Some south Charlotte educators are tired of working harder with less; tired of feeling under appreciated and undervalued.
But they’re remaining silent, in hopes the North Carolina legislature will get a clear message that the under appreciation of teachers isn’t sitting well with constituents.
“We do not agree with what they are doing,” Marie Calabro, a teacher at Beverly Woods Elementary School, said. “Our voices are going to be heard.”
Silently. Calabro is leading the way on a peaceful and positive protest she hopes will eventually spread across the state. In its third week, local educators, parents and students have stood outside Beverly Woods Elementary with positive signs supporting North Carolina public education and teachers. Calabro counts the number of supporters each week and continues to write the state legislature as often as possible to show the dissatisfaction with recent cuts and changes in the budget.
The state recently voted to not award teacher raises this year, eliminated a future salary bump for teachers who earn master’s degrees, cut funding for teacher assistants and per-pupil expenditures for textbooks and instructional supplies and to reroute about $11.7 million of the public school budget to fund vouchers for students to attend private schools.
“The more I read about the changes, I just got angrier and angrier. I just (felt) like walking to a sidewalk with big signs that say ‘Teachers Matter,’” Calabro said.
So that’s exactly what she’s doing, along with other community members who feel the same way. On Wednesday, Sept. 11, more than 30 people gathered on the sidewalk in front of Beverly Woods Elementary School, including parents, students and teachers from feeder schools Carmel Middle and South Mecklenburg High. The group peacefully holds up signs in support of educators to help spread awareness to passersby.
A group from nearby Park Road Montessori also has been participating in the cause.
Calabro hopes the initiative will eventually spread to other schools in and outside of the district, she said, hoping to see other community members stand outside their own neighborhood schools. That’s why she created a website to help get participants started, with examples of sign designs and phrases and updates on the progress.
“Depending on the school and district, your signs could say anything, but they should remain positive in support of public education,” Calabro said.
The initiative is not a school or parent-teacher association sanctioned event, Calabro added, but a grassroots movement to say “Teachers work hard.”
Carrie Parziale, a parent of three students enrolled at Beverly Woods and Carmel Middle, said as a parent, it’s her responsibility to stand up for the people who are so influential to her children.
“Each year, I come back and am amazed at what the teachers are doing in the classroom,” Parziale said, “and they continually do it with less. Our children matter – our teachers matter and resources do matter. Stop taking away and start investing in our students and teachers.”
Calabro said she’s tired of assumptions that teaching is an easy job, she said, and invites anyone interested to come and spend a day in her own classroom to see what it’s all about.
“Our profession has taken a beating, and it’s just unacceptable. I want anyone to come to my classroom for a day, to get up at 5 a.m. and stay with me until 6 p.m. when I leave, and try to serve 26 children,” she said. “It’s a job that if you don’t have passion and commitment, you won’t stay in it.”
For more information on Calabro’s cause or how to get involved, visit http://walktothesidewalkwednesdays.weebly.com/1/category/all/1.html.