This week we are visiting with the 2015 Council of Chief State Officers Teacher of the Year, Ms. Shanna Peeples. CCSO Teacher of the Year is the oldest most prestigious national accolade of its kind. Since receiving the award, Peeples since spent the past year traveling the globe as an ambassador for education.
Peeples is a graduate of West Texas A&M University, an ACE network university, and an AP English teacher at one of our ACE schools, Palo Duro High School. We are delighted to interview Shanna and capture her thoughts on ACE.
AAF: So Shanna, as an award-winning educator, what do you see ACE doing for your students?
Peeples: I am grateful that ACE has an attendance requirement because research strongly supports the correlation between a student just being in school and that student’s probability of graduating. It’s hard to overstate how much low-income students struggle with the demands of helping their families pay the bills. These demands can take the shape of time spent caring for siblings or other family members while the parent or guardian is at work, or in the form of work to help pay household bills. Or both. Those who are blessed with not having to make the choice between these kinds of demands and school attendance may have a hard time understanding the pressures faced by students who grow up in poverty. For many high school students in poverty, life is a constant cost-benefit analysis: what is worth more? Keeping my family on track or going to school today? ACE, in a very concrete sense, helps students see the benefits of education.
AAF: You’ve done a ton of traveling over the last year advocating for education. In your travels, have you recognized or heard about programs similar to ACE?
Peeples: I’ve not heard about programs similar to ACE in the way it is so broad-based and open to so many students.
AAF: One of the belief statements of AISD is that “education is the equalizer in our society and that our schools can and should provide a culture of hope for all children.” How do you see ACE contributing to that belief statement for students?
Peeples: Here’s the thing: hope is not an abstraction. Hope is built by the actions and the attitudes around us. That’s how I translate the belief statement. The use of the word “can” implies that what we do every day in our classrooms builds hope. And the word “should” means that it’s a moral decision to create that hope. What we choose to do or what we choose to neglect has consequences. This foundation of hope depends on our community to reflect the message to every child that they matter, that they have value, and that we expect them to take their places in our neighborhoods as citizens. ACE contributes to the belief with a solid plan for every student to meet those expectations in the way of financial help for college.
AAF: What do you wish our community knew about ACE?
Peeples: I want Amarillo to be proud of the fact that we have programs like ACE that are just plain smart economics. For every dollar we invest in education, we get triple in return, according to data from California State University. College graduates not only return millions of dollars to the state, but they tend to be healthier, have more stable relationships, and volunteer at higher rates – all quality of life indicators that make a city attractive to outside investors.
AAF: Triple the return, we’ll conclude on that note. It’s been an honor, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.
Peeples: Thank you for letting me speak about a subject I love: education!
That is all for this week. Join us next week, on the eve of AISD graduation, as we conclude our series with the voices of ACE students past and present.
Till next week!