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Teachers Speak Out on Being Attacked

The bills to weaken teachers’ job security have provoked a sharp response from many VEA members. Below are two of many examples.

Bedford County Education Association member Jonathan Templeton wrote the following letter to Delegate Scott Garrett urging him to oppose HB 576, which would lengthen the probationary period for teachers from three to five years and make it possible to nonrenew experienced teachers with no reason given.

Subject: The Best of the Best

Delegate Garrett,
This is my third year teaching in Virginia public schools, and my second in Bedford County.  I may be new to the profession, but I love teaching, I love Virginia, and I would like to see myself following the path of my parents, who each spent more than 20 years instructing in the VA public school system.
Teaching didn't make my parents rich, but it gave them the fulfillment of meaningful employment (of which few rich men can boast).  They spent the greater part of their adult lives (and continue to do so) educating and guiding, helping more than one generation of students find its way in the world, making invaluable contributions to their community for payment far below what many workers of equal or lesser education expect for their time on the clock.  But my parents didn't resent it, because their school division and the State of Virginia seemed to value what they were doing.  The pay wasn't great, but raises did exist, and healthy benefits and retirement options were available to help compensate for subpar salaries.  Teachers had the supervision of their administrators, but they weren't constantly evaluated and analyzed as if they were parolees, rather than professionals devoting their career to doing their best at one of the most demanding jobs on the planet.
Yes, because Virginia valued its teachers, and actually showed that it valued its teachers rather than simply saying it did, it attracted and kept two of the best educators it has today.  My father, who holds a masters degree in physics, could have taken much more lucrative employment. But he chose to educate Virginia's youth instead, as did my mother, a masters degree holder herself.     
Since I began teaching three years ago, I have been RIF’d once, been told that my pay rate will not increase, seen my retirement threatened, and witnessed my benefits decrease.  SOLs and other arbitrary and counter-productive standards constantly dog my efforts to pragmatically educate my students as best serves them.  Now I stand to face review boards and analysis that perpetually judge and scrutinize my actions as if I were a common criminal, placing my job security constantly in jeopardy.  Given all this, why on earth would I continue to teach in Virginia?
I am young, as were my parents when they began educating in Virginia.  But where teaching in Virginia attracted them during their first years in the profession, I have no doubt they would shirk away from beginning a life as a VA educator today.  Passing HB 576 will do just that—chase away young, eager, and talented teachers willing to devote their working lives to education.  Why would anyone with enough skill and youth and ambition to pursue any career they wish commit themselves to a low-paying occupation of constant disrespect, review and lack of security? Which begs the question—if legislation like HB 576 chases away young, talented, and committed teachers, who exactly will fill their void?  
Please Delegate Garrett, urge your colleagues to vote NO on HB 576.

Another teacher, Melissa Lavery, member of the Spotsylvania Education Association, had an impassioned letter published in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. In it, she writes:

“We are charged with insurmountable tasks--we must teach every child, regardless of poverty, homelessness, divorce, mental and physical health, and many more woes that plague our children. We are charged to do this with fewer teachers, less pay, more students, and more demands. And now, we must smile and nod with the gratitude we've received through taking away the security of our futures.”

Read her complete letter at



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