Renee Kaplan has been a public school teacher for 21 years. She currently teaches language arts at Mabry Middle School in suburban Atlanta. She is a Mandel Fellow of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
I'm definitely better off now than I was eight years ago. I'm a very positive person. I love waking up every morning and going to school to teach. I've taught at two outstanding public schools during that time.
Education is trying to change to meet with the times. It's an exciting time because there are a lot of positive changes for the students. You may have heard the saying, "Every child can learn, but every child learns differently." There's a lot of work going on that's trying to understand their learning styles.
There's also so much going on with the new state standards, which are holding schools accountable for what students are learning. That's very important because now we have a set of goals we are working toward, whereas 20 years ago we didn't.
Technology is also a big change. We can view lessons in the classroom on the Internet. This encourages the kids to learn because it attracts their attention and excites them about learning. It allows us to get different points of view more easily. For example, we'll examine a newspaper article online and we can compare and contrast it to other newspapers.
The students also use them [computers] when they write their research papers, and the quality of the papers is better. The instant access to information and additional resources [on the Internet] is much better than just checking out a book at the library. Plus, many of the materials in the library, like the encyclopedias, are also on the Internet.
Nationally I think the past eight years have been positive. Unemployment is down, so that means there are more jobs available for students when they get out of school. But there is a teacher shortage, and I think there are two big reasons for that. One is that even though the starting salary may be about average, the opportunities for advancement are very low. The other is the fear of having to manage the kids' behavior. The colleges need to advance their education programs on this to help new teachers deal better with behavior.
Clinton has helped education with the Hope scholarships, which have increased the quality of our state universities.
I'm not very politically active. I try to avoid being involved in politics. But I would say economically, up until this past year, people have been doing well.
I hope the next eight years progress like the past eight years have. I hope there's an upturn financially. But education is different from business. Business looks at profits, whereas education looks at student profits, student achievements. We're talking about how they're going to be educated in the next eight years. After all, education is the foundation of business.
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