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Salem Teachers Cabinet a Chance for Inspiration and Impact
By Tina Cardone
A math teacher at Salem High School, I have every intention of remaining in the classroom until retirement; working with students is my passion. With eight years of teaching under my belt, I am also ready to lead beyond the classroom. I’ve written a book on teaching math, Nix the Tricks, and I am an active participant in a Twitter community of math teachers. I also have ideas for improving teaching and learning in Salem. That is why I was proud to be selected as a member of the Salem Teachers Cabinet.
The Teachers Cabinet is made up of ten outstanding teachers selected to advise Mayor Kim Driscoll and the School Committee. We will participate in monthly meetings this school year at City Hall that include teacher leadership training, discussion of current issues in Salem Public Schools, and time to work in small groups. Those working groups are researching issues of our own choosing. The topics we decided on are teacher retention, teacher leadership and use of time in schools. Through the course of the meetings we will gather relevant information for our topic from Salem schools and other communities, organize our findings, and prepare a memo, which we will present to the School Committee on June 15.
This is an opportunity for me to dedicate time to an issue I care about -- use of time -- and engage in conversations with other educators across the district. The opportunity to see different perspectives will allow me to deepen my understanding of the strengths and growth points of our amazing city.
Our first meeting last month highlighted many aspects of what our city has to offer. As we introduced ourselves we shared histories (we have career changers, early-career teachers and long-time educators among us) and current positions, but we also shared hobbies. A surprising number of us included aspects of the city of Salem in that list -- eating out and exploring the history and culture of Salem were popular choices. (My personal goal is to eat at all of the restaurants in the city, but it’s challenging to reach a moving target!)
The stories about students that each cabinet member shared were the ones that really hit home. We told stories of students who seemed lost, but were making invisible strides; of students who didn’t believe in themselves, but accomplished great feats; of students who struggled, but wanted something so badly that they were willing to put in the extra hours to get it. These stories brought their narrators to life as they relived powerful memories. And they reminded me of why I teach -- the students. I look forward to working with these eloquent educators to help bring the students alive for Mayor Driscoll and the School Committee. I hope these leaders in turn will make sure that our district is always focused on how we can serve our population of students.
As my book explains, there are no shortcuts to helping students understand math. There are also no shortcuts to figuring out what is right for Salem’s teachers and students. It takes teachers and decision makers working together to bridge policy and practice. That is what the Salem Teachers Cabinet is doing. I’m proud to be a part of it.