Florida's 2010 teacher of the year departs, offers recommendations for improvement
Hillsborough County recognized Megan Allen as its top teacher in 2009, citing her student-friendly enthusiasm, unorthodox teaching style and comunity activism among her top qualities as an educator. A few months later, Allen won Florida's top teacher honor, and soon after was named a national Teacher of the Year finalist.
She used her platform to advocate for teachers, making recommendations along the way on such issues as qualities of an education commissioner, Senate Bill 6 and composition of the Florida Board of Education. She's also testified before Congress on education issues.
She quietly left Florida last summer, posting a YouTube "Dear John" video letter offering more ideas for Florida. Her video gained some attention over the weekend after she linked to it on the Center for Teaching Quality blog, which in turn got picked up by the Washington Post Answer Sheet.
Allen, a highly regarded National Board certified teacher, now teaches at Mount Holyoke College. But she still has Florida in her heart, and wanted to offer some reflections in hopes they might help. Among her suggestions, Allen urges Florida to take better advantage of its teacher experts. "They are hard-working, motivated and ready," Allen said in her video.
She reiterated her call for a teacher on the State Board, urged a depoliticization of education decision-making and pushed for keeping profit making out of the system. She also promoted making one reform at a time.
"We can't throw five balls in the air hoping to catch them all and then keep scratching our heads in reflection, wondering which one variable had the intended impact," Allen said.
For herself, Allen wrote that she realized upon leaving Florida that her morale, like others', was too low, and that Florida leaders must address that concern. Also, she wrote, "I've realized there are states and places that fund education well and have policies that support teachers, not break us down. It has been unexpectedly refreshing to get to know the education systems in New England. They are not perfect, but they have certainly made me realize how complex things are in Florida and the negative impact that has on our FL teachers and students."
Time will tell if her message gets through.