By Katherine Conway-Turner
During my many years of professional life as a college faculty member and administrator, I have often heard successful people across all fields express how they credit the start of their professional achievement to one or more of their elementary or high school teachers. This comment is so common that I am sure every person reading this can relate to the value of our early educators.
For me, I grew up in a small town in northeast Missouri, and the only exposure, preparation or encouragement I had to the possibility of higher education was through my teachers. I remember those teachers who were committed to nurturing my intellectual curiosity and hunger for knowledge. As a student growing up in the ’60s, during a time when racial discrimination was common, my teachers were the only college-educated people I knew – besides our one medical doctor in town.
So it is without doubt that Mr. Stolte, Miss Alma Sitton and Mr. Mayberry were amazing influences on my development. They were the first to encourage and insist I go to college, and they provided a beginning to my roadmap that led me to my current role as president of SUNY Buffalo State.
SUNY campuses educate 25 percent of all New York State teachers, and Buffalo State has a long tradition as a producer of outstanding teachers. At Buffalo State, we understand that this honorable profession is the foundation from which all other professions grow. So I applaud Nancy Zimpher, SUNY chancellor, and MaryEllen Elia, state commissioner of education, for supporting and convening TeachNY.
TeachNY incorporates the views of all stakeholders to define how SUNY and our partners can best serve the educational needs of all children by recruiting a diverse teaching force and by expanding our professional development and support of developing, novice and seasoned teachers. TeachNY is predicated on understanding the scope of support that is needed and how SUNY, as a significant and important player in the development of teachers, can provide guidance within the state educational system.
We cannot afford to wait another day before we address the critical need to prepare and support the cadre of future and current teachers. These are the women and men who will continue to educate, support and encourage the intellectual preparation and development of every child in the state of New York. Teaching is more than a profession, it is a career that guides, prepares and educates our future generations.
The path to the teaching profession is a necessity that should generate respect from all, and TeachNY is one way that SUNY can crystalize our support and galvanize our commitment to supporting the future Mr. Stoltes, Miss Alma Sittons and Mr. Mayberrys.
Katherine Conway-Turner is president of SUNY Buffalo State and is on the TeachNY steering committee.