For Pamela Geisselhardt, educational activism was not a field that she ever thought she would be a part of, but this past November she found herself voicing her opinions in front of Congress, advocating for reform on the natio...
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For Pamela Geisselhardt, educational activism was not a field that she ever thought she would be a part of, but this past November she found herself voicing her opinions in front of Congress, advocating for reform on the nation’s largest education bill. Geisselhardt didn’t realize the voice she was going to have during her meeting with the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee on November 8th.
“I thought I was going to be making a simple statement,” said Geisselhardt. “I was thrilled to participate in a round-table discussion answering question, because I had an opportunity to make a difference.”
Geisselhardt began teaching 27 years ago in Kentucky and now serves as the Gifted and Talented coordinator for the Adair County School District in Columbia, KY. After starting in Kentucky teaching elementary school students and then moving to Illinois, she came back to Kentucky where she began teaching gifted students after receiving her degree in gifted education.
“I have always loved learning throughout my life. I was inspired by the students who were like sponges soaking up more and more education.”
Geisselhardt was given a chance to speak her mind to the Senate HELP Committee on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Geisselhardt was invited by of her state’s junior senator, Rand Paul, who sits on the committee. Geisselhardt wanted politicians to know the problem with NCLB is not the idea itself, but how it is being carried out.
“The premise of NCLB is wonderful, but with testing being a major influence, we are leaving students behind because teachers cannot teach life skills.”
Geisselhardt was not discovered at random though by Senator Paul. Geisselhardt first met Senator Paul at NEA’s first back-home lobby visit campaign staged online, her first taste of political activism.
Geisselhardt’s passionate advocacy on behalf of gifted and special needs students and against the overemphasis on testing made an impression on Senator Paul. She also met with Senator Paul in his office over the summer along with other state delegates at NEA’s Republican Leaders Conference to discuss NCLB.
“I told Senator Paul we cannot close the gap in the current educational system if we don’t bring the students closer. Students with IEP’s should be tested on the content they are learning in their IEP’s.”
Geisselhardt feels that it is important to stay active in politics because of how politicians are forcing teachers to focus on testing and not on teaching. She wants to advocate that students are not getting the proper skills because teachers are crippled teaching to standards and not the whole student. She wants legislators to realize that they are not meeting students’ needs with NCL B and Geisselhardt knows, with the help of her union, advocating for education is the only way that change for the better can happen.
“Everything I do during the school day is dictated by a politician. If teachers would think about that, they may be motivated to get involved.”
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I retired early from teaching just because of all the governmental interference. Teaching to raise test scores is not teaching. The problem is not that we have bad teachers and schools, the problem is that we have bad government directives. The people sitting in Washington don’t have a clue on what happens in a classroom.