LYAC serves on 2019 Washington Teacher of the Year selection committee

Photo courtesy of Austin Freeman

The Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council had the great honor of serving alongside the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to select Washington state’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.

Third-year LYAC members Austin Freeman and Keya Roy represented LYAC on the selection committee. On Friday, September 7th, Austin and his fellow members of the selection committee interviewed the nine regional finalists and selected Mr. Robert Hand, a family and consumer sciences teacher at Mount Vernon High School.

When asked about his experience representing LYAC on the selection committee, Austin said, “As the only student on the committee [present at the final round of interviews at Olympia], I was reminded that being a teacher is more than making a small difference in kids’ lives or commuting to different buildings. Being a teacher means to be a public servant to the community because one of the core things our society needs right now desperately is to be able to build good character and change adolescents. I was humbled and inspired by the experiences and messages of the teachers. One thing that emerged among all of these teachers was the desire for an increase for more immediate resources to address mental health in our classrooms, as there needs to be more focus on social and emotional learning and kids who come from traumatic backgrounds. I really hope that there will be more change and more attention to this at the state level. One thing that inspired a deep love and amazement in me was from one teacher who is from Yakima, and the creative ways and new ideas that they developed on their own and were using in their classrooms.

“Teaching is an extremely undervalued profession, as is evidenced by the low salaries we pay such key players in the future of our world. All of the teachers that I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing today were doing outstanding work, including one teacher from the Puget Sound ESD, who works in Seattle Public Schools. This process reminded me of how vital it is that we recognize our teachers for the amazing work they put into helping us grow, and I say this reflecting on all the middle school and high school teachers that have had such a meaningful impact on me and that I miss dearly.”

Thank you to Austin and Keya for their hard work and to OSPI for allowing youth representation in recognizing teachers, who have such a large impact on our lives.