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At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.

We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for November: Patty Shastany. Read about her advocacy for early childhood education.

November Education Advocate of the Month Patty Shastany

Patty Shastany serves as a coach in Spokane for the Early Achievers program, which improves the quality of early learning in Washington state. As an Early Achievers coach, she spends most of her time in the field at childcare programs to work with directors and teachers to improve the quality of care for children. Since 2012, she has facilitated a monthly meeting for childcare owners and directors to build relationships and support each other in improving program quality. As part of that work, early learning professionals have advocated for effective, realistic regulations, and better funding to support quality improvements. Patty’s organizing paved the way for the statewide Washington Childcare Centers Association (WCCA). “I am most proud of the relationships I have built,” she says, “especially with people who want to make the world better for kids.”

Patty has known League of Education Voters Spokane Regional Field Director Sandra Jarrard for years. Since Early Achievers rolled out in 2012, Patty has been facilitating monthly meetings with owners and directors of childcare programs. “Sandra came to a meeting in 2015 to help us understand advocacy,” she recalls. “A year after that, the minimum wage law passed and the unintended consequence was that childcare programs struggled to increase wages without raising tuition rates beyond what families can afford. Childcare programs have always worked on the very edge of being sustainable, especially programs that cared for significant numbers of children who received subsidies from the state. State reimbursement rates are far below the market rates. “It’s hard to maintain quality and keep teachers without adequate funding,” Patty says. “Programs need to cut corners wherever they can, which impacts the level of quality you can provide.”

“My motive has always been ‘let’s solve the problem’”

The minimum wage issue ignited the broader community of providers, which moved them to action. “My motive has always been ‘let’s solve the problem,’” says Patty. “Our programs needed better funding so they could increase teacher wages, which is why we needed to give early learning providers a voice.” Under the umbrella of Spokane nonprofit Community-Minded Enterprises, Patty took childcare owners and directors to Olympia to advocate for an increase in the subsidy reimbursement rate to keep pace with the minimum wage increases. They were able to get a 6% increase in subsidy rates, and also build relationships with legislators and educate them on the importance and challenges of early learning. “These are small business owners doing their best to provide a good start for young children. Their message resonated on both sides of the aisle. Legislators supported it from a small business perspective and because it’s about doing what’s right for children and families,” she says.

These advocacy efforts spawned the Washington Childcare Centers Association (WCCA) to provide childcare centers a voice at the tables that make decisions and policies that affect their programs. In a little over a year, WCCA has gained 300 members from across the state. Its members have been involved in the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) negotiated rulemaking process, and part of legislative early learning committees. There is still work to be done to increase funding to levels that reflect the true cost of quality.

On her own education journey, Patty says she was a good fit for school and it was easy for her. “I always did really well,” she recollects. “I had a solid upbringing coming into school – the most boring childhood in the world, which I found out later was a good thing. I had a stable, two-parent household and only two residences in my growing up years. I credit my stable environment and parents who valued education for my school success.”

Patty says, “School really worked for me, and I know it doesn’t work for many.” She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, attended the University of Nebraska Omaha, and moved to Santa Cruz, California, in her 20s, before heading to Spokane at age 33. “When I went to college, I decided I didn’t want to go into any profession that was female-dominated because it would be underpaid,” she says.

Ironically, Patty ended up earning a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, worked in a preschool program, and started her own family childcare when she became a parent. She has been in the early childhood education field ever since.

“In the K-12 system, we should push up principles of early learning”

When asked about what she would change in our education system, Patty has three recommendations:

  1. “Our system should recognize that learning starts in utero – at birth. This is very critical time for brain development and building strong foundations. There needs to be an attempt to change the definition of basic definition to begin at birth, instead of at age 5. We need to make sure that when children are born, they come into families that have support around them so the kids can have a positive start. It is difficult to care for a baby who has needs 24/7, and it is especially hard for families that don’t have their basic needs met. Families need communities around them. We should provide support to new parents and options that allow them to balance work and caring for their young children.
  1. “In the K-12 system, we should push up principles of early learning. Children who have had the benefits of high quality early learning programs come to kindergarten with the ability to work in groups, self-initiate their learning, and are equipped to be independent learners. Then they get into kindergarten classrooms that look like first-grade classrooms. There’s a shift in their desire to learn and their sense of self. In early learning, subjects are meaningful and integrated. Literacy is about learning to write your name – it’s about you, i.e. I want to write a note to my mom. Meaningful and individualized learning is a big thing. We should guard against K-12 principles being pushed into early learning.
  1. “Early learning principles apply up the chain. Education that is individualized, meaningful, and culturally relevant, promotes learning that sticks. Children can reach their full potential when these principles are the foundation.”

When asked why she works with League of Education Voters, Patty says, “What I know about LEV is that you have always been huge advocates for doing things better in the K-12 system and have advocated for increased funding. I appreciated being able to speak about tying early learning into K-12.”

Patty says she stays in early learning because it is her passion. “I work with teachers and families that aren’t getting a fair shake,” she says. “It’s hard from my perspective as a coach when there’s this revolving door of teachers. It’s not uncommon for young children to have as many as 3 different teachers every year. This is detrimental to the trusting relationships that children need to learn and grow. When we have stable staff, then we can do something. We need to fund this properly, and we need to compensate these teachers better and raise the bar.”

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At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.

We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for July: Jennifer Muroya Thomas. Read about her education journey and the need for more educator supports.

July Education Advocate of the Month Jennifer Muroya Thomas

Jennifer Muroya Thomas has been part of our Vision Project, our journey to find Eastern Washington’s vision for what education could be, from the very beginning. She always brought students to our events. She is a member of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, where she runs the education committee. Jennifer cares about students, especially those from communities of color and underserved populations. In particular, she has a strong connection with students who attend Rogers High School, located in a low-income area of Spokane.

Jennifer ran for the Spokane School Board last year. Although she did not win, she learned that running is just as important as winning. She met Spokane Regional Field Director Sandra Jarrard during that time, in March 2017, when Sandra organized a community discussion about diversity in education.

Jennifer’s father served in the Air Force, which meant that she moved around a lot and experienced schools all over the country. “I had teachers I remember and loved, and I had teachers I remember and didn’t love,” she recalls. “Teachers who change the world and do incredible work invest in students’ lives every day – they made indelible marks on my life.”

She decided to not pursue a path of becoming an educator, because she believes it is a calling – not just a job. “When you have a great educator in place, it’s a beautiful thing,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to be a part of helping change education from outside the classroom, and I’ve been able to see an impact during these past couple of years. “

Attention Deficit Disorder complicated Jennifer’s education journey, but she did not realize it until she went back to school as an adult. “It makes sense to me now,” she says. “In high school, I never read a book all the way through – I skimmed them. I would sometimes show up for class, and sometimes I wouldn’t.”  In her junior year, Jennifer remembers her first-period chemistry teacher being angry because she was passing her class with an A. “I didn’t enjoy mornings, so I wouldn’t go half of the time.” The chemistry teacher called Jennifer’s mother and explained that she was frustrated because Jennifer had so much potential, and wasn’t showing up to class on a regular basis. “But it wasn’t about me passing her class – it was about my potential,” she says. “That’s when I began to realize, even as a young person, that education is so much more than taking tests and memorizing information. It’s about developing a person.”

Looking back on her education path, Jennifer wishes she had more teachers who genuinely were invested in their students’ lives. She now has four children – three in elementary school and one in junior high. Through being in her kids’ classrooms and reflecting on her own experiences, she believes that as a teacher, you don’t get to just speak one language. “I have four kids and I speak four languages because you need to communicate with each kid in a different way. Teachers have 17-27 kids, so they need to speak all those different languages. Teachers should see this as opportunity to ‘get’ to work with these kids. For the good teachers, they don’t just look at it as a job. It’s a passion.”

“A tiny impact has a long-lasting effect, even when it’s from someone who is not a main educator”

When asked how she would change the education system, Jennifer says that we need to support educators – not just teachers, but also paraeducators, playground supervisors, vice principals, school counselors, lunchroom staff, and janitors. “It’s a team,” she explains. “All the adults at a school have the opportunity for impact, be it good or bad. A playground supervisor once yelled at one of my daughters, and my daughter tried to avoid her for the rest of the school year. A tiny impact has a long-lasting effect, even when it’s from someone who is not a main educator.” Jennifer would like educational staff to have access to more professional development and training, provided that it is not cumbersome and is offered as a support piece.

One of Jennifer’s daughters excels in math, yet she has no friends. “Her first grade year was so horrendous that I was tempted to figure out something else for her, “Jennifer says. “But her second grade teacher was so nice, so I told her, ‘I’m sorry, but my daughter will probably cause you to grow some gray hairs because of her challenges.’” Jennifer’s daughter needs to move in order to focus on schoolwork, and becomes frustrated when she feels as though she is failing. “She needs affirmations, not discipline, and if you are able to provide breaks, she can readjust and reincorporate herself back into class activities,“ Jennifer adds. “I gave her teacher all those little tips I know as a mom. She was a godsend. At the end of the year, I cried because I want her back next year.”

Jennifer’s daughter hated school. Every day last year, she told her mother that she did not want to go. “We had made a deal that we were going to give it one more year, and if she really hated it, we would figure it out, Jennifer says. “And this year, she loved school – it was a 180-degree turnaround. It was because of Ms. McDonald in that classroom. And because my daughter was supported by Ms. McDonald, then she was an easier student with all the other students in her classroom. She has one of those personalities that fills the room. But when she’s not having a good day, nobody’s having a good day.” Because Jennifer’s daughter was engaged, supported, and affirmed, she was able to be kind to her peers and keep striving, even when her classmates weren’t as responsive as she had hoped they would be. Jennifer says, “When we support teachers, everybody benefits.”

Jennifer would also like to see more counselors and social workers in schools. “Not traditional school counselors that have mainly administrative roles,” she adds. “I‘m talking about social workers who are there to liaise with families and not just be support for students, but also be there for parents and teachers.”

When asked why she connects with League of Education Voters, Jennifer says she likes that we organize conversations that need to be had, in order to think outside the box and create possibilities that do not yet exist. “We might not see the change we hope to see in our lifetime, but we can’t quit trying to make that change,” she says. “I appreciate that Sandra and other LEV staffers are willing, even when it’s an uphill battle, to continue pursuing the dialogue.“

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The post Education Advocate of the Month: Jennifer Muroya Thomas appeared first on League of Education Voters.

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At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.

We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for June: Xochilt Lopez. Read about her advocacy for children in her community.

By Ruvine Jiménez, Community Organizer, Pasco Field Office

June Education Advocate of the Month Xochilt Lopez

We are all fortunate to know Xochilt. While she is working on her own success as a student at Yakima Valley Community College, she is also ensuring that others around her focus on their success. Xochilt is a parent ambassador for the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP), as well.

Xochilt first became introduced to League of Education Voters when she was president of the board at her children’s school in Yakima. Earlier this year, she went to Olympia to support ECEAP and the Early Start Act, and needed some extra help for her children. She met Julia Warth, our Assistant Director of Policy and Government Relations, who connected Xochilt with me, the League of Education Voters Community Organizer in the Tri-Cities region.

Upon meeting Xochilt, I discovered a mom who was not only concerned for her children but also for the community’s children as well. It was right after the school tragedy in Parkland, Florida. Xochilt recognized that if we do not tend to our children, the children who suffer in silence, they either hurt themselves or they lash out at their community.

To help Xochilt, I provided her with materials from the Washington Education Ombuds as homework:

After asking her which steps she had already taken, we came up with an action plan to help her children. To my delight, Xochilt read the materials I provided to her, most importantly so she would know that I was not misleading her. Xochilt followed our plan and, within a week, finally received the services she had been trying to access for her son for the past five years. (It is amazing what you can accomplish when you know what to do.)

And she didn’t stop there. Xochilt said, “Okay, what about all the other families and children who have been denied access to services? We need to host a forum to let them know how to access the education and mental health services they need for their children.”

Xochilt has been relentless in a wonderful way. We have met with school administrators to ask for a parent forum. She continues to let families know how to access services for their children. She invites families to meet with me. She invites parents and caregivers to parent education classes. And she invites parents to attend State Board of Education meetings.

On attending Yakima Valley Community College, Xochilt believes that studying creates success in life. She says, “I want to learn English, so I can better convey my ideas.”

One of her ideas is that better communication between school districts and parents would make for a world of change. Xochilt’s school district recently hosted a school safety meeting, and only about 25 parents attended. In light of the recent news events around school safety, the meeting should have been overflowing with parents. Right now, Xochilt feels a barrier between parents like herself and her school district, and it’s not just a language barrier. “Schools should be thirsty for what parents think,” she says. “Good communication is the foundation of education.”

When asked what she likes most about League of Education Voters, Xochilt says she appreciates feeling respected, and appreciates the tools we provide to parents. “LEV makes me feel like I am important,” she adds. Xochilt would like a LEV office in her hometown of Yakima, so that families there could learn how our education system works.

Every time we meet, we tell each other, “I hope you don’t get tired of me” as we chuckle. It has been a great pleasure to work with Xochilt.

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The post Education Advocate of the Month: Xochilt Lopez appeared first on League of Education Voters.

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At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.

We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for May: Maite Cruz. Read about her advocacy for increasing expectations of success for her community.

May Education Advocate of the Month Maite Cruz

18-year-old Maite Cruz is a senior at Chiawana High School in Pasco, and plans to study political science this fall at Western Washington University. Already she has testified before the state legislature in Olympia, testified before the State Board of Education, and has been a tireless advocate for her community group, Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS).

Maite met League of Education Voters Community Organizer Ruvine Jiménez during her freshman year of high school, when she started attending Pasco Discovery Coalition meetings. Ruvine showed Maite how she could become a more active advocate for her community and her peers, and guided Maite through the process of organizing community forums. Maite recalls, “Ruvine came to Lakeview, and showed us statistics about my school and how it compares with other schools.”

Maite was struck by the differences between schools from east of the Cascades and schools on the west side. “There are more agricultural workers and more poverty (on the eastside), compared to more businesses and realtors (on the west side),” she says. “Test scores were so different.”

Testifying at a State Board Education meeting in Seattle was a game changer for Maite. She says, “For the first time, I realized that my voice could make a difference. I spoke about standardized tests, because while some believed that students only needed to score a 2 out 4 on the high school test to be ready for college, I strongly believed that in order for my peers and myself to actually be college ready, we had to score at least a 3. I knew that we were capable of more.” Although Maite did not achieve the result she wanted from the State Board meeting, she did gain the attention of the adults in the room.

Maite believes that the purpose of attending elementary, middle, and high school is to become prepared for college. “We need to be ready to take the courses that make us part of the community,” she says.

Reflecting on recent advocacy work, Maite describes how her Pasco community of Lakeview used to be 3 miles from the nearest bus stop. She says, “Taxi rides used to cost a dollar to get there. Where we live – 10 people in a trailer – a dollar makes a difference, especially when farmworker families cannot harvest in the winter.”  She is thankful for mentors, who helped her talk to Benton and Franklin county officials to create a closer bus stop. “I got students to go door-to-door asking community to get behind this, and we got a crowd who came to testify” she explains. “I was proud to get the community engaged and to express their concerns.”

When Maite attended elementary and middle school, resources such as tutoring and afterschool programs worked really well for her. Maite adds, “But then you have teachers who aren’t as aware of what the student can be going through. I feel like between parents and teachers, they should be ready for us, and we should be ready for them. There were really wonderful teachers that were there for me – they were active teachers.”

Although she had supportive adults in her education journey, Maite wishes she had more specialized teachers. “In middle school, we have a PE teacher who was also our math teacher and our English teacher,” she says. “I’d have liked my teachers to be more focused on the kids they have in their class. Class sizes are too big – it’s hard with 31 kids.” Maite shared that when her classmates went on field trips, the adult-to-student ratio was always 1 to 5.

Maite envisions an education system that is more culturally aware, and more supportive of the challenges students face outside of school. “Some students in my community don’t have heaters or can’t go to sleep for a reason,” she says. “They’ll fall asleep in class because it’s warm. Kids aren’t being rude or disrespectful. Teachers should ask what’s going on. Students would tell them that it was cold in their house, and that they couldn’t afford to pay for heat or lights, so they didn’t have a heater. And it’s just little things like that. Teachers could say, ‘Try not to fall asleep again, and I’ll catch you up,’ instead of putting students on the spot. That’s something I would change if I had a magic wand.”

When asked why she supports League of Education Voters, Maite says, “We still have so much work to do. LEV has opened my eyes to the power of the individual – even students like me – to fight for change in education, and equity in education. LEV has been there in my corner – believing, as much as I do, in the value of all of the students in our state, and the heights we can reach, with the right tools.”

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At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.

We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for February: Brenda Yepez. Read about her advocacy for English Language Learners.

February Education Advocate of the Month Brenda Yepez

Brenda Yepez is one of the founders of a student group called the Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS), which began her advocacy journey. Brenda attended our Tri-Cities Student Legislative Roundtable in December, where students spoke with legislators about their community work, and she testified at the State Board of Education January meeting to ask for additional supports for English Language Learner (ELL) students. In addition to advocating for the Dream Act in Washington D.C., Brenda herself is a DACA student attending the Washington State University Richland campus.

She became involved with League of Education Voters through Ruvine Jiménez, our Tri-Cities community organizer. Brenda recalls, “By the time I met Ruvine, I was a member of the ALAS community group, and I am now in my fifth year with them. I started as a high school student and now I’m in college, so I’m a mentor.” At last month’s State Board of Education meeting, Brenda shared ideas of what she and her peers thought about education, specifically the new 24-credit high school graduation requirement. “Ruvine asked me to talk about my experience and thoughts as a college student, being engaged with ALAS. They’re high schoolers and some are about to graduate,” she says. “I described how I went through high school and what changes I saw.”

Her education began in Mexico, where Brenda lived until 2nd grade. “It was pretty hard because they didn’t have as many resources – I didn’t get the education experience I wanted there,” she recalls. After coming to the United States, it was difficult for Brenda to learn English. “I wasn’t able to speak it or fully write it until 5th grade,” she adds. “I went out of my way to learn it. My older sister and I were the only ones in our family in school at the time. Kids were bullying us, which made it hard to get engaged.”

Middle school was better for Brenda when she became involved in sports. In high school, she served as president of the M.E.Ch.A Club, a Latino student movement that embraces history, education, and culture, and she joined other clubs, as well. Brenda was chosen by the Pasco School District to attend a Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) conference in Seattle. “It was a great experience,” she says. “I met school directors from all over the state.” Brenda worked hard in senior year to earn scholarships. “It was a pain to take high level courses, apply for scholarships, and have to work an after-school job.” Because of her efforts, Brenda was selected to receive the Principal’s Choice Award.

Now that Brenda is in college, she is vice president of the Dreamers Club and president of the M.E.Ch.A Club at WSU Richland. She also volunteers at La Campesina Radio Station KRCW 96.3 FM in Pasco. “I’m majoring in communications,” she explains. “And I hope to transfer to WSU Pullman in the fall.”

When asked about DACA, Brenda answered that she is anxious about the Congressional negotiations. She is one of the volunteers for United We Dream, and went to Washington, D.C. in November and again in January to take an action. She says, “I’m disappointed in both parties. We’ll see what happens.”

As the second oldest child in a family of eight, Brenda believes that having resources to navigate the system is key to a great education. “It would be great to have a class that focuses on scholarship deadlines like the FAFSA, and knowing what would be helpful to go into college,” she says. “When I actually got into college, I was struggling with how it works, what to do, and where to sign up.” Brenda envisions an education system that provides a roadmap for life after high school.

Brenda appreciates that League of Education Voters reaches out to ask for community opinions. “I like that Ruvine invited a parent to testify at the State Board of Education,” she says. “League of Education Voters didn’t just ask for student opinions – you wanted to hear from everyone.”

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At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.

We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for January: Nikki Lockwood. Read about her advocacy for students with special needs.

January Education Advocate of the Month Nikki Lockwood

Nikki Lockwood has served as the lead on parent organizing for the Every Student Counts Alliance (ESCA), a group of advocates, parents, and community leaders seeking to reform school discipline in Spokane, and has worked effectively with Spokane Public Schools to change discipline policies. Parents with students of special needs look to her for advocacy when it comes to their kids.

Nikki first met League of Education Voters Spokane Regional Field Director Sandra Jarrard through ESCA, and they participated in the same Spokane public community meetings. Nikki grew interested in our statewide work, while Sandra wanted to learn about experience of parents and became more involved in ESCA. “Sandra has been helpful in helping me navigate the education system,” Nikki says, “And League of Education Voters has great resources for parents in the ESCA.”

Nikki started school in a private Montessori kindergarten, and her children went through public Montessori. “My parents were teen parents,” Nikki says. “They got divorced when I was 3 years old. I am grateful and impressed that my dad provided that educational experience for me.” She greatly enjoyed the open environment of Montessori, although she remembers wondering in kindergarten what she was supposed to be doing.

After kindergarten, Nikki attended a small Catholic school that no longer exists. She had good relationships with her teachers. “I didn’t want to get in trouble and I did whatever my teachers wanted me to do,” Nikki recalls. “I didn’t want any negative attention.” She did not see herself as a top-performing student, but eventually realized she was doing as well as everyone else in her class.

Nikki’s family moved to Spokane Valley, where she went to neighborhood public schools in the Central Valley School District. “I did what I was supposed to and got good grades, but looking back I realize school didn’t foster creativity,” she says. Nikki did not have the confidence to explore her educational options. She was a quiet student, but was able to connect with a few teachers.

When asked how most teachers viewed her, Nikki recalls, “In 6th grade, there was a boy who was considered gifted – super smart. He and I moved past all the regular English/reading curriculum, and we were in the highest math. He was considered gifted, and I was ‘just Nikki.’ We did lunch cart because the school had no more reading curriculum for us. The school tested my brother to see whether he was highly capable, but not me. Was I not tested because I was a girl and Mexican with brown skin? If I was labeled a different way, would I have been a rocket scientist?” Nikki did not receive much academic support from her family. “Dad got his GED and later an AA degree, and my mom was never able to finish high school,“ she says.

Nikki was first person in her family to attend college. “Environment was a big part of that. Living in Spokane Valley, I was around kids who were going to college, and I was as smart as them, so I made it happen.” she says. “We moved away from extended family so while my parents left positive social supports from family and church, they also moved away from some less positive influences like substance abuse and incarceration that some family members experienced. Teen pregnancy was common.” It was difficult for Nikki’s parents to move away from family, but their children benefited. “I’m forever grateful for that,“ Nikki adds. “I didn’t realize until the past 10 years what a sacrifice that was.”

Upon graduating from high school, considering a career path was challenging. Nikki says, “It took a year and a half into college before I made a decision on a degree. I hoped someone would tell me what I’d be good at. I didn’t see anyone like me in the community as a professional and without exposure to many professions, it was hard to imagine my role and path. I ended up pulling out the college catalog, and decided to pursue being a registered dietitian. I wanted to help people using science and picked something easily defined.”

When asked about how she would change our education system, Nikki says she would like to see more intentional and well-executed inclusion for special needs students in school, as well as in extracurricular activities. “It would look less like DI (designed instruction) classes, and more of modifying curriculum and other needed supports in general ed classes,” she explains. “Some teachers do that, and some parents push for that, but I don’t think it’s the norm, yet.”

Nikki wishes more teachers were prepared for kids with special needs. “Imagine different kids, differently abled, in extracurricular activities of all types, everyone would benefit from that,” she says. In addition, she wants all students to have high expectations and for their school experience to help them reach their full potential. “Our students with special needs need purpose, and can play a role in our community as much as any other student.”

She also feels more educational options and smaller schools would help meet the needs of some students and help to decrease discipline issues. “This would be more costly, but we as a community also pay for the school-to-prison pipeline.”

She recalls, “When I was in school, I never talked to a student with disabilities. I felt uncomfortable about those kinds of students but they were never included; it was a disservice to all of us.” As a parent of a special needs child, Nikki has had much to learn. “As a country, we need to be more inclusive – we all have differences,” she says. “Starting in school is important, as kids are so good at adapting and soaking in information.”

Nikki enjoyed watching the film My Left Foot. “The family was totally inclusive – Christy Brown was a part of everything, including the neighborhood soccer games,” she says. “Everybody benefited from that, and we saw great examples of what is possible.”

On why she works with League of Education Voters, Nikki says, “I think that LEV has statewide recognition – that’s important for addressing issues regarding education. And Sandra (Jarrard) is a kind person, who can talk to a lot of different people. Her respect for parent voice is really appreciated. That’s important because parent perspective can be left out of the conversation.”

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The post Education Advocate of the Month: Nikki Lockwood appeared first on League of Education Voters.

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At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.

We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for December: David Cortinas. Read about his education journey in Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities.

December Education Advocate of the Month David Cortinas

While many issues can divide a community, one thing that can bring us together is wanting what is best for our students. David Cortinas, Owner, Editor, and Publisher of award-winning La Voz Hispanic Newspaper in the Tri-Cities community, is a staunch supporter of students. David kept his community engaged in the Campaign for Student Success, which led to the McCleary school funding deal in the 2017 legislative session, and he has consistently shared information to make the community stronger. He was also one of the first Eastern Washington businessmen who took time out of his busy newspaper schedule to visit with representatives and legislative aides in Olympia to ask that education funding goes to the students who need it the most.

David became involved with League of Education Voters through Tri-Cities Community Organizer Ruvine Jiménez, whom he has known for over 12 years. They served together on the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Latin Business Association, and worked together on boards and community festivals in the Tri-Cities.

David’s parents always encouraged him to go to school. “As immigrants who worked on farms, they constantly told me that I’ll never get an education if I don’t go to school,” David recalls. He attended elementary, middle, and high school in Walla Walla, where he was born and raised, and worked in the fields, harvesting onions and other crops.

David went to umpiring school after he graduated from high school. “Since I was 17 years old, I umpired high school ball and college ball,” he says. David worked in WIAA hardball, fast pitch, college fast pitch, and even became involved in the local Walla Walla softball league. “I impacted my community the best I could,” he adds. After a short term as a professional umpire, David took on other endeavors. He created Hispanic media in 1995 with La Voz in Walla Walla, which he relocated to the Tri-Cities in 1999.

David appreciated the education he received in Walla Walla. “Being in school worked well,” he says. “Attendance is important – if you miss, you fall back, and you won’t get good grades.” However, he wishes he could have furthered his education. David believes he would have become an attorney, but he left his education path when he was offered well-paying jobs. He regrets taking those jobs instead of staying focused on his education. “Being bilingual, there were always opportunities to make money,” he says. “I never thought of continuing my education.”

When asked what kind of education system he would like to see in Washington state, David says he would like smaller class sizes so that teachers can spend more time with each student. “Students in a large class don’t get the attention,” he explains. “15-18 students is a good size. Any more than that, it’s too big of a class.”

David would also like to see teachers receive higher pay. He says, “Teachers paid for their education, and then we can’t pay them to teach our kids. We need to do a better job taking care of our teachers.”

David appreciates the work of League of Education Voters. “LEV is out there – you’re concerned about education, our students, and seeing that money is spent right, “he says. “You have the right concerns. You’re trying to find solutions to problems. And that’s what I’m about, too.”

Love what we do? Support our work

Want to find out the latest in education news in Washington? Subscribe to our newsletter

Want to learn more about League of Education Voters? Find out here

The post Education Advocate of the Month: David Cortinas appeared first on League of Education Voters.

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