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National teacher of the year addresses WVU faculty, students

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National teacher of the year addresses WVU faculty, students
By Sunshine Wiles, MetroNews

The 2015 National Teacher of the Year Award recipient is an English instructor, loves Shakespeare, is a literacy advocate and is on tour mentoring studying teachers and influencing academic leaders nationwide.

Shanna Peeples, of Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas, spent Tuesday leading discussions in Morgantown on curriculum, teacher pay, motivation and responsibility to students.

“I think we should meet children wherever they are and figure out what are the competencies they are coming with, what are the things they can do well, how can we use that to help them get to where they want to be,” Peeples said on MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.

The veteran teacher of 14 years was scheduled as the keynote speaker for the WVU College of Education and Human Services Go First Speaker Series.

Her West Virginia visit follows a legislative session where state board members, lawmakers and the governor wrangled over whether or not to keep Common Core and Smarter Balance Assessments in place. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed legislation that would have repealed those measurements.

According to Peeples, teachers have to find a way to turn mandated education standards into curriculum that works for individual students.

“That’s what I think is the struggle and the challenge for us as educators, not this idea of we’re just going to give everyone this scripted curriculum and sort of push them through this forced march toward the same goal because what if that’s not what they want,” Peeples explained.

In nearly 2 decades of experience, Peeples said among the challenges teachers face is technological advances. Her concern isn’t using the latest, greatest tools in the classroom. It’s competing with the tools to keep a student’s attention.

“I mean, really, what was the distraction? Notes being passed to us on paper?” said Peeples comparing an older generation to a younger generation of students. “They can be watching videos. They can be listening to music. They can be making videos. All of these that’s the technology that powered the first rockets to the moon is now in their pocket.”

In 2013, Governor Tomblin’s comprehensive education reform bill required 180 separate days of instruction in West Virginia classrooms.

Regardless of how close the end of the school year pushes up against summer, Peeples said teachers must remember their motivation on the toughest days in the classroom.

“There’s so much pressure on us to know what to teach and how to teach it. We’ve developed these beautiful mission statements in these districts. But, mission statements aren’t going to get you through April. The only thing that’s going to get you through April is knowing your ‘why’. Why do you do this work?”

Teacher pay nationwide is often part of academic standard discussions. In 2012-2013, West Virginia’s basic salaries for teachers, depending upon education and experience, ranged from $26, 917 to $53,555.

Like most educators, Peeples said you can’t be in it for the money.

“I think it’s criminal the way certain teachers are paid in this country given such an important occupation. But, at the same time, money isn’t the issue. Anybody that says if you just pay me more, I’m going to be a better teacher. Those are no the people who go into this work.”

Peeples was expected to also touch on solutions to major issues such as student engagement, teacher development and retention, and personalized collaborative curriculum at 7 p.m. at the Erickson Alumni Center.