Had you asked him about the possibility of returning to the faculty of his alma mater a few months ago, Dre Graham’s answer was clear and consistent.
“There is nowhere else I’d rather be than here at King, teaching music,” Graham said he would tell everyone.
Fast forward to April, and Florida’s 2020 teacher of the year is playing a different tune. He’s headed to Tallahassee to serve as executive director of the state’s office of independent education and parental choice.
“I have an opportunity to go up and help to be an influence at the Department of Education,” said Graham, who has spent the past school year touring the state as an education ambassador.
Over that time, Graham has become a popular guest in classrooms and conventions, with education commissioner Richard Corcoran among those singing his praise. As he established statewide connections and relationships, he discovered he could play a pivotal role in improving opportunities for all children.
“Not every student is going to take advantage of every opportunity they have,” Graham said. “Our role as educators is to provide what they need. That looks different for every student.”
He expects to spend his efforts bridging the perceived divides between school choice and public schooling, to keep the focus on student success.
Despite his enthusiasm for his next role, Graham said the decision to leave King High and Tampa was a difficult one. Though out of the school for the past year, he said he still thinks about his students and tries to do what he can for them.
And he doesn’t want to lose that connection to the classroom, even in a state role. Graham intends to teach music in some capacity at Leon High in Tallahassee.
“It’s important that I stay as current as possible, remember the main thing, which is the students,” he said.
Graham said he will be moving to the capital in June.