Several years ago, I went with my son's church on a mission trip to rural Alabama. Even though I had been a teacher in a Title I School for many years, I was not prepared for the poverty I saw that summer. When I returned to my classroom in August, I looked at my students and I realized there was one role as a teacher I had neglected and that was the role of being a voice for children, especially children in poverty. This information became my burden and I knew I had to do something with this new knowledge. I just did not know where to start.
A few months later, my colleagues at Leeds Elementary nominated me for State Teacher of the Year. This was the first time our school had ever participated in this program. At the time,I was not sure my being singled out was a good thing because my colleagues were such outstanding teachers and I had learned so much from each one of them. However, my co-workers seemed very excited about the possibility of my being named State Teacher of the Year. One question on the application asked what issue do you consider to be most important in education today. I liked this question because it was an opportunity for me to use my teacher voice. I wrote about equity in education. After being named Alabama's 2002 State Teacher, this became my platform and the issue I addressed in my speeches. I continued with this theme during my term as the 2003 National Teacher of the Year.
While traveling as State Teacher, I learned that not only was local funding inequitable in Alabama, but also the teacher quality in our most needy schools was often lacking. I became convinced we had to have our strongest teachers in our weakest schools. I knew after my term as National Teacher, I would return to my school system and go to the most needy school in our district--Brighton. So, on August 4, 2004, I began my work as Curriculum Coordinator at Brighton School with very high hopes of making a difference and following my conviction.