The California Teacher Advisory Council’s (Cal TAC) primary mission is to make a difference for science and math education by connecting with policymakers and education researchers; Cal TAC members bring their wisdom of practice to venues where teachers’ voices are not normally heard. However, the extraordinary members of this group also have a substantial impact as individuals, representing and being recognized as the best of California’s science and math teachers.
Pete Arvedson, science teacher at La Puente High School, is one of these. He was recently invited to join a congressional delegation with Congresswoman Diane Watson (33rd District, California) to visit schools in several African countries in March 2008. The purpose of the visit was to take a first-hand look at how specific foreign aid funds were being used in education to combat the AIDS pandemic, with Arvedson’s task being to observe and ask questions about math and science education.
“I was the only non-retired teacher, the only high school teacher, and the only science person,” said Arvedson. “We visited schools and talked with teachers, embassy personnel, Peace Corps workers and every local person who would talk to us about their educational backgrounds and jobs, both officially and unofficially.” His observations and recommendations were included in Watson’s report to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It was an extraordinary experience,” Arvedson said.
For Cal TAC member Juliana Jones, a math teacher at Montera Middle School, the spotlight came closer to home, as she was named Teacher of the Year at the city and county levels.
“It was surreal to see my face throughout Oakland,” said Jones. As Teacher of the Year in Oakland, her face was on billboards throughout the city. “I’m honored, and glad to have the opportunity to have my voice heard while remaining in the classroom.” Jones, who was also recently appointed to the National Teacher Advisory Council run by the National Academies, has been vocal in bringing the realities of math teaching to a broader audience in a variety of venues, including a lengthy feature in the UCLA Magazine last year.
Higher visibility is the norm for Cal TAC members – Susan Pritchard and Ann Marie Bergen spoke at the Sociology of Education Conference at Asilomar in December, and Barbara Shannon is working on a venture to create a new school.