Jennifer Winter thought her career with public schools was on hiatus. Perhaps permanently
After her father died from the devastating effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease and a marriage beginning, Winter put her 13-year career as a Spanish teacher on hold to chart a new course in life.
Teaching, as anyone knows, can be a taxing job, especially in public school environments. Just this year nationally, the number of teachers leaving the profession after just one year has reached an all-time high.
Even in a conservative state such as Texas, the bureaucratic hurdles, required paperwork, a focus on high-stakes test scores, and disciplinary restrictions make it increasingly difficult. Simply removing a disruptive student is now against the rules in many public school districts — the polar opposite from the days of wooden paddles or sitting in the corner.
Comparatively low salaries for the level of work they do have turned many teachers to the “gig economy” to supplement their pay. Union-led efforts to address this has resulted in higher paychecks for edu-crats and administrators, and an expansion of the public education system infrastructure. And that’s not to mention a combative stance toward school choice. The once-sacrosanct summer vacation becomes shorter and the work days become longer.
Watching these harsh realities become even harsher for public school classroom teachers, Winter decided to “give back” in a way she never previously expected:
“Now it’s time to give back and to serve teachers — to be a second pair of eyes for them,” Winter said, in an interview with her new organization, the Innovative Teachers of Texas.
The new organization seeks to provide an alternative to the multiple teachers unions present in Texas. The strategy, while to provide an objective voice for Texas teachers, would naturally stand by conservatives and Christians who often feel that they are being suppressed by the public ed system.
Winter, an Austin resident and executive director, said for too long the focus has been on the Texas Capitol and the Texas Education Agency. According to the group’s self-description:
“ITT promotes professionalism, innovation, and excellence in the classroom. By admitting only educators committed to providing the highest quality of education possible for their students, we will provide a true ‘non-union’ alternative to promote fair and balanced dialogue of issues affecting teachers and educators. We will do this with Texas values in mind, but free of any funding for political agendas that go against the classroom.”
But to get fully there, Winter noted, they will need 5,000 members to begin an adequate insurance pool. The existing teachers unions in Texas provide insurance for teachers who find themselves on the wrong end of the administration and lose their jobs — the insurance will keep them afloat while they pursue various appeals.
Arriving at the 5,000-member mark may be the easy part: getting it off the ground has taken around six years.
“Teachers may be interested in knowing that talk about starting ITT began in 2013,” Winter said. “We decided to put it on the shelf because the IRS at the time was making it prohibitively difficult for certain organizations to receive 501(c)3 status, and we were not then able to offer an insurance product.”
All difficulties aside, Winter said the new association is off to a strong start and has hit a stride organizationally.
“My biggest surprise is that through divine intervention, God has brought all the right people together at the perfect time!” she said. “I’m amazed how everything is coming together smoothly and quickly. My team of supporters have become my family and we are on this adventure together. It seems that when I get tired and quiet, they gently rally around me to get us all to the next step. I’m forever grateful.”
Innovative Teachers of Texas’s website may be viewed at http://www.ITTexas.org
Disclaimer: The writer of this article handles communications for Innovative Teachers of Texas.