Kaine’s Salute to Service stops in Spotsylvania to talk to teachers

by | Jul 4, 2024 | ALLFFP, Government, Schools & Education, Spotsylvania, Stafford

Senator Tim Kaine made a stop in Spotsylvania on Wednesday morning to speak with educators from across the region as part of his Salute to Service tour.

The Democratic senator’s tour marks 30 years since he was first sworn into the Richmond City Council. Kaine said the forums are meant to celebrate public service. He faces Republican nominee Hung Cao in November in a bid for his third term in Congress. 

Anne Holton and Sen. Tim Kaine visited CRRL in Spotsylvania on July 3. (Photos by Kathy Knotts)

During the forum, which was held at the Snow Branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Kaine, joined by his wife Anne Holton, addressed a room of teachers and Spotsylvania School Board members Belen Rodas (Chancellor district) and Carol Medawar (Courtland district). 

The discussion centered around teacher recruitment, retention and a lack of respect for teachers shown by parents, students and the public. 

Matthew Lentz is a German teacher at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford. He said retention is especially hard because of how teachers are being treated.

“It doesn’t really motivate someone to come into teaching in the first place,” Lentz said. “It’s a combination of getting blamed for pretty much everything, the pay is horrible, the hours are long and we’re just dragged through the mud. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were heroes. People expect us to keep going that extra mile because we care so much about the kids.” 

Kim Carryer teaches biology at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania County. She says the biggest problem with retention is that teachers aren’t trusted.

“We are not trusted as professionals,” she said. “We are professionals, we have training, we get re-certified, we do all of the things that all other professionals have to do to continue their education. But in general, the perspective of the public is that we are somehow less a professional than fill-in-the-blank, doctor, accountant, whatever.” 

Carryer said she has seen young teachers work just a few years and then leave the profession behind. And the effect reaches the children in the classroom as well. 

“When people see us treated that way, students pick up on that,” she said. “Then they see us as not as professional as their parents. I’ve heard them say, ‘My parents say you’re just a teacher.’” 

Holton, a former Virginia Secretary of Education and daughter of a former governor, currently sits on the state Board of Education. Before introducing her husband, Holton spoke about how she is a huge fan of public education and has been since she helped integrate Virginia schools as a child.  

“One of the lessons I took away from that, is how important public education is to democracy,” she said. “I try to be an advocate for educators because, outside of home factors, within the school building the research shows that the most important factor for our student success is having a quality teacher in every classroom.” 

Kaine said the teacher shortage is partly the result of a lack of affordable childcare. “We’re hearing complaints about this. We’re having a lot of employers saying I can’t hire enough people. I need to hire more people. And then the nation’s got a million workers sitting on the sidelines who really want to be in the workforce. But if they can’t find high quality, affordable childcare, they can’t be.” 

The group wrapped up the conversation by sharing examples of success stories in public education.  

“I think one of the best things about my students, I’ve really enjoyed lately is that they really embrace diversity,” shared Carryer. “I don’t think they’re going to get caught up in some of the things that our generation has gotten caught up in.

“They are very supportive of each other and they don’t care what you look like, what your race is, your gender is, your sexual orientation. They just want to be successful. Most of them are very good humans.”  

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