Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Recognition Dinner
June 30, 2003

Good evening. I am honored to be here.

I am honored to be in the presence of such an important part of our state’s future.

It’s been said that, “The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, and the great teacher inspires.” It is clear to me tonight that we are in the presence of greatness.

To the educators we honor here this evening—congratulations on completing the certification process. And thank you for inspiring our children. Thank you for inspiring all of us.

Great teachers are the soul of an enlightened society. We entrust in you the most precious things in our lives—our children. For us parents, you are often our closest partners in guiding our kids to their future and their dreams.

This is an act of faith. And I believe we have that faith in our teachers because each of us knows that in our own lives, we owe much of who we are and what we’ve achieved to great teachers. We can all name a great teacher who changed our lives. A teacher who inspired us.

When I was in third grade, I had another kind of teacher. She used me as an example a lot. I was an example of how not to swing a bat, how not to spell. I dreaded school.

Then I got to 6th grade, and Mr. Grefton. Mr. Grefton encouraged me. He assigned me to write a report. And Mr. Grefton told me the report was so good that he wanted me to present it to other classes too.

But what he really conveyed to me was that I had worth. That I could learn. That I could achieve high goals. And that there was a world of opportunity awaiting me. Mr. Gefton planted a seed of self-confidence that allowed me to start opening doors to that world of opportunity.

Each of us has our own Mr. Gefton. And today’s honored teachers will be remembered by their students in the same way. Some day one of your students may be standing where I am today. And he or she will mention you.

I’m certain that the teachers here tonight are positively influencing countless students because you are doing everything possible to be the best teachers you can be.

You have voluntarily submitted to comprehensive, quality teaching standards and a rigorous examination of your skill and knowledge. You’ve put your abilities in the classroom to the test, and submitted those abilities to rigorous evaluation. You’ve spent your own money and devoted 200-400 hours or more to this certification endeavor.

You have made this investment with no guarantee that you will even succeed in being certified. But I will guarantee you one thing tonight—you have already succeeded in proving that you are exceptionally dedicated educators. That kind of professional dedication is humbling, and very, very inspiring.

I support the board certification process for many reasons.

The National Board assessment process is a powerful individual growth opportunity, and documentation of accomplished teaching. This work improves teaching.

Research has shown that the National Board Certification process is an excellent professional development experience. 80% of teachers achieving certification said that the National Board Certification process was better than any other professional development experiences.

The National Board Certification experience effects teaching. 91% of certified teachers surveyed said it has positively affected their teaching practices.

The certification process positively affects students. 69% of certified teachers surveyed reported positive changes in their students’ engagement, achievement and motivation. 75% said their certification experience changed how they interact with students.

These are the kind of results that tell us we are on the right track with the certification process.

Here in Washington, we are seeing dramatic increases in the numbers of teachers seeking and achieving certification over the past few years. And we are rewarding those who achieve it. That has been one of my missions and proudest accomplishments. As the numbers of certified teachers have continued, we have continued to award stipends for it.

· In 1999-00, 20 certified teachers were certified, and received a stipend of an additional 15% of their salary

· In 2000-01, 65 certified teachers received $3,500 for a maximum of two years

· In 2001-02, 118 certified teachers received $3,500 for a maximum of three years

· And in 2002-03, 218 certified teachers received $3,500 for a maximum of four years

The budget I signed last week continues these stipends through the 2004-05 school year. But we can’t rest until we have a law that guarantees stipend for the ten-year life of the certificate.

These stipends are a good start, but we know we must work harder for you - all teachers. You are asked to do so much. And we don’t give you enough recognition. We don’t pay you enough. As noted educator Jacques Barzun (Zhock BAR-zunn) said, “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”

I am determined to revive this tradition in our state. And there are many who join me in this conviction.

Our kids need good teachers every year and in every subject. Research clearly shows that the single most important factor in a child’s education is the quality of teaching. Good teachers are not born that way—they are developed. They are developed through pre-service training, early mentoring, and ongoing professional development like the National Board Certification. They need our support in this development.

We know we need to attract and retain the best and the brightest—like the teachers here tonight. We need to pay educators better, and we need to pay them smarter. Lee Iacocca once said, “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers, and the rest of us would have to settle for something else.” Most people probably agree with the value expressed in those words. That value should be reflected in how we “value” teachers.

World-class teachers are prerequisite to a world-class education system. Education is more than the most important priority—it is the cardinal cause and wellspring of our performance in all other areas. I am confident that we will succeed and prosper as a state in the years ahead. But only if we have a world-class education system that serves everyone.

Education is the great equalizer. It offers opportunity and hope to all it touches.

My family has lived these opportunities. My grandfather came to America from China more than a hundred years ago. He settled in Olympia where he worked as a houseboy for a family in exchange for English lessons.

Now I live in the Governor's mansion just one mile from where my grandfather lived — the first Chinese-American governor in the continental United States. Our family jokes that it took one hundred years to travel one mile! One of the keys to that century-long journey of progress has been education.

Education makes dreams possible. When I was growing up, my parents taught me that important lesson. They instilled in me a passion for learning. Thanks to that passion, I was able to complete my education and choose my destiny. I was able to pursue my personal version of the American Dream. I believe with all my heart in the American dream. Teachers make that dream possible for all of us.

Education is the key to a vital economy and a prosperous future for our children. Improving Washington education is the single most important thing we can do to boost economic recovery. Education roots our economy in knowledge, that most valuable asset of all.

Just as these new challenging times require all of us to change our perspectives and assumptions, education must also change. We must recognize that traditional lines drawn between pre-school and K-12, and between K-12 and college, are artificial. Our education system must be seamless, with all components—from early learning to graduate school—working together as one.

Opportunities should be life-long. Every person in our state should have the opportunity at any point in life to seek further education. Whether it’s for basic skills, occupational advancement, or personal development and fulfillment.

Several years of education reform have moved us closer to more accountability and higher academic standards. We must press on with these improvements. We must continue our progress in spite of the challenges. We must also continue to give all students access to the technological tools that will help them succeed. Especially personal computing skills and Internet access.

The new Digital Learning Commons we just launched in Washington is a great example. The Commons will provide our students access to unlimited learning through Internet courses.

A world-class education system must have stable and dedicated funding. I proposed the Washington Education Trust Fund this year. Our education funding system cannot be at the mercy of the economy. Funding levels cannot depend on budget constraints.

We must also close the achievement gap. Too many students of color and students from low-income households are being left behind today. That is not acceptable. A good education is a universal right. It must never depend on circumstances of economic or social standing. Achievement gaps reflect an injustice we must not condone.

It is our responsibility to close the gaps. We’ll do that not just by identifying the disparities, but also by targeting the students and schools that need our help. We’ll close the gaps by engaging our schools and communities to step forward and work together for the future.

Education doesn’t begin and end on school grounds. Parents and the community play a critical role. We can greatly influence the achievement level of our children. And we must all be actively involved in improving our schools. We ask you, our teachers, to give it all you have—we in the community must be willing to do the same.

We want the best education system in America to be right here in Washington. And that begins with quality teachers. It begins with you. Your completion of the certification process tells me that you are up to the challenge.

Henry Adams once observed that a teacher affects eternity, because you can never tell where a teacher’s influence stops. Your influence goes on and on. The people you’ve helped and taught pass the lessons along.

Teachers affect eternity. I believe that with all my heart. And so, with all my heart, I thank the teachers we honor tonight, and the many more great teachers out there who quietly devote their lives to inspiring our children. And I commend all of you for pursuing board certification and inspiring us as well.

Good luck, and God bless you.

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