The Need for Public School Choice for Teachers
by Kayla Vickaryous
6th Grade English Language Arts and Literacy Enrichment teacher at Destiny Middle School
Eight months ago I made a major decision that some might consider a road less traveled. I consider it the only logical choice.
Last February, I accepted a job as a founding teacher at the new Destiny Middle School – the first public charter middle school in the Puget Sound region, and one of only nine charter schools in the state. As a sixth grade teacher, I have seen firsthand the challenges that are so difficult to overcome in a large, traditional school district.
I did not make this decision to join a new charter school lightly. At my former school, I worked for intelligent administrators, passionate teachers, and tenacious, bright, and resilient students. I did not leave my former position as a 6th grade English language arts teacher at a traditional public school because I didn’t believe in the good intentions of my fellow employees or the potential of my students, but because I am certain this potential was stifled by a system of inequity; a system where the seemingly simple concept of choice is diminished by competing political agendas and a prescriptive approach to teaching a multitude of diverse learners.
Why I Chose Destiny
After considering other options around the country, my choice to become a founding teacher at Destiny Middle School was easy. On a daily basis, I feel challenged to grow and learn alongside my fellow colleagues and students—and simultaneously, supported and empowered to make important decisions for the very specific needs of my students. Today, even when walking up the mountain is challenging, there is a team of people behind me, ready to push. I’d like to share the factors that influence the choice I made when I accepted an offer to work for Destiny Middle School, which on that day eight months ago, had yet to open:
- I chose a school where just as often as we ask ourselves, “What have we done right?” we stress the question, “What can we do better?” Seeking excellence is embedded in Green Dot’s culture.
- I chose a school where the educator is truly valued—specifically in regards to their work as professionals and their time.
- I chose a school where its assets – educators and staff members – are developed thoughtfully and strategically. It is a shared belief at our school that teachers must constantly grow in their practice in order to provide a highly effective teacher in every classroom.
- I chose a school where important decisions can be made that traditional district schools are unable to make quickly, due to outdated and slow-to-respond bureaucracy. This allows us to respond to individual students’ needs immediately. For example, when one of my students needed additional academic support in the classroom, resources were allocated to help make this happen. When a group of my readers needed to be challenged, a set of high level novels was ordered the next day.
While our school sits amidst this tumultuous battle over the funding of charter schools in Washington, our beautiful new walls serve as a shelter protecting the choice made by voters, parents, educators, and students. I know our community has a right to this educational choice. Joining the Green Dot Public Schools team was my choice, and now I hope my students have the same choice to continue to flourish at Destiny Middle School.
My faith in our school has only been strengthened by hearing first hand why students and families have chosen to stay at our school, despite our new political environment. While I will not speak for a particular student or parent, I heard from many that their former traditional public schools were not meeting their families’ and students’ specific needs. The promise of something different—the choice for something different—was one of passion, urgency, and necessity. I have seen the incredible impact of this alternative on students as an English language arts teacher at Destiny Middle School.
While I anticipated amazing experiences, I continue to be humbled, inspired, and energized by the learning that has transpired in eight short weeks. This inaugural sixth grade class is charting their destiny, and I am so grateful to join them on this journey.