Superintendent ‘Aims for the Stars’
July 29, 2015
"Aim for the Stars" was the theme on Saturday when Teri White made her first public speaking appearance as Douglas County School District superintendent.
White, who took over earlier this month, was the keynote speaker for an audience of about 100 people at the Douglas County Democrats' annual picnic held at Mormon Station State Historic Park in Genoa.
White came to work for the school district nearly a year ago as director of human resources. She has worked in Nevada since 1997 as an administrator in both Lyon and Mineral counties. She graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona in 1984 and earned her Masters from Northern Arizona State University in 1996.
"I love Nevada and the opportunities it offers," she said. "I've admired Douglas County for many years and I feel very lucky to be a part of this. Our students perform well, our families are involved and supportive, we have a strong teaching and support staff."
White went on to speak of "ways we might view education from a different vantage" and of her hope to "share a glimpse into the passion that became my career." She spoke of a receptiveness to change from a "sit and get instruction" concept and work toward building on the students' strengths.
"Teachers must be compelled to promote thinking and doing," she said. "It's no longer enough to present material and assign written tasks to accompany it."
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White asked for respect and support of those teachers who do quality work with students in the classroom.
"Teachers have the power to shape our future. In my humble opinion, we owe them a great deal of respect for the work they do. We need to honor them, trust them and give them the latitude to design the 'do' that enables students to meet our expectations of 'achieve.' The key is to accept changes in our system. Maybe we need to release our perceptions of what learning looked like when we were in school, and challenge teachers to find new ways to demonstrate student learning to us. Teachers aren't afraid of change or accountability. They embrace it, and the good ones self-impose even higher standards than we put on them."
Students are different and they learn differently. White asked if a "one-size-fits-all" approach is still viable in the classroom.
"What does 'every child achieve' mean? Do we want them all to go to college? Do we want them all to become professionals … doctors, engineers … attorneys? Or do we respect the profession enough to let teachers design instruction to help every student reach his or her goals, no matter what those goals are?
"We would serve our students well to measure what they seek to know, to measure the doing that creates thinkers and lifelong learners, to measure the skills they have to persevere, to seek more and to succeed at life," she added. "An effective educational system gives hope and takes pride in the work that it does. It expects great things. It believes in the power of relationships and it designs the doing so every student can achieve."
White closed with a quote from Nobel Prize winner W.B. Yeats, who said "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
"If we focus on the do and fire up the boosters, all of our students will soar to unknown stars.'"