Asked what’s first when she takes over as president of the Knox County Education Association July 1, Lauren Hopson didn’t hesitate:
“Increase membership and give teachers a voice.”
This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has observed the Halls third grade teacher since her “Tired Teacher” speech at the October 2013 school board forum.
Being president of KCEA is full-time, so Hopson will be taking a leave of absence from teaching.
If there was a KCEA election surprise, it’s the slate of officers who will enter with her. Members of SPEAK (Students, Parents, Educations Across Knox), the organization she and others put together last year at the beginning of what came to be known as the teacher rebellion, got elected as well. So Amy Cate will become vice president; Linda Holtzclaw, secretary; Julie Smalling, high school executive board rep and Mark Taylor middle school executive board rep. Dave Gorman and Sherry Morgan were elected to the team that interviews candidates for public office.
Here is how Amy Cate describes their platform: “We are for truth and honesty in education – not smoke and mirrors of false promises from the educational reformers… This is 2015 and managing teachers through fear and intimidation is not acceptable. … We pride ourselves in being seekers of truth, but we are far from being radical. I promise!”
Hopson likes being part of a team: “It is a strange feeling to be excited and scared to death at the same time. My biggest fear was getting elected without the rest of them there to help me.”
One of the first issues she wants to address is helping teachers re-establish some control over their professional lives.
“Over the last five days, I’ve had two days of planning time. We’re supposed to have it every day. Technically, under Tennessee law, I get 2.5 hours per week, which works out to 45 minutes a day.”
Instead, she has been required to attend a technology meeting and a PLC (professional learning community) meeting.
“What we’re supposed to be doing is do grade-level planning, identifying kids who need help; but usually, we just look at test data. Pretty much there isn’t anything I can do in a PLC meeting that is more important than planning for my students the next day. Last year, we asked for PLCs to be done monthly rather than weekly. If I worked at a TAP school, I’d have a cluster meeting – you don’t have to think long at all to figure out what those are called.”
And that’s just for starters.
Hopson, who is from Greeneville, started her professional life armed with degrees in psychology and sociology. She worked with troubled kids at a residential treatment center for several years. In 2000, she went back to the University of Tennessee on a Lyndhurst fellowship, earned a master’s in education, and went to work for Knox County Schools.
She describes herself as generally conservative, but motivated into the political arena by learning of the plight of two friends, whom she describes as “amazing teachers, who, because of one test, had their jobs threatened. Now, they are both teachers of the year at their respective schools – and they’ll probably never talk to you because they don’t want that kind of attention.”