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Nation’s best teacher visits

“If we’re ever going to break the cycle of poverty, it has to be through quality in education, and quality education for all,” said Dr. Betsy Rogers, the 2003 National Teacher of the Year

Rogers spoke Monday to the final Demopolis City Schools PTA meeting of the school year at Westside Elementary School.

She stressed her concern for equity in education in Alabama schools. “As I travel across the state, not every school looks like this,” she said of Westside. “This is a beautiful school, a beautiful place for children. Not all schools are good places for children.”

She spoke of schools in the same area, which would be “a worlds apart” in the quality of education provided. One school would include 90 percent poverty; the other would be affluent. “I thought about these two groups of five-year-olds; they were less than 20 minutes apart….One day these five-year-olds are going to compete for the same colleges, the same jobs, the same opportunities, yet they were not getting close to an even start.”

As a Teacher of the Year, Rogers has tried to be “a voice for children.” She encouraged the educators gathered to use their “teacher voice with policy makers.” Teachers should write to state legislators. When a lawmaker receives a handwritten note from a teacher – four or five letters on the same topic – it makes a difference, she said.

Rogers once had five minutes before the State Legislature. Every school should be one that you would want to put your children in was her plea to the state legislators. One way to reach that goal is for the strongest teachers should be recruited for the weakest schools. “I’ve become convinced of that as I’ve traveled across the state,” she said.