEA members got their local leaders to pony up 3 percent more. “Our focus right now is on ESP salaries,” says NEA Director and YEA member Carol Bauer, who notes that administrators are planning an increase of at least 4 percent for support professionals.

Stand-Up Women and Men Across the State At press time, budgets were still being worked out in many Virginia communities and, as that process has unfolded, Union leaders were also raising their voices in public forums there. Here are a few examples: WHAT KIND OF SCHOOLS DO YOU WANT? Rosemary Wagoner, president of the Waynesboro Education Association: Many of our students’ families cannot make a living wage in Waynesboro. We need to attract business with good-paying jobs. In order to do this, we need high-quality schools. This is the first year that Waynesboro teachers are being paid the lowest salaries in our area. We can’t have high-quality schools if we continue to be the lowest paying school division in the region. Keeping and being able to attract good teachers to Waynesboro is going to be increasingly hard, especially if we’re just one of a few divisions that do not take advantage of that state salary increase. We shouldn’t throw away money from the state, because we need to see if can find, as a community, a way to

accept that money and finish that 5 percent that they’re offering to pay a portion of. I’m not saying this lightly…I know it’s going to be really hard. However, we can work with you to make that happen. We’re willing to do that. The Waynesboro community needs to decide what type of schools it will provide for our youth.

MAKE A STATEMENT! Jeff Rudy, president of the Shenandoah County Education Association: Meeting the governor’s 5 percent salary increase would fortify staff retention, heighten morale, ease the monthly burden on teachers and staff, and even encourage more highly-qualified applicants for bus drivers, teachers, and other needs in the county. The 5 percent is not just a number, but a statement to teachers and staff, here in Shenandoah County and surrounding communities, that SCPS is a leader in education in the Valley. Sadly, there are, in fact, SCPS employees currently working here whose entire Jeff Rudy paycheck is for health insurance. The insurance conundrum has been a huge concern for many of our members. But the SCEA is very appreciative of all your efforts and difficult decisions made in the best interest of SCPS, its employees, and most importantly, the students. †††



A DIFFERENCE 1. Share information you receive from the VEA and your local with fellow Union members. 2. Attend your local school board meetings and bring fellow Union members with you. Tell your story during public comment. 3. Plan a meeting with an elected official (school board, city council, board of supervisors, House of Delegates, Virginia Senate) and talk to them about your work and what you need. 4. Reach out to your UniServ Office, local leaders, building reps, or UniServ Director about getting more involved in the Union. 5. Recruit potential members to join the Union. 6. Sign up to be a VEA online advocate. You can do this at the Union’s website, www.veanea. org. 7. Join VEA’s Political Action Committee and vote!l



larger restaurants and smaller fastfood choices. They will also be able to see the crowded parking lots and even lines of people outside waiting to go in and be seated. The meals tax in Lynchburg does not seem to be a deterrent to business for those places. One could venture to say that few—if any—of the customers even thought about a meals tax when deciding to patronize these locations. So how does this not make sense for Campbell County? Should we continue to give this revenue to other localities? Since going to a restaurant is a personal choice, if a

meals tax bothers them, then don’t go. (It would be hard to believe that these same people who complain about a meals tax for Campbell County do not frequent the restaurants in Lynchburg.) Vote “Yes” on the meals tax and bring this revenue where it belongs— to us, the residents of Campbell County. WE NEED A DIVERSE TEACHING WORKFORCE Kimberley Hundley of the Williamsburg-James City County Education Association: I am retiring next year, and I do hope

COMMONWEALTH COMING UP SHORT Virginia teachers not only continue to trail most of their colleagues around the country every payday, they are also losing ground to other Virginians with similar educations. According to the NEA’s latest Rankings and Estimates report, our public school teachers are paid $8,483 less than the national average salary for teachers, leaving our state ranked 32nd in the U.S. Inexplicably, these figures come at a time when Virginia is the 11th wealthiest state in America. “How are we supposed to recruit and retain the very best, most committed educators, the ones our children deserve, if we don’t pay them well?” says VEA President Jim Livingston. “We know teachers aren’t in our schools to get rich, but why should they have to take second and even third jobs to support their families? That’s a disservice to students, families, educators, and the entire community.” Further, a new study by the Economic Policy Institute that compared the salaries of college graduates in every state finds Virginia teachers earn 31.3 percent less in average weekly wages, adjusted for inflation, than other college graduates in the state. Only two other states had a worse “wage penalty” than Virginia, EPI found. While Virginia’s General Assembly approved the state share of a 5 percent raise for teachers, some localities face shortfalls that leave them unable to make the required match of those state dollars, Livingston says: “To keep the best and brightest teachers in Virginia, we need a long-term commitment from the state plus more funding support for our localities, which have seen the state share of K-12 funding shrink since the recession. Our elected leaders need to commit to fund our future, and they need to do it now.”l



another teacher of color takes my place. We do need more people of color and more young men teaching in our schools. If you happen to know any young men, or any people of color, who happen to be in college right now, and hope to become teachers, reach Kimberley Hundley out to us, we want you here. If they aren’t interested in coming here, ask them why, because we can’t elevate to excellence until we know what we need to work on to bring the best and brightest here. HOW LONG WILL YOU ALLOW THIS TO GO ON? Rhonda Wagner, president of the Newport News Education Association: For the past few years, we’ve been looking at declining funding from the city so we’re really trying to play catch up. I feel that Dr. Parker had proposed a very fair budget and I really thought it was going be put through this year. I’m extremely surprised that, here again, we’re going to be in front of City Council trying to encourage them to fund the schools. This is a movement going on across the country. We really need to start funding education. For the past 10 years, it has been on the back burner and we really need to change that especially for our kids. I’m a parent, and my children go to this school district. These children are going to be in the community. We want to keep them out of trouble, and one of the best ways we can do that is to fund their needs.

YOU MUST SET PRIORITIES Dr. Jessica Jones, president of the Pittsylvania Education Association, addressing school board members and members of the community attending school board meetings and board of supervisor’s public input sessions: What is the thing we want the most? What is the thing we value the most? And, what do we want the most for our students, our children, our community, our future? Pittsylvania’s Board of Supervisors ended up approving an additional $650,000 in school funding. ‘WE COULD BE THE BEST’ Reuben Siskin, president of the Augusta County Education Association Many teachers and staff have done a superior job with what they have been given, and they have seen success in their students. Imagine what results we would have in Augusta County if we had the tools, the staff and the buildings other districts have? We could be the best. WE’VE EARNED PROFESSIONAL FREEDOM Emma Clark of the Chesterfield Education Association and a former Richmond teacher, on the city changing a policy that prohibited teachers from transferring to other schools in the division: People need the flexibility as teachers to shift around and find the right place for them. Teachers need the right to transfer because you have to have some professional autonomy within your career. COME AND SEE Rachel O’Mara-Paddock, a Stafford Education Association member: Anybody who wants to argue what

our classroom sizes are, anybody who wants to really know what’s going on in our schools—where our buildings are leaking and falling apart—come to our schools, ask to come and volunteer in a classroom and take a look around for yourself and see that what we’re asking for are the basic necessities that our students and our teachers deserve. ‘Prove Me Wrong!’ Lezley Wilson, president of the Pulaski County Education Association I hope that what flashes through your minds this evening is that my assumptions are wrong and my fears are unfounded. That is my challenge to you: Prove me wrong! I fear that the teacher raise enacted by the General Assembly will be left on the table for the education professionals of PCPS because there is not an allocation of local funds. Prove me wrong! I fear that the security and safety of our children is not a priority. Leaving a new salary scale for our bus drivers unfunded will continue the loss of our drivers to localities with higher salaries and better benefits. Prove me wrong! I fear that capital improvements to fortify the security of our buildings, and School Resource Officers for our elementary schools will not be funded, placing our children, staff, and structures at risk. Prove me wrong! I fear that despite the slogans, new funding to demonstrate the importance and commitment to education in Pulaski County…to recruit, retain, and value our staff, and to provide for the safety of our children will not be forthcoming. Prove me wrong!l



Illustration by iStock

WE NEED THE MEALS TAX! Christel Coman, president of the Campbell County Education Association, writing in The (Lynchburg) News & Advance. Campbell County voters later approved the meals tax, part of the proceeds of which are designated for schools. Should Campbell County residents approve a meals tax? Seems to be a big debate about this fairly simple topic. Anyone traveling down Wards Road where the hotels begin in Lynchburg and Bedford County will see a varied assortment of

Fill In These Blanks! The teaching shortage is a threat to our schools.

This article is drawn from the Economic Policy Institute’s report, “The Teacher Shortage is Real, Large and Growing, and Worse Than We Thought,” which is the first report in a series entitled, “The Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market.” The series, which will look at the magnitude of the teacher shortage and the factors causing it, will feature reports on teaching recruitment and retention challenges faced by high-poverty schools, the impact of school environments on teachers, and the lack of training, early career support, and professional development provided to many teachers.




n recent years, education researchers and journalists who cover education have called attention to the growing teacher shortage in the nation’s K–12 schools. They cite a variety of indicators of the shortage, including state-by-state subject area vacancies, personal testimonials and data from state and school district officials, and declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs. As recently as the 2011–2012 school year, the estimated supply of teachers available to be hired exceeded the demand for them—i.e., there was a surplus of teachers in that year’s labor market. But estimated projected demand soon exceeded the estimated supply and the projected gap grew sharply in just a handful of years—from around 20,000 in 2012–2013, to 64,000 teachers in the 2015–16 school year, to over 110,000 in 2017–2018. In other words, the shortage of teachers was projected to more than quadruple in just five years and the gap to remain at those 2017–2018 levels thereafter. The teacher shortage has serious consequences. A lack of sufficient, qualified teachers threatens students’ ability to learn. Instability in a school’s teacher workforce (i.e., high turnover and/or high attrition) negatively affects student achievement and diminishes teacher effectiveness and quality. And high teacher turnover consumes economic resources (i.e., through costs of recruiting and training new teachers) that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage also makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, further perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among

students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children. Conclusion: We must tackle the working conditions and other factors that contribute to the growing teacher shortage, especially in high-poverty schools. There is no sign that the large shortage of credentialed teachers—overall, and especially in high-poverty schools—will go away. In light of


find the “missing” teachers. As a first step to exploring the teacher shortage, it is important to acknowledge that the teacher shortage is the result of multiple and interdependent drivers, all working simultaneously to cause the imbalance between the number of new teachers needed (demand) and the number of individuals available to be hired (supply). But both supply-side and demand-side drivers of the labor market for teachers are products of existing working conditions, existing policies, and other factors. If these change, this can in turn

Unfilled teaching positions in Virginia (latest estimate by the Virginia Department of Education)

the harms this shortage creates, as well as its size and trends, it is critical to understand the nature of the problem and the complexity of the teacher labor market. Only when we understand the factors that contribute to the growing shortage of high-quality teachers can we design policy interventions—and better guide institutional decisions—to

drive changes in the demand and supply of teachers and affect the size (or existence) of the teacher shortage. We put forth this series of reports to analyze the factors that contribute to shortages of highly qualified teachers, and to the larger shortage of these teachers in high-poverty schools. Though no one condition or factor alone creates or eliminates



Illustrations by iStock


Virginia’s Current Top 10 Critical Shortage Teaching Endorsement Areas

1. Special Education 2. Elementary Education PreK-6 3. Middle Education Grades 6-8 4. Career and Technical Education 5. Mathematics Grades 6-12 (including Algebra 1) 6. School Counselor PreK-12 7. English (Secondary) 8. Science (Secondary) 9. Foreign Language PreK-12 10. Health and Physical Education PreK-12 Source: Virginia Department of Education


Schools struggle to find and retain highly qualified individuals to teach, and this struggle is tougher in high-poverty schools. A dwindling pool of applicants and excessive teacher attrition make staffing schools difficult. With the number of students completing teacher preparation programs falling dramatically, and with significant rates of attrition and turnover in the profession, it should be no surprise that schools report difficulties in hiring and, in some cases, do not hire anyone to fill vacancies. The difficulties are greater in high-poverty schools. The share of schools that are hiring, the difficulty in filling vacancies, and the share of unfilled vacancies all increased in the past few years. Low teacher pay is reducing the attractiveness of teaching jobs and is an even bigger problem in high-poverty schools. Teachers have long been underpaid compared with similarly educated workers in other professions, with a pay gap that has grown substantially in the past two decades. In high-poverty schools, teachers face a double disadvantage, as they are further underpaid relative to their peers in low-poverty schools. The tough school environment is demoralizing to teachers, especially so in high-poverty schools. Teachers report that student absenteeism, class-cutting, student apathy, lack of parental involvement, poor student health, poverty, and other factors are a problem. Larger shares of teachers also report high levels of stress and fears for their safety. The school climate is tougher in


high-poverty schools. Relative to their peers in low-poverty schools, teachers in high-poverty schools are less likely to say they intend to continue to teach and more likely to say they think about transferring to another school. •

Teachers—especially in high-poverty schools—aren’t getting the training, early career support, and professional development opportunities they need to succeed and this too is keeping them, or driving them, out of the profession. The lack of supports that are critical to succeeding in the classroom and the unsatisfactory continued training makes teaching less attractive and impedes its professionalization. Teachers in high-poverty schools devote a slightly larger share of their hours to delivering instruction, and fewer of them have scheduled time for professional development.

Together, these factors, their trends, and the lack of proper comprehensive policy attention countering them have created a perfect storm in the teacher labor market, as evident in the spiking shortage of highly qualified teachers, especially in high-poverty schools. The sixth and final report in the series calls for immediate policy steps to address this national crisis.l Excerpts from “The Teacher Shortage is Real, Large and Growing, and Worse Than We Thought” are used with the permission of the Economic Policy Institute. To read the entire report, visit EPI’s website through this shortened link: teachershortage.

It’s Ugly Online How do we protect our students from online hate? By Chuck Ronco


uring my planning period one Friday in March, I checked the news on my school computer and saw a headline about the New Zealand shooter flashing a hand signal in court. This hand signal purportedly was a symbol of white supremacy, and since I’ve been trained by my SRO to be aware of gang iconography and subtle clues indicating membership or support of criminal groups, I was curious. I visited Google Images and typed in some search terms in an attempt to find the hand signal, so I could identify it should I see it. Clicking on one image, I was disturbingly sent to a Neo-Nazi, white supremacist and Holocaust denial website

called “The Daily Stormer.” The article I landed on discussed how the New Zealand shooter could have “increased his score.” I am never shocked by the depravity on the internet. There are always going to be those that peddle hate, lies, and filth. But I was looking at this website on my school computer. Still curious, I went to several other hate group websites, finding all of them to be freely available to students. I grew ever more concerned, as I saw articles on some of these pages about the “golden age of Adolph Hitler” and the “Jew media.” Innocent young people can pull up this filth in our schools. I contacted the chair of my school board †††



Illustrations by iStock

shortages, each of them plays a role in this established problem, deserves separate attention, and has its own policy implications. Indeed, it is because we rarely provide this attention that we have failed to understand and fix the problems. The reports that we are publishing in this series will focus on these multiple intersecting factors. The second paper shows how a teacher shortage manifests in schools in the form of real struggles schools are having in properly staffing themselves. The three reports that follow dig into some of the reasons why teaching is becoming an unattractive profession. Specifically, four forthcoming reports will show the following:


Virginia has seen problems inherent in internet access in schools coming for a couple decades: In 2000, the General Assembly passed a law requiring school divisions to develop acceptable use policies, including Internet guidelines for students and teachers. The next year, state and federal laws allowed schools to install filtering software as a protection against students accessing inappropriate and potentially harmful material.

But, as any educator can tell you, nothing

is foolproof and young people can be very, very resourceful.

That’s why, even with filters in place,

monitoring your students’ computer use remains essential. As the Virginia Department of Education puts it, teachers and library media specialists must watch students like they would on a field trip. Computer labs can be set up to make supervision easier.


Some other bits of advice from VDOE: •

Students should only be online for specific academic purposes.

Teachers, as much as they can, should become familiar with new tools that can allow students to get to protected sites.

Teachers should also check student online histories periodically.

Classroom and library rules must mirror a school division’s acceptable use policy regarding the steps students should take if they accidentally access an inappropriate site.

School technical staff need to utilize the division’s network tracking controls and study the generated reports, which may identify patterns of inappropriate use.

Teachers need to keep up-to-date on Internet safety issues and provide accurate, timely information to students.

Teachers should establish and post rules for safe Internet use near computers in classrooms, libraries, and labs, and remind students that those rules are for their safety.

Teachers should go over the rules with students periodically. This will help students remember them, even when they’re excited or upset.

The lines of communication between home and school must be kept open on this issue, and students and parents must know the consequences of disobeying the rules.

Classroom rules and the school division’s acceptable use policy must be enforced, and done so in a consistent way.l


Filtering Out Trouble While there are instances in which the line between real research and questionable online activity can get a bit blurry, most educators know that letting young people have unfettered internet access is an

excretion; (ii) depicts, describes, or represents, in a patently offensive way with respect to what is suitable for minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual acts, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals; and (iii) taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value as to minors.” Notably absent is hate speech, hate groups and Holocaust denial. As CIPA is a federal law, I contacted my congressman, Gerry Connelly, and Senator Mark Warner’s offices and told them about the issue. This needs to be addressed at the federal level, and it needs support from educators to make sure that something is done quickly. I’m looking forward to adding this to the NEA’s legislative agenda and putting the full force of our Union behind the online protection of our students.l

almost-certain recipe for trouble.

“Good content filtering protects kids,”

says Paul Kirill, VEA’s Director of Technology and Data, “and should not be difficult to set up. Every school should have it.”

Educators should be familiar with

their school division’s filter, Kirill adds, both for the protection of students and themselves and when planning assignments. “Teachers need to be well-informed about what should and shouldn’t get through,” he says. “There should also be a process when an educator learns of an objectionable site that’s gotten past the student filter. Who do you send that information to? Who then says, ‘You’re right, this should be blocked’ and directs it to happen?”

Groups are another easy-to-create

component of a decent filtering system, Kirill notes. Teachers should be able to access information unavailable to students, such as hate group sites, if they’re going to be teaching about such groups or other controversial topics.l

Ronco, a member of the Prince William Education Association, is a a high school math teacher.



Photo and Illustrations by iStock


and asked that he instruct the Information Technology Department to filter these websites, and he assured me that he would do so. I was also given the opportunity to submit a list of websites that should be blocked, and although I know a few, compiling such a list would be a Herculean task. Computerized bots currently scour the internet to filter out unwanted websites, and I realized that those bots need to be tasked to filter out hate groups, also. A new business item at this year’s Representative Assembly was passed to inform the other states and VEA’s locals about the possibility that these websites may be available to our students. While that’s a step in the right direction, I still didn’t feel satisfied when I got home. Additional research led me to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Passed in 2000, it requires school systems and libraries to filter out harmful online content as a requirement for federal funding. The law stipulates that obscene material (as defined by Miller v. California 1973), child pornography, and “material harmful to minors” be filtered. That last term is defined within CIPA as: “Any picture, image, graphic image file, or other visual depiction that – (i) taken as a whole and with respect to minors, appeals to a prurient interest in nudity, sex, or


At each year’s convention, VEA salutes the work of individuals and groups who have done excellent work in support of public education. This year’s honorees are: Award for Teaching Excellence: Joy Kirk of the Frederick County Education Association, a teacher of gifted students at Admiral Byrd Middle School. • Award for Teaching Excellence: Joy Kirk of the Frederick County Education Association, a teacher of gifted students at Admiral Byrd Middle School. • Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year: Leroy J. Williams of the Manassas Education Association, school security officer at Metz Middle School. • Friend of Education Award: Dr. Cynthia Cave, recently retired Assistant Superintendent for Policy and Communications at the Virginia Department of Education.

Convention festivities, clockwise from above: Delegates take funding demands outside; VEA President Jim Livingston speaks; members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus accept VEA’s Legislators of the Year Award; newly-elected NEA Director Christina Bohringer.

In addition to staging a lively school-funding protest on the streets of Richmond, delegates to 134th annual VEA convention also set their sights on making headway in collective bargaining rights, treating education support professionals more fairly, and improving both the teacher dismissal and record expungement process.

• Fitz Turner Award for Outstanding Contributions in Intergroup Relations: Dialogue on Race of Montgomery County. • Barbara Johns Youth Award for Human Relations and Civil Rights: Team Shine Together and Purple Reign, a group of students at Battlefield High School in Prince William County. • Robley S. Jones Political Activist Award: Sam Eure of the Newport News Education Association and former York Education Association president. Jennifer Andrews of the Henrico Education Association said it was even more effective because several legislators who were at the convention joined the march: “They showed their full support for public education in Virginia. It was especially great to see them carrying signs and chanting! With the success of the march

VEA Convention Delegates Take to the Streets; Strengthen Union and ‘Fund Our Future’ Campaign Waving signs for the Union’s “Fund Our Future” campaign, the nearly 600 delegates, accompanied by a #Red4Ed school bus, drew both honks of support from passing motorists and media attention on their Friday march. “The march did a great job of keeping legislators aware that educators and parents are tired of not getting the funding they need,” said Samantha Killion of the Fredericksburg Education Association


in January, it was good to gather together and show our support for #FundOurFuture!” VEA President Jim Livingston brought the convention to its feet Thursday, challenging VEA members to not only call themselves a Union, but to act like one. The way forward, he stressed, is solidarity, vision, and power. “Solidarity is about having each other’s backs,” he said, “and vision is


committing ourselves to a great public school for every student. Power? It’s right here—all we have to do is take it!” For some educators, power has been an uncomfortable word, VEA Executive Director Dr. Brenda Pike noted in her speech to delegates, but it needn’t be. “Power is only the ability to act,” she said. “Why shouldn’t we have it, based on the values that bring us together?” Other convention highlights included the annual awards dinner, at which Joy Kirk of Frederick County and Leroy J. Williams of Manassas earned the Union’s top honors for teachers and ESPs, respectively; a host of awards to education-friendly legislators; and vigorous floor debate ona wide range of issues. “Our conventions allow me to connect with my VEA sisters and brothers,” said A. Ramon Moore of the Richmond Education Association. “Every year I leave with a better knowledge of state policy and also what’s going on in other localities.”l

• VEA-Retired Distinguished Service Award: Barbara Mann of the Chesterfield Education Association, a retired elementary school teacher. • Political Activism Award: Stafford Education Association. • Community Service Award: Spotsylvania Education Association.l

New National Award Created for Support Professionals Members of the United States Senate have officially recognized what educators have always known: Education support professionals are absolutely indispensable to quality public education. In March, Senators approved the Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act, legislation that provides long-overdue recognition for the outstanding contributions made by ESPs and classified school employees. The new law directs the U.S. Secretary of Education to establish a national award program for such educators, something the National Education Association already does through its prestigious ESP of the Year award. “Education support professionals are an integral part of the nation’s public education system and the more than 50 million students it serves,” says NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “They often are the first in the building and the last to leave. They promote student achievement, ensure student safety, and contribute to the establishment and promotion of a positive instructional environment every day.”l

CALENDAR conferences Leadership Academy July 14-16, 2019 University of Richmond Reggie Smith Organizing School July 17-19, 2019 University of Richmond VEA Instructional Conference October 11-12, 2019 Richmond Marriott

Robinson National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson, a member of the Richmond Education Association and a social studies teacher at the city’s juvenile detention center, has been named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year. He describes his students as “the most vulnerable kids in society” and pledges to “fight to my last heartbeat for them.” Look for much more on Robinson in the Journal this fall.l



Photos by Lisa Sale

VEA Honors Educators, Organizations with Annual Awards


Nobody really likes to talk about life insurance and almost all of us procrastinate about it. It is, however, a crucial element in financial planning and can protect who and what’s most important to you. The Virginia Retirement System (VRS) provides life insurance coverage through Securian Financial to eligible VRS members. You’ve got basic group life insurance. Teachers are covered under the VRS Group Life Insurance Program from their first day on the job. Coverage includes: • Natural death benefit, equal to your creditable compensation rounded to the next highest thousand and then doubled. • Accidental death benefit, which is double the natural death benefit. • Plus, a variety of other benefits related to serious injury resulting from an accident and terminal illness. Coverage ends if you leave your job before meeting age and service requirements for retirement or if you take a refund of your member contributions and interest. You can purchase more coverage. Additional coverage is available for you, your spouse, and dependent children through VRS’ Optional Group Life Insurance Program, which offers benefits for natural and accidental death or dismemberment. You pay premiums through payroll deduction. Be sure to name your beneficiary. VRS pays benefits according to the latest beneficiary designation on file. If you have a life change, such as a marriage, divorce, or new family member, don’t delay updating your life insurance beneficiary. Visit www.varetire. org/life-insurance for the form and more information. When you retire. Your VRS Basic Group Life Insurance natural death and accelerated death benefit continue in retirement. Your death benefit is equal to your compensation at retirement, rounded to the next highest thousand then doubled. It gradually reduces until it reaches 25 percent of the policy’s total value at retirement (or when you leave employment. If you have Optional Group Life Insurance for you and your family while you’re working, you may be eligible to continue coverage into retirement. You have 31 days after leaving employment to elect to keep the coverage in retirement. You pay premiums directly to Securian. All optional life insurance coverage ends at age 80. To learn more about life insurance benefits and naming a beneficiary, visit If you’re an active VRS member, visit your myVRS account (My History tab at to view your current life insurance coverage.l

A New Summer Training! Because leadership is all of us, VEA has replaced our officers’ retreat with the new Leadership Academy. It’s July 14-16 at the University of Richmond, and aims to grow the skills of local officers and other members dedicated to the Union’s success. Questions? Contact VEA Teaching & Learning at 800-552-9554.l

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VEA Teacher-Members Around State Saluted for Excellence Across Virginia, VEA members are being singled out for their excellence in the classroom. Here’s a sample of Union members who are currently the Teacher of the Year in their school divisions:

We’ve Made Progress—Full Steam Ahead! Public education in Virginia and our Union have both made amazing progress in the last year and, as we look back with some satisfaction, we’re also looking ahead with even greater anticipation. Here are a few areas I’ll be focused on, along with our members across the state—all areas we’ll need you to be part of, too: More of us! The power we’ve already built will only grow as our membership does. This summer, this fall, and all year, invite colleagues to join us in the Union. New, mid-career, veteran educators—we need everyone! We’re already making things happen. We could do even more with more of us—the more collective the action, the more effective it is. And folks don’t usually join unless you ask them to! Elections matter! I’ve said and written this hundreds of times, but we never saw it demonstrated more clearly than this past year. We played a crucial role in the election of numerous education-friendly legislators and, as a result, we had our most successful General Assembly session in years. This fall’s elections are super-important: every seat in the House and Senate is up for grabs. We have an amazing opportunity to affect the course of our schools for years to come. We need everyone involved in all our local races!

• Debbie Blessing of the Bland County Education Association and Bland County Elementary School • Kimberly Clark of the Henry County Education Association and Rich Acres Elementary School • Whitney Curle of the King and Queen County Education Association and Central High School

We made a difference before. We will do it again! Fund Our Future. This is more than a VEA campaign—it’s a movement to ensure success for our young people, schools, educators, and communities. In the last decade, the state is paying less, forcing localities to pay more; student enrollment is up while school staff numbers are down; and our schools have had to absorb cuts of about $350 million a year. To learn more, visit The way forward is clear: Our General Assembly must restore funding to pre-recession levels; increase help for our most endangered students through the At-Risk Add On; help us attract and keep the best teachers by getting salaries to at least the national average; and provide the resources for school capital projects, including updating and replacing aging buildings. That’s what Fund Our Future is really about: Doing the right thing. Ensuring brighter days ahead for all of us. Keeping our promise to the children and families of Virginia. Be a part of the movement.l

• Sarah Deel of the Smyth County Education Association and Marion Senior High School • Julie Eng of the Isle of Wight Education Association and Smithfield High School • Gail Drake of the Prince William Education Association and Battlefield High School • Melissa Follin of the Virginia Beach Education Association and Old Donation School • Maggie Gavello of the Winchester Education Association and Handley High School • Doug Haga of the Smyth County Education Association and Smyth Career and Technology Center • Tamika Hathaway of the New Kent Education Association and New Kent Middle School • Donte Montague of the Staunton Education Association and Ware Elementary School • Emily Redding of the Montgomery County Education Association and Christiansburg High School • Clinton Smith of the Franklin City Education Association and S.P. Morton Elementary School • Betty Spiers of the Dinwiddie Education Association and Dinwiddie High School • Cynthia Young of the Hopewell Education Association and Hopewell High School.l



Photo by Reilly Bradshaw, Illustrations by iStock

Life Insurance Coverage Available through VRS


Keeping Some Time for Yourself The time you save is time you can spend doing things you might not ordinarily accomplish—or just a little extra time for yourself. Here are some helpful time-management tips, from NEA: • Create an organization system for keeping track of your lessons, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Websites and apps (e.g. Pinterest, Teacher Plan) also allow you to visually see lessons and map out your lesson plans. “The academic community is divided on many subjects, Leon, but not this one.”

• Pull out materials that you’ll need for the next day’s lessons before you go home for the day. Or, organize the weeks’ materials in different totes so that all you need is to pull out what you need when you’re ready.

Want to Write for the Journal? Many of our most widely-read articles are those written by you, our members. We’d love for you to consider being among our authors. Do you have an idea about classroom management, a better way to do something, an effective way to use technology? Or an education issue you feel passionately about?

Think about spending a part of your summer at the keyboard, putting

together a potential Journal piece. Before you do, feel free to drop a note to the editor, Tom Allen, to make sure we haven’t recently covered your proposed topic and that it’s a good fit for the magazine.

We can’t, of course, guarantee up front that every submission will be

Student VEA Rebrands College students around Virginia who are preparing for public school classroom careers gave themselves a new name at this year’s VEA convention. Formerly known as the Student Virginia Education Association, members introduced a New Business Item changing the name of their organization to SVEA: Aspiring Educators.l

Stuttering is a communication disorder marked by repetitions, prolongations, or abnormal stoppages of sounds and syllables. Approximately 5 percent of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. Here are some tips to help educators support students who are dealing with stutter-

published, but we can assure you that every one will be carefully read and

ing, from The Stuttering Foundation

reviewed. Just send yours to

( 1. Don’t tell the student “slow down” or “just relax.”

• Remember that not every activity is an assessment and in need of grading. Some activities can serve best only as tools to help students learn or solidify concepts.


Helping Students Who Stutter

2. Don’t complete words for the student or talk for him or her. 3. Help all members of the class learn

• Use a variety of assessments in the classroom including those that don’t require paper and pencil, such as dialogue or online tools.

to take turns talking and listening.

• Quickly scan and check for understanding on formative work in the classroom. Use a simple mark (check, smiley face, etc.) to show status of “grade” or progress.

All students — and especially those

• Create a monthly calendar for parent communication. On a blank calendar form, write the names of your students, placing one or two per day. Each month use the schedule to send a short note home, make a phone call, or email parents to keep them updated on how their student is doing in class.

tions and they have the listener’s

who stutter — find it much easier to talk when there are few interrupattention. 4. Expect the same quality and quantity of work from the student who stutters as the one

• Resist the urge to check email throughout the day. Instead, check 2-3 times per day (before school, during lunch/planning, and after school). During those checks, scan for critical issues and address as needed. Select one time during your day to respond to other requests.

who doesn’t. 5. Speak with the student in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. 6. Convey that you are listening to the

• Work with your team to upload important information on Google Docs so that necessary forms are located in one place and are accessible to all.l

content of the message, not how it is said. 7. Have a one-on-one conversation with the student who stutters about needed accommodations in the Photo and illustrations by iStock

classroom. Respect the student’s needs, but do not be enabling. 8. Don’t make stuttering something to be ashamed of. Talk about stuttering just like any other matter.l — Compiled by Lisa Scott, Ph.D., Florida State University






‘Connecting’ to Success Educators and students both are more successful when they feel connected to one another and connected to their school. What connects a young person to his or her school is often primarily the belief that the adults and peers there care about them, both as a learner and as a person.

According to the Centers for

Disease Control, this sense of being connected is not only a feel-good thing, it’s an important factor in both health and learning. Every educator can have a positive influence in the lives of young people—all it takes is a little time, interest, attention, and emotional support

And, says the CDC, students who

feel connected to their school are: •

More likely to attend school regularly, stay in school longer, and have higher grades and test scores.

Less likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or have sexual intercourse.

Less likely to carry weapons, become involved in violence, or be injured from dangerous activities such as drinking and driving or not

Photo-illustrations by iStock

wearing seat belts. •

Less likely to have emotional problems, suffer from eating disorders, or experience suicidal thoughts or attempts.l


What’s the Word?—The More the Better Kids who start kindergarten after being read five books a day by parents or caregivers have heard about 1.4 million more words than their counterparts who were never read to, reveals a study done by Ohio State University researchers. That gap is a possible key in figuring out why some children develop vocabulary and reading skills earlier than others, the study’s authors say. If a child is read only one book a day before starting kindergarten, he or she will still have heard about 290,000 more words than a child who wasn’t read to.l






A Fresh Coat of Paint— and a Fresh Outlook — Courtney Cutright

I spend a significant chunk of time enclosed by the four walls of my classroom. The building in which I teach was built in 1969, and renovating it is not even close to making the district’s list of capital improvement projects. Now, my school is not deteriorating in the same way as some of the crumbling infrastructure elsewhere in the rural commonwealth featured in media reports. For the most part, our roof doesn’t leak; there are no trash cans indoors to catch rainwater; and with three power strips, I have adequate access to electricity to power students’ laptops. But I do teach in an aging facility. We have issues with rodents and concerns about general cleanliness as a result of outsourced custodial services. The tables and chairs in my classroom are a hodgepodge; the legs of tables are wobbly and squeaky. A fresh coat of paint was long overdue. The classrooms were painted this spring, and the small project had a big impact. The walls of my room had been a dull yellow that looked like plaque-coated teeth in need of a good brushing. Remnants of poster putty and other adhesives pockmarked the surfaces. I was displaced for a day while a crew painted three walls pristine white and the fourth was transformed into a dark green accent wall. The result was a brighter, cleaner space that felt more conducive to learning. What was most surprising was the buzz among the faculty the minor renovation created and the morale boost that accompanied it. The fresh look made me feel good about my classroom space, which in turn made me feel better about my job. I ooh’ed and aah’ed as my hallmates’ rooms were painted one by one. We enjoyed sneaking in a newly painted room each afternoon to peek at the metamorphosis.



After my turn, I felt a sense of gratitude. It was as though someone looked in my classroom and realized that what I do is important and felt the space in which I work deserved to look better for my students and for me. Teachers spend our days solving problems. We know more than anyone about doing more with less and making do with whatever limited resources we have available. School districts statewide are facing budget crunches; this is a problem that is not going away. I understand there is never enough to go around. Most of our district’s money is spent on salaries, and that is always a funding category in need of more dollars. When times are lean, I think routine projects like painting may be overlooked in favor of larger projects, such as multimillion-dollar building overhauls. The lack of available funding is prompting educators to come up with creative ways to spruce up things. My friend and colleague, Lauren Sprouse, is our library media specialist. The library was one of the first spaces to be repainted. “I was able to have the library painted with bold, bright, modern colors, which immediately changed the whole feel of the space,” Sprouse said. “We noticed that the kids seemed to appreciate the newly painted space and that they seemed to care more about the library.” Sprouse worked with a local furniture company to upgrade the space with areas for small, collaborative groups. Unfortunately, the furniture was so expensive Sprouse could only afford to purchase a tenth of her proposal, using money earned from book fair sales. She was able to purchase café-height tables and chairs, as well as a sofa and ottoman. Sprouse then collaborated with our art teacher to update the bookcases with student artwork. Eighth-grade students created themed artwork to match the gentrified library collection, and the murals were permanently mounted to the tops of the shelves. “It has totally changed the feel of the library and has really made the kids claim the space as their own,” Sprouse said. I think she is on to something -- maybe a little more TLC around the building will create a ripple effect that extends throughout the school.l Cutright (, a member of the Roanoke County Education Association, teaches English at Northside Middle School.

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Virginia Journal of Education: June 2019