Cultivating Equitable Support for Teachers & Students
This month on the Getting Smart Podcast, e2L CEO Shannon Buerk and podcast host Shawnee Caruthers discuss building equitable support for public school teachers and students; leading with humility, intention, and empathy; and more! Tune in now.
Born to young parents, Shannon and her siblings received their first taste of education in the home through their parents’ love of reading and storytelling. Once they reached school age, they relied on what their neighborhood public schools could offer. Despite the encouragement and support they received at home, the inequities in teacher performance within their schools led to distinctly different outcomes for her and her younger sister.
The girls’ parents were unaware of an unofficial rule that still lives on in many public schools: requesting teachers. Shannon hit the jackpot with wonderful teachers and mentors who helped guide her towards eventually becoming her high school’s valedictorian. Her sister, on the other hand, was not so lucky.
Beginning in third grade, Shannon’s sister faced unsupportive teachers, struggled with subsequent low self-esteem, and eventually decided to drop out of school altogether. A mere 15 months apart in age with the brains to match, the sisters’ wildly different experiences in the same public schools came down to chance, something that did not sit well with Shannon and set her on a path towards a lifelong career in public education.
“Knowing how brilliant and amazing she was, I was like, ‘Wow, the kinds of teachers you get should not be the luck of the draw.’ I became a teacher because all learners out there have gifts that maybe aren’t being valued, and I wanted to be able to help them discover and use their gifts.”Shannon Buerk
Her work as a teacher and leader in public schools revealed even more systemic inequities. Without the right tools to set every student on the path towards mastery, Shannon began to develop what would eventually become the Buerk Method for Learning.
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Fast forward to present day, where Shannon continues to fight for equitable support for public school teachers and students through her work at e2L. Motivated by pervasive systemic inequities, Shannon leads the e2L team in helping districts design and implement the kind of intentional, innovative, and smart teacher support that lends itself to teacher growth and student achievement.
“The most important lever in a child’s education is truly the teacher. We know that the teacher has the most impact. That was true for me and my sister! The research also shows us that the difference between a high-performing and a low-performing teacher is about 5-6 months of growth per year for kids. So over the course of a K-12 education, that can be a six-year difference in growth,” said Shannon. “We know that traditional teacher training does not translate to the classroom… Teachers don’t need someone whispering in their ear, critiquing their performance. They need true coaching and evidence-based conversations based on competencies that allow for progression over time.”