By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how Drew Rhodes, senior government teacher at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, is teaching financial literacy using game-based learning tools from K20.
What I did not include in that column was that Drew is the 2018 recipient of the Oklahoma Standard Award. This annual award, presented at the Oklahoma City Bombing Remembrance Ceremony, honors an Oklahoman who has “gone above and beyond”
During a lockdown from a security threat at U.S. Grant High School, with a chair in one fist and piece of broken desk in the other, Drew blocked his classroom door. When students wanted to help, he told them, “Get behind me. This isn’t your job.”
Their job, Drew said, is to get an education and turn that into inspiration in their lives.
“Here’s the thing about teaching,” he said. “We plant seeds. Some of them will flower. It might be when a kid walks across the stage to pick up that high school diploma or it might be later when they are in college. Or it might be when they are having a tough time. A teacher might not actually see when a seed flowers, but you know that eventually when there is a bloom, it will change the community.”
Drew sees the power of education to unlock the potential in every child. Education is the tool to escape from the inner city, he told me.
“From violence, from gangs, from anything in life that is negative, education can be the escape,” Drew said. “In these communities there are the most priceless minds — priceless minds — that are being ignored. These kids could turn into some of the most charismatic leaders or they could cure disease. As a teacher you don’t know which child could be the next world-changer, so you treat them all like they could change the world, A real teacher believes that about every kid. That’s what teaching is.”
None of us know just how much creativity and talent we are squandering by choosing not to invest more in public education in Oklahoma. How many children invisible in the back of the class, coming to school hungry, and not having needs met in any aspect of their lives, could be world-changers?
More than we think.
As someone who hears every day from Oklahoma’s entrepreneurs about the jobs they are creating and need to fill, I know that when it comes to building out an innovation economy, Oklahoma’s priorities are misaligned with what we need to grow and diversify our economy of the future.
We need to recommit to significantly investing in excellent teachers and in an accountable public education system that will nurture the talents of every child in Oklahoma. We must invest more not less in our public schools and the students who will define our future.
The leaders who changed neighborhoods, communities, and even the world, were taught by teachers who planted seeds.
There are thousands of dedicated teachers in Oklahoma; we need to listen to them and properly equip them to be successful.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at [email protected].