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Walter J. Baird student talks education with Haslam

Xavier Smith • Nov 9, 2017 at 9:16 PM

A Lebanon Special School District teacher and student joined Gov. Bill Haslam in Nashville on Wednesday to discuss the next generation of teachers in Tennessee.

Walter J. Baird Middle School student Neleigh Hutto and Byars Dowdy Elementary School teacher Anita Christian Gray, a member of Haslam’s Teacher Cabinet, joined Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam for a special luncheon at the Tennessee Residence and discussed why they did or are choosing a career in education.

Each education advisor identified a student within their respective school system who aspires to be an educator or has the potential to make a positive contribution in the education field.

“I want to be a teacher because I like working with students and younger kids,” said Hutto, who said she wants to become a theatre teacher.

Haslam created the Teacher Cabinet two years ago to get feedback directly from teachers and connect policy to the classroom. Gray is one of the 17 cabinet members.

The cabinet will meet quarterly with the duo to share real-time information from the classroom, advise on policy considerations and provide a direct line of communication to schools and communities.

“I’m really hoping to be able to share ideas from our district and discuss the pros and cons of some of the things the state is doing,” Gray said after her appointment in 2015. “It’s an exciting honor. The district does a lot that I feel like help us shine, and I want to share those things.”

Haslam visited Byars Dowdy earlier this year as a part of his goal to visit each school represented by the cabinet.

“We put records amount into public education, but it does help to actually go talk to people who do this 50 hours a week, every week, to see if they were in my shoes what they would do differently,” said Haslam, who met with legislators, district leaders and community representatives before his tour of the school and Gray’s classroom.

“It’s always the first question I ask superintendents – ‘If you had more money, what would you do?’ [Director of Schools Scott Benson] inevitably said he would pay teachers more and would add more classroom resources,” Haslam said.

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