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Day on the Hill Is for Education Students Too!

James McManus (undergraduate social studies education major), Jennifer Bucciarelli (MAT math education major), and Associate Professor Stephenie Hewett represent The Citadel in their visit with Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) at the 2016 AACTE Day on the Hill.

I have been attending AACTE’s Day on the Hill (DOTH) for the past 18 years. It is a highlight event of the year, as it allows opportunity to assess our priorities for advocacy while simultaneously putting advocacy into action. Over time, I have found that some of the best advocacy team members are our education students. I have had the privilege of making DOTH congressional visits accompanied by numerous students over the last 8 years – including both undergraduate and graduate students – and, in every case, the students have added value to the conversations well beyond what might have been obtained by faculty and deans alone.

When planning our Hill visits, we ask students to help us deliver important messages about pending legislation or federal education budgets and policies to our congressional members, and they are very effective in doing so. More importantly, we ask our students to tell their own story: Why did they decide to become an educator? How will new policy changes impact them as practicing teachers and school leaders? What can the federal government do to make a career in education more important to other students at their institution? When students visit and present answers to these and other questions, congressional members and staffers take notice.

Saurikhane Konekeo, graduate education student at The Citadel, awaits her appointment with the office of Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC) at the 2017 AACTE Day on the Hill.

Students also benefit from participating in DOTH. I have traveled with DOTH student representatives who have already ventured around the globe and others who board a plane for the first time when we all head to Washington. Many have visited the nation’s capital as a tourist but have never gone to see their members of Congress. In every case, students say that the experience has broadened their view of the importance of advocacy as part of an educator’s role, and many follow up their visits with additional correspondence with congressional offices.

Students – when heading for Day on the Hill, don’t leave home without them!

Larry Daniel is a member of the AACTE Committee on Government Relations and Advocacy. For more information about AACTE’s Day on the Hill and Washington Week, visit aacte.org.

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Larry Daniel

Dean and Professor, Zucker Family School of Education, The Citadel