The president of the Iowa State Education Association — the state’s largest teacher union — is in Atlanta today for the National Education Association’s Annual meeting. Tammy Wawro says the delegates from Iowa expect to discuss a variety of education issues.
“There’s a lot of reform conversations and pieces of that that will happen — always keeping up front what’s best for kids when we have those conversations. Common core, the assessments with that, school safety issues right now are a big topic that is important to our members and our students,” Wawro says.
She expects to visit with other educators about Iowa’s recently passed education reform legislation. “One thing that we are going to be talking about down there is to share our story about teacher leaderships and accountability that’s good for students that our legislation put through,” Wawro says.
“How we accomplished that and the collaborative manner that actually came through in the end, I think that that is a piece that is very important for Iowa.” School safety and gun violence is an issue that has been at the forefront nationwide, and Wawro says mental health issues have to be in the conversation.
“That’s your bottom baseline issue that you’re dealing with when you are talking about gun safety, you’re really talking about mental health. That’s a key piece,” Wawro says. “Now, we have to make sure that we are also renewing our focus on bullying prevention. How we go about that with cyberbullying is another big topic that we have to tackle as a community.”
She says schools deal with the mental health issues all the time. “Proper diagnosis often starts in our schools, but there’s a huge shortage of counselors, social workers, psychologists in public education. So we need more school-based centers that can help diagnose. We see it, we know, but as educators we don’t have that background in our repertoire, although we deal with it on a regular basis,” according to Wawro.
Many schools in the state are undergoing a new type of training that changes they way they react to school shootings. Wawro says the ISEA leaves it up to local districts to decide how they want to handle the issue. “We don’t have one set of training that we advocate for, we do offer our own professional development on bullying and our own professional development on safe schools,” Wawro says.
Another national education issue she expects to be discussed is the standards used to measure student progress. “I think there’s going to be a lot of conversation about common core state standards, and one of the biggest opportunities we have right now I think to improve public education across the nation is this piece,” Wawro says, “but we just need to make sure we get it right. And we do that by supporting our educators at the beginning of the process, making sure everyone has the tools that they need to implement this core.”
Wawro is on leave from her job as a fifth grade teacher in Cedar Rapids to serve as the leader of the organization. She took over the position last July.