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Focusing on what matters most

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

As we think about our changing educational landscape and all of the moving parts, it is so important to focus on what matters most — that every student has an opportunity to succeed and teachers feel supported as they help students find their path forward.

Last week I had the honor of recognizing some of our talented and dedicated teachers during the 2022 Outstanding Iowa Teachers Recognition Luncheon. These teachers represent all parts of the state — rural and urban, big and small. They teach different subjects — math, science, history, social studies, English, physics and music.

But what stood out to me was not their differences, but their collective focus. A focus on lifelong learning to grow and bring new knowledge and opportunities back to the classroom. A focus on helping students connect what they learn in the classroom to the world around them. A focus on supporting the unique needs of each learner and understanding that what one student needs to succeed may be different from another. And a focus on learning from and supporting each other.

I believe that the purpose of education is to live a better life and our job is to help our students find a path to their best life. And this work can’t be done in isolation. The paths our students take are shaped by the communities, people and partnerships that surround them.

As said by one of our honorees, “As educators, it is our job to help every one of our students cultivate the habits and mind necessary for innovation.”

As I travel the state I have the privilege of seeing this innovation in action. I witness the dedication of our teachers who are working together and collaborating with their communities to address challenges so that every student has the support they need to succeed. I see local employers as key educational partners, providing students with real-world experiences that bring learning to life. And I see how schools are supporting the whole child through social-emotional and behavioral learning and supports.

Together, we are building the future of education in Iowa to support our educators and to help all students to be future ready.

With our community college partners, we are increasing the number of college and career transition counselors in schools. With our workforce, employer and community partners we are growing high-quality work-based learning opportunities for both students and educators.

Through innovative statewide partnerships and local exploratory projects we are expanding mental health support in schools and working to grow and strengthen blended child care and early learning opportunities to support the needs of Iowa families.

We are partnering with educators, school administrators and AEAs, supported by funding provided through a federal Rethink K-12 Education grant, to provide statewide access to Iowa Standards-aligned courses across all grade levels through Iowa e-Learning Central.

And we are working together to take innovative approaches to growing our educator talent pipeline through initiatives such as the new Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship program.

It is clear that we are most successful when we combine our focus on what matters most. Together we will continue building the future of education in Iowa and creating a culture of support for our students and teachers for years to come.

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on August 18, 2022 at 3:21am.