Video by Saba Aregai. Edited by Saba Aregai and Ian Rose.
On Oct. 25, Temple hosted a town hall meeting presented by the TEACH campaign, to discuss education in America and the importance of quality teachers.
Mayor Michael Nutter, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, A & E Television Network President Abbe Raven and President Ann Weaver Hart were in attendance to sponsor the event as well as showcase the educational progress made in Philadelphia.
“The issues that people are talking about fixing in schools across the country are what we’re already fixing in Philly,” Nutter said.
In addition to serving as a forum, the TEACH event focused on recruiting teachers for the next generation.
“Teachers have a rare opportunity to imprint a lasting mark on a child’s life,” Nutter said.
With a panel consisting of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, Northeast High School Principal Linda Carroll, Muhammad Al-Ahmar of Stevenson High School, Diane Honor of Overbrook Educational Center, and Tony Danza, the discussion of education’s woes and future was moderated by Dean of Education C. Kent McGuire.
“We need to make public education drastically better as a nation,” Duncan said. “Grades are down, dropouts are increasing, and baby boomers are retiring. We need to recruit for the next generation of educators.”
When the topic of diversity in the classroom was ignited, Duncan provided statistics that emphasized the unequal proportion of white teachers to multiracial students.
“Less than 150 teachers in our records are black men,” Duncan said. “Many elementary schools don’t even have male teachers.”
Al-Ahmar implored each black male student to pursue a career in education.
“You realize the power you have when you receive an e-mail from a former student who is in Princeton University or Temple University and he is thanking you for steering his life out of the trenches,” Al-Ahmar said.
Evaluating the qualities required to be a teacher in the 21st century, Ackerman offered advice for entering and succeeding in the profession.
“Teaching is the toughest job I have ever had,” Ackerman said. “On average, a new teacher quits within the first year. You have to be effective with your students. Adapt to technology and embrace the art of shaping young minds.”
Many people attended the event to hear Danza, a face of the TEACH campaign discuss his thoughts on teaching 10th grade English at Northeast High School.
“I originally intended to be a teacher after I earned my degree in history education, but I thought I was too young and too foolish to teach anyone,” said Danza. “I have realized that despite boxing, acting and Broadway, teaching last year was the greatest thing I ever did.”
Responding to criticism regarding the current education system, Danza accuses the culture rather than teachers or the government for the detriments of the classroom.
“I would tell the kids that good behavior pays off,” Danza said. “Then they watch the Jersey Shore and say no, bad behavior pays off.”
Amanda Clark, a senior education major said she attended the event because she was interested in the different perspectives on education.
“The fact that Danza threw himself from the celebrity culture into the classroom shows the significance of teaching,” Clark said. “I am even more motivated to pursue teaching now.”
John Corrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.