Louisville Magazine

DEC 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 12.18 39 "There are nights that I don't sleep, because I want so much for these kids." Public-school teachers have endured a bruising year across the country, and that includes Kentucky and Jeerson County Public Schools. When they protested Gov. Matt Bevin signing a controversial pension-re- form bill, he cursed Kentucky public school teachers on the regular, accusing them of being "sel•sh" and "ignorant," even labeling their eorts as a "thug mentality." When on the defense, it's helpful to lock arms, •nd sup- port. For teachers, that's the positive takeaway from 2018. "Teachers have found the voices and we've found each other," says Kelsey Hayes Coots, a language-arts teacher at Marion C. Moore School, a middle and high school on Outer Loop. In March, she helped organize teachers in Jeerson and sur- rounding counties to protest a last-minute pension overhaul by legislators. Že night that happened, she received 750 Facebook friend requests from frightened educators seeking guidance and comfort. Že hashtag #120strong was born, the 120 referring to the number of counties in the state. In reac- tion to a possible state takeover, "Our JCPS" signs popped up in front yards. "If our students name-called like (Bevin) they'd be in lunch detention," Coots says. "It's disheartening." (Lest we forget, it was politicians who mismanaged the public retirement system, leaving it as one of the most poorly funded in the country.) Žen, of course, came that late-Žursday-night pas- sage of a 291-page pension-reform bill, sneakily stued into a bill dealing with sewer-system regulations. Angry chants from teachers — "Do the right thing! Vote them out!" — echoed for hours in the state capitol. When teachers statewide called in sick, striking, Bevin suggested they were leaving children open to harm, even sexual abuse. Coots watched that news clip four or •ve times in the parking lot of a grocery store, stunned. Tears well in her eyes when she talks about it. "Žat's a despicable thing to say," she says. Scrutiny, that's nothing new for teachers. Parents, politi- cians — we all weigh in on education. Maybe it's because most of us spend 13 years —¡kindergarten through 12th grade —¡in the classroom. School feels nearly as familiar as home. Že teacher: an often loved/sometimes despised/ hopefully cheerful/occasionally wicked/at best, inspiration- al dispenser of education. Že school years are formative, carried with us forever. We've all been there. We know it. So there it goes, Bevin breezily labeling JCPS an "unmitigated disaster," and, this year, deciding to shu¤e the state school board and hire an education commissioner eager to push for charter schools and a state takeover of the district, something that was ultimately avoided. "We've always had a sense that we're not treated like professionals, like we're semi-professionals," Stephanie Cutler says. Cutler is a kindergarten teacher at Slaughter Elementa- ry in Newburg, a school in which most children qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and half are not native English speakers. Nearly every week, she prepares 76 dierent lessons. Žere are the classroom core lessons, small group lessons, lessons for English language learners, lessons for students who are behind and pulled for extra intervention, lessons for her advanced kids. She has embraced new initiatives on the district level involving equity and project-based learning that encourages students to think and solve problems on a deeper level. Some teachers resist the change, bristling at the lingo and souring at the stress of it all. Not Cutler. "We have to teach them to be independent citizens," she says. Žat's the goal. But, for now, they're still kids. Cutler packs snacks into backpacks for students who might not have enough food at home. She does laundry at school when parents don't have the means to wash clothes. She's a shoulder to lean on, a steady adult who absorbs hurts and worries and fears. "I don't know any other profession where people stay up late at night worrying about someone else's child," Cutler says. "I'm not their mom, but some call me their 'school mom.'" She's not alone. Over the following pages, you'll meet teachers who live, breathe and wholly commit to their profes- sion, just seven of the more than roughly 6,700 JCPS teach- ers, in a district with more than 98,000 students. Nominated by their principals, they have felt the stress and heard the noise that 2018 delivered, but every day these teachers show up with eager purpose, undaunted by the task of educating students with diverse, sometimes challenging, backgrounds. Never mind what the world thinks. Žey're here, charged with helping students mature, in mind and so much more.

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