Day on the Hill: A First-Time Attendee’s Perspective

Participants from Washington Week meeting with officials
During Washington Week 2019, I participated in AACTE Day on the Hill and advocated for the education profession for the first time. As a recent graduate of The Citadel’s school counselor program, I was eager to learn what our government is currently doing for the field of education. I also thought about what I could bring to the discussion from different perspectives. My career in education started later than most. After serving four years in the active duty Air Force, I joined the Air Force Reserve and began my master’s in school counseling. This would allow me to share my viewpoint as an educator entering the workforce, as well as a working professional from outside the education world.  

Being a new educator, the first idea I wanted to present was restructuring the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to make it easier and better fit the needs of those in the profession. Most people outside of education do not know that school counselors are required to have a master’s degree, which puts an even greater student loan burden on them. For new educators like me, informing congress that current programs are either broken or do not fit the entire education picture is important. I feel that congress may be overlooking the levels required for the different types of educator preparation.

As a professional who also works outside of the field of education, meeting with congressional staffers was like giving a sales pitch. While I never felt rushed or cut off when I spoke, there was a sense that being short and brief was key to making your point. Leaving a one-page take-away was my biggest lesson learned from meeting with staffers. Education is full of information that needs to be relayed to congress from a “boots on the ground” perspective. Further guidance from congressional staffers on how to best present one-page reports that are useful to them would be ideal. Just as a broadcast journalist should present information in a professional, eye-catching manner, I feel these meeting should be no different. The next time I participate, I will spend time and effort on not only including the most important information in the handout, but also making it interesting in a way that makes a person want to dig deeper to find out more.

In summary, my experience participating in the Day on the Hill helped me see that change is coming to the education system in the United States and having a say is important for new education professionals. Taking the issues from the classroom, school, and even statewide to the national level helps push change in each state. Taking individual issues and tying them in with AACTE’s goals helps unify educator preparation with a much stronger voice.

Andrew Fox is a secondary school counselor at Stratford High School, Goose Creek, South Carolina.

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