Bradley Byrne: Teachers make a real difference

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It has been said that one of the hardest jobs around is being a teacher. Even though it may be hard, teaching is one of the most important professions. Teachers have the great responsibility of training the next generation in our society.

Recently, I’ve spent time reflecting on some of the important teachers from my past. Without a doubt, the first one that comes to mind is Kay Ladd.

Miss Kay is one of the most remarkable women I know. She was my first grade teacher and had the difficult job of teaching a class full of all boys. She is the person who taught me how to read, and I don’t think you ever forget the person who teaches you to read.

As you may know, I have spent much of my life working in education. From my time on the Alabama State School Board to serving as chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in our local classrooms. I’m always struck by the hard work these men and women do on a daily basis, and they rarely get the attention they deserve.

Great teachers really care about their students and work very hard to get the most out of them. This is a quality that can’t be taught. You can’t set accountability standards or testing requirements to prove that someone cares.

Good teachers also need to be smart, well-trained, and prepared. From talking with teachers, it is clear that being a great teacher requires a lot of planning and organizing before students are even in the classroom. From putting lesson plans together to preparing your classroom, teaching requires a lot of work and preparation.

Teachers have the ability to take a student who may not have much of a family or may not be very well-prepared and turn him into a successful and committed individual with a bright future. Very few professions have the ability to totally alter the course of someone’s life like a teacher does.

In Washington, I am a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over K-12 education. One of my top priorities on the Committee is rolling back the red tape and paperwork that our teachers must go through. While only 10% of education funding comes from the federal level, the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government is responsible for 41% of the paperwork.

Washington needs to get out of the way and allow teachers to do their job. Too much money gets lost between Washington, D.C. and the classroom. The money is getting stuck in the hands of bureaucrats and people who have absolutely nothing to do with educating our students.

Another important teacher in my family’s life was Colonel Tim Reddy, who taught my four children at Fairhope High School. Tim Reddy was an Army Colonel who taught math and coached the soccer and swim teams. He was incredibly tough, but he cared about his students and helped them master upper level math skills that prepared them for college.

Sadly, Col. Reddy recently passed away after a battle with cancer. I went to the floor of the House of Representatives to deliver a speech in his memory. We need to hold up people like Col. Reddy and Kay Ladd who work so hard in the classroom to educate the next generation.

So whether you are a parent, student, or just a community member, we should all be doing everything we can to highlight great teachers and support them every chance we get.

Bradley Byrne is a member of the U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.

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