Looking Forward

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In three weeks, I will close out a 34-year career as an educator in the public schools of Hardy County West Virginia.

The first 31 years were tremendously fulfilling, as I was blessed to be involved with the children in the community where I grew up.  I taught my own children, nieces and nephews and countless children of friends.

Some years ago, my colleague across the hall and I made a pact to retire together in 2015.  Almost like two kids on the playground, we were making a commitment to a time that seemed like it would never come.  Then year 32 brought to me the humbling and completely unexpected honor of being named West Virginia’s Teacher of the Year.  My year of celebration was a whirlwind in which I slept in almost thirty different beds.

I have spent the last two years as an academic coach in Hardy County, while taking advantage of every opportunity to advocate for positive shifts in education.  I pastor three small churches in the United Methodist Church, so I am not going to lack things to do in retirement.

That said, I fully intend to be an advocate for the Common Core State Standards and positive education shifts in West Virginia and anywhere else people might listen.  One of the great blessings of the last two years has been to watch teachers who were skeptical about the standards begin to “get it.”

The idea of a common set of standards in our nation's schools makes sense to me.  The idea that a young person from West Virginia will graduate with similar skills and knowledge as students from every other state appeals to my sense of fairness.

We are fighting an uphill battle in West Virginia, but I am currently working through the Collaborative for Student Success to help get the pockets of stakeholders who are advocates organized so we can support each other’s efforts.  I have written a couple Op-Eds for state newspapers and will be meeting with every willing legislator over the next six months.

It would be easy to put this work on the shelf with my plaques and picture with the president, but I am finding that I will always be a part of the school system.  While my boots may no longer be on the ground of the public school battlefield, I still have a voice in the planning of the battle.  This advocacy is too important to allow this old English teacher to go too gently into that good night.

Michael Funkhouser is the West Virginia State Teacher of the Year 2013


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