Teachers are Our Heroes


The last two years for me have been a lot of mural making in our schools. And, it’s no secret — these are my favorite projects.

I love demonstrating as an artist in front of a group of young students and interacting with them. But, equally, I love it when I have the opportunity to connect with people who stand up for our kids (and the vulnerable), the heroes on the frontlines of our every day. Teachers are absolutely doing this on a constant basis.

And, with that said, normally, I compartmentalize my business from my personal, but current events and chaos created from corrupt and uncaring leadership on all levels of government have pressed me to join the fight, “Red for Ed,” and I share my concerns openly here.

Last year, our teachers in Arizona, in an effort to bring widespread attention to the problems with our Republican (yes, Republican) legislature’s attitude toward public education, decided to walk out. It was a brave and well-organized move to spotlight the many problems:

  1. Class sizes too big to manage.
  2. Vouchers used inappropriately and with a lack of accountability.
  3. Public dollars funneled for private use, giving breaks to corporations, NOT to our public schools, as promised.
  4. State laws created by corrupt local politicians who own private charter schools that “legally” but UNETHICALLY funnel public dollars to their private schools (can you say, “Eddie Farnsworth”?)(https://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2018/09/17/arizona-republicans-are-all-in-for-education-reform-charter-school-reform-not-so-much
  5. Over-testing and teaching to the test.
  6. Textbook information not updated for accuracy.
  7. Buildings crumbling in underprivileged areas.
  8. Schools were forced to close from lack of financial support.
  9. Charter schools lack financial accountability and corruption as a result.
  10. Disrespect for the intelligence and know-how our teachers possess.
  11. Low pay for teachers forcing them to get a 2nd or 3rd job.
  12. We do not have a “teacher shortage” but teachers choosing other states for better pay or being forced to leave the vocation all together for a livable wage.
  13. Inequities between schools and their resources.
  14. Bringing awareness to this clandestine, calculated corruption created by “ALEC – American Legislative Exchange Commission.” https://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

And, it isn’t just Arizona in the fight. Many teachers are awakening to the corruption across our nation — Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and so many more. This insidious plan —funneling dollars away from public education to make it look like it is a failing institution — has been a calculated plan and going on under our noses for many years. Again, I reference ALEC.

This is personal for me. My parents gave their lives and careers to the betterment of our communities by being teachers in the Cincinnati Public School system in Ohio. My dad was a school psychologist and speech therapist and my mom an elementary teacher. If alive, they would be appalled to see what is going on now! My sister, poised to retire this year, has given nearly 40 years as a music teacher to the public school system. And, I purposefully chose the secular public school system for my own children who are now grown. Education is our entire foundation.

Most all of the teachers I know, family and educators who gave their all to my own kids over the years, have hearts bigger than our state of Arizona. They utilize their own time and funds to bring the very best resources for teaching the curriculum. So, one of the biggest surprises for me was to see the wrath hurled at our teachers from some of our parents in the community.

There’s a real disconnect — a blindness to Truth and a total absence of Empathy. Honestly, who would serve themselves up to teach and manage an entire body of squirrelly, energized, over-stimulated children if their whole heart wasn’t in it? And, who would begrudge someone for asking to make a livable wage? Yet, fear and, ironically, a lack of education took over for some parents and they hurled insults and lies. I watched even some of our crazier Arizona legislators perpetuate the lies and stir the pot in defense of their poor and corrupt choices. They did not represent or support the majority of their constituents or even teachers, in general. Apparently, according to them, to care about our kids’ public education, safety, and equity makes one a “socialist.” I don’t get that one. But, it was a real fight and a fight that continues still.

The teachers made some in-roads with our legislature in the 2019 cycle and some changes were made toward financing aspects of our public education, but it was not nearly enough. It never is. And, our governor likes to call himself the “Education Governor.” Ironic. Disrespectful. An un-Truth.

And, my question is this, “Why wouldn’t Education for All be our most important priority and resource?”

An uneducated society is most dangerous, most unsafe, but perhaps most malleable and easy to fear-monger? I don’t know. You tell me.

Last I heard, Arizona is 48th in Education. When our kids do not get accurate and factual information regarding Science, History, or Sex Ed, or are in fear of shooters, or lack officers or counselors in their schools, or lack a connection to a trusted source (often our teachers who are already overworked), or can’t get a hot lunch,

Learning is… impossible.

And, quite bluntly, I think we are already seeing the ramifications of all of that. Let’s do better for our kids’ future…

CALL TO ACTION: Please get involved with your local school board or your state legislature’s 2020 cycle, even if you don’t have kids in school anymore. Find out what district you live in and show up to a meeting. Phone calls and handwritten postcards to legislators are helpful and easy to do. See for yourself what needs to be done and roll up your sleeves. I guarantee your eyes will be opened!

An accurately educated school body now is an innovative, smart, and creative society in our future  — for ALL OF US!

(Above photo: A group of “Red for Ed” teachers/activists at Incline Elementary School in Incline Village, Nevada, Washoe County School District. I had the distinct privilege of traveling to NV/CA to paint my sister’s school lobby where she will be retiring from nearly 40 years of teaching in public schools. My mural as a backdrop! Love when my worlds collide!).

If you’d like to see some of my more recent school murals, please go and “like” my professional page:

https://www.facebook.com/Suzanne.Whitaker.Murals/