Hello, my name is Latrece Brown-Sudduth and I am the 2017 Florida Blue Duval County Teacher of the Year. I spent my summer working with the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) to create a unique fellowship for our future Teacher of the Year finalists. It has been so rewarding to lay the framework for a program that gives educators a platform to share their stories and best practices while advocating for the education profession.
As the 2017 Florida Blue Duval County Teacher of the Year, I have been offered some really special and rewarding opportunities, including the chance to work with JPEF as the summer teaching fellow. I spent a portion of my summer looking into ways to revamp the EDDY Awards, which is a program that celebrates the achievements of the great educators in our district.
Although the EDDYs is a fabulous event that teachers say make them feel like royalty, JPEF wants to add more to the program to make it even better! First, how cool is it that there is an independent organization that not only cares enough about teachers to host such a grand event but is also invested enough in Duval County teachers to take initiative to improve the event each year! Working on this project with JPEF opened my eyes to the resources and organizations outside of the district.
As a classroom teacher, my focus tends to be on my students, my school and my professional growth. During my time with JPEF, not only did I connect with resources to improve the EDDY Awards, but I was also immersed in an environment of education advocacy and change.
This was a whole new world to me.
In conversations with various people within the organization, I was enlightened about many educational issues. I learned that there are so many other people and organizations that are involved with education that teachers have never heard of or don’t have access to. Many of these organizations share similar opinions and views on education as I do, and we share a common passion for improving education for all children. Through my work with JPEF, I conversed with people who are advocates for education but aren’t educators themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see people who are not educators advocating for the profession, it really is a beautiful thing! However, it made me realize that I am an educator not advocating for education!
This was most evident when I attended my first JPEF Board of Directors meeting. I was the only educator in the room, and yet they were all there because they are invested in improving public education. I was there simply because I was invited as the Teacher of the Year. Now that I am looking through a clearer lens, I see that I need to be at stakeholder meetings, school board meetings and anywhere else where educational decisions are being made-- ALL the time, even when I am NOT invited.
This was a gut-wrenching realization for me. I was not aware that people actually wanted to hear from us teachers, when in fact, there are lots of people that want to hear stories from teachers since we are the ones who are actually in the trenches.
During my time with JPEF, I was provided with multiple platforms to speak out about some of the major issues that education is currently facing. When I spoke, people listened. And cared. And wanted to help fix the problems.
I am forever grateful to have had this experience with JPEF because I may not have realized how important and meaningful my voice is for my students and for the community in which I serve. I started my time with this organization to improve the EDDYs program for teachers, and I am leaving JPEF as an advocate for education