The Preparation: AACTE 2020 Inaugural Virtual Day on the Hill
As first and third time AACTE Day on the Hill participants, we eagerly participated in this inaugural virtual event to prepare for congressional visits. Although we were not physically together, Lynn M. Gangone, president and CEO, made us feel welcomed and valued members of AACTE during her opening greeting to attendees.
Why Day on the Hill?
Beth: As a newbie, I wondered about the lay of the land. Then Jane West, AACTE government relations consultant, shared, “The Big Picture: Current Policy & Political Landscape,” providing a framework for what we need to do and why.
Anne: After three years of attending the event, I was inspired by Jane West’s quote: “If your voice isn’t heard, someone else’s is,” which provided us meaning.
What and how?
AACTE’s legislative priorities provided the framework. Having the specific agenda items gave us the focus we needed.
Jacqueline Rodriguez, AACTE vice president of research, policy and advocacy, joined West in stressing the importance of building a rapport. Rodriguez supported planning with spreadsheets and materials. AACTE gave the legislative framework and a foundation. We’re ready to work!
State and regional colleagues collaborated to plan for advocacy. Presenters joined the meetings, to support the planning process. The virtual format allowed people to “travel” amongst groups. We’re ready to plan!
AACTE organized two breakouts: Novice and advanced advocates. Novice sessions included fundamental basics and defining roles of advocates. Alan Clarkson, J.D., of Western Governors University and Dean Robert Nava of the University of Montana Billings emphasized that knowing one’s audience when speaking, including speaking off the record, with legislators or committee members about district concerns, role in the office, etc. is critical. They suggested utilizing AACTE resources such as the Advocacy Toolkit, state chapter connections, state resources, AACTE’s legislative website, newsletters, and Ed Prep Matters blog. Dean Jon Pederson, of the University of South Carolina discussed developing relationships when advocating. Finding common ground is important, with children being the core of what we do.
Sessions for more experienced advocates included Dean Larry Daniels of the University of Texas Permian Basin and Associate Dean Lisa Bisongno of Northeastern State University who presented “Keeping Educator Preparation at the Forefront in a COVID World.” Dean Daniels also presented with Dean Raymond “Donny” Lee of Harding University on helping participants remain a priority within a constrained budget climate.
The event concluded with West moderating an interactive panel with Rodriguez, Allen Clarkson, and Dean Daniels to help participants tell their story during virtual meetings with elected officials. We’re ready to go!
Virtual formats for information exchange, working groups, and interactive presentations, allowed us to develop and apply skills. Like in the past, community building included evening receptions. AACTE hosted two virtual receptions. With just a click, we could experience both: a private concert by singer-songwriter Scott Kurt, and a how to make an AACTE advocacy mocktail/cocktail. Members interacted as we have in face-to-face receptions, which was a nice ending to the day.
The Day on the Hill information and events influenced our congressional visits. We were able to successfully convey our message virtually as we could face-to-face.
AACTE’s inaugural virtual Day on the Hill was a resounding success! AACTE continues to provide tools and guidance needed for their members to successfully advocate for teacher preparation and education at the federal and state levels.
Anne Tapp, professor, teacher education at Saginaw Valley State University, serves as the Midwest Region chair and a member of ACSR Executive Committee. She is also president emeritus of the Michigan Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE).
Beth Kubitskey, associate dean for students and curriculum at Eastern Michigan University, is the current MACTE president.