When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

Welcoming Educator Tamie Neu to the Birth2Work Team

Movies about teachers that go into a classroom and dramatically change lives usually feature a line or two that mark a turning point for the students. The “Oh Captain, My Captain!” sequence from Dead Poets Society; or “You asked me once how I was gonna save your life. This is it. This moment,” from Dangerous Minds; and “I am not letting you fail…I can see you. And you are not failing,” from Freedom Writers. Then the music swells and there’s a montage showing once failing kids studying responsibly, eschewing temptations to be elsewhere, and filled with determination to do better. And they do!

Oh, if the one-liners were always a turning point in real life.

Birth2Work is honored to announce the addition of educator Tamie Neu to our team. Tamie, or “Ms. Neu” as she was known to over 1,000 students during her 28-year career, taught first through sixth grades, was a literacy tutor, and mentored younger teachers. Though the ages of her students varied through the years, the unifying agent of her extraordinary career was that the entire time she was teaching at a Title 1 school, and every year her students blew away expectations. Usually when a class began the year with her, it came in with an overall state test passing average desperately below the norm (under 30%). But, by the end of the year, that class left her with scores far exceeding expectations (around 90%). Extraordinary! (For those not familiar with Title 1 schools, the basic principle is that they have large concentrations of low-income students and receive supplemental government funds to assist in meeting those students’ educational needs. Low-income schools are determined by the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program.) For an entire school to qualify for Title 1 funds, at least 40% of its students must be enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. At Tamie’s school the number hovered nearer 90%.

She started her teaching career on the heels of the release of the “Nation at Risk” report that kicked off three subsequent decades of education reforms at the national, state and local levels. And while that report did a good job of putting public education at the forefront of our national government’s agenda, it kicked off a significant set of changes in classrooms nationwide. Unfortunately, by almost every measure those efforts, instead of helping schools improve, compounded many of the problems the report identified. Most schools took drastic steps to meet the report’s challenge by adopting “more rigorous and measurable standards” for learning. In the “No Child Left Behind” era, schools entered an era of ongoing, high-stakes standardized testing that left many kids behind. Faced with a narrowed curriculum focus on math and reading, teachers have had to turn to teaching to tests that mark student progress, or lack thereof, leaving many educators’ ability to apply creative, supplemental activities to facilitate individual learning by the wayside.

What master educators like Tamie have held tight to through the years, however, is a devotion to what advertisers now call “hyper-local awareness”. Despite the never-ending debates going on at the national level, Tamie had to lock into the specific, numerous, and diverse needs of the students immediately present in her classroom. Every year, every class and every day was accounted for through her rigorous lesson planning – sometimes she would develop as many as seven or eight separate plans per class, per day in order to meet the individual needs of her kids. Home visits, before and after school appointments, persistent attempts at engaging parents and community businesses and organizations that wanted to act as support networks for students, were all part of her strategic arsenal in transforming her students’ academic performance. It was far beyond a full time job. No one-line, instant motivational moments in reality, like in the movies. It was one consistent, committed teacher that rendered phenomenal results!

What she did find at the end of her professional teaching, though, was after a long and multi-awarded career as a teacher and mentor, the popular enthusiasm for turning classrooms (and really the practice of teaching) into a digital experience was making the future of teaching, for her, untenable. The school-wide introduction of “learning pads” into the classroom upended the rigorous planning and individual attention that Tamie previously incorporated into her teaching. It required a broad stroke approach so that every child got the same material delivered to their learning pad. Yet, everyday several of the kids came in without their learning pads charged and therefore unusable. The entire classroom would often have to come to a halt in order to deal with one of the 11 students identified as “special needs” who would become uncontrollably agitated because their e-learner would power off inexplicably. This was not an efficient or helpful change for her students, only more dramatic and consuming of precious time.

At Birth2Work we talk often about the importance of families and caregivers to prepare their children to be able and ready to learn, long before they actually get in the classroom. That is step 1 of their educational responsibility, even if they aren’t teaching subjects formally at home. But now the public education system is moving the job of formally teaching students away from the creativity and nuanced assessment of individual students in classrooms by teachers and turning it over to software.

Teachers still matter, no matter how many attempts there are to unilaterally erase their value in the name of equalizing education.

So Birth2Work has happily and proudly brought Tamie on board to be our resident teacher and facilitator/trainer. She will work with us in developing curricula and activities for our forthcoming classes. And we will honor her near 30-year career as an experienced, award winning teacher by engaging her knowledge and experience on how families, schools, and communities can work together to best prepare our children for success in the 21st century.

Our Birth2Work favorite one-liner: “I now understand why I need to be a part of the lives of the young people around me.” The time spent teaching parents and grandparents how to “synch” with the young people in their lives-through mentoring and engagement-has far greater - and more lasting impact - on the future of the youth AND the adults, than synching with any machine ever could.

Tamie, we thank you for your exceptional work in the classroom and welcome you to the B2W team!

Read Tamie's Full Bio Here»