By Katrina Grant
Budget cuts have become commonplace, given the country’s economic situation. Government at all levels has had to try to find ways to continue to operate while cutting spending.
Education is no exception. At Lenape Regional High School District, school officials brainstormed and created a different approach to show people what the education field and educators do on a daily basis. They created We Teach, a reality show.
“Public education has lately been a source of criticism,” Emily Capella, superintendent of Lenape Regional High School District said. “Last year, a reporter was interviewing me about reductions in staff and how we were going to make do with the cuts. After talking to them, the reporter said to me ‘well teachers don’t do much anyway.’ I was very angry with this reporter, told them something and hung up with them.”
After some reflection about how to change the political/economic perception that public education isn’t working and to show the complexities of teaching, Capella formed a committee to brainstorm some ideas.
“I have always said that, next to parenting, teaching is the second-hardest job,” Capella said. “I’ve invested my whole career in public education. I know what hard work teaching is. I’ve been there.”
Capella has spent 36 years in education and says that many people don’t understand the complexities of teaching.
“In a classroom, you have many different personalities, life situations and learning situations,” Capella said. “The classroom has to mesh. The instructor has to get past barriers and help everyone succeed. It is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job. Many teachers, when they go home, are thinking about lesson plans and how they are going to help their kids in the classroom.”
At the start of the school year last year, the committee was formed. It set an objective and how to achieve it. Capella wanted to boost the morale of a very successful school district and give the public a better view of what teaching is and the various responsibilities throughout the day that teachers have.
“We wanted to open the doors and be more transparent,” Capella said. “Many times teachers are humble and they work in isolation. They go in the classroom, close the door and work magic. No one sees what goes on, how the magic happens.”
We Teach will air six, one-hour episodes starting Sept. 6. Each episode will feature four teachers. Capella said they will be adding more episodes later in the year.
“The technicians would ride in the cars with the teachers in the morning on their way to work,” Capella said. “They had discussions with the teachers about what they were thinking and how they thought the day was going to go.”
The show was filmed by Lenape District Television and was sponsored by Metlife Resources-John A. Costello, a certified financial planner.
“We have people come to the school in the beginning of the year to provide tax (information) to our employees,” Capella said. “They set up tables to talk to employees about where to put their investments. John approached me after I gave a presentation about the show and said he wanted to be involved. He became a a sponsor.”
As a lifelong educator Capella felt it was necessary to help open minds about public education. She was distressed about the closed mind set that public education was facing. She wanted people to remember why they moved to these areas and wanted their children to attend these schools.
“We have outstanding results year after year,” Capella said. “In order for a school to be successful you need three things. Kids need to be ready to learn, parents need to support their kids in learning and teachers need to be committed.”
While there will be much discussion that will continue about public education, Capella is happy she did her part to make the conversation positive.
“I couldn’t just sit back while our profession was demeaned without saying, ‘step back,’” Capella said. “I had to say to people, ‘why are you here and how did you get here.’ Most people are where they’re at because of educators, because of people who are committed. In a David McCollough book about Thomas Jefferson, he said that Jefferson said that the biggest problem in society is that education isn’t respected. That society only moves forward if education is invested in. Education will contribute vastly to the future economic health of this country.”
The series is set to premiere Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. on Comcast channel 19 and Verizon FiOS channel 21, as well as online at www.lrhsd.org/LDTV. To view a preview of We Teach now, visit www.lrhsd.org/WeTeach.