September 2012 Issue
September 06, 2012

Teacher of the Year encourages colleagues to 'decree your degree'

Author: Leslie Duncan Fottrell
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Katie Ferguson, New York State Teacher of the Year, proudly displays her degrees and citations in her classroom for all to see. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Unions are under fire and reputations are on the line in today's harsh political climate. As a professional, you know the high level of training required for your job. Katie Ferguson, the 2012 New York State Teacher of the Year, offers a simple approach to help you become an ambassador for your own profession, be it in education, health care or government service.

Decree your degree

"Teachers are highly trained professionals, requiring a master's degree in our state," said Ferguson, a member of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers. "Even if the public knows this — and some people may not — simply seeing the degree posted somewhere in your classroom is a visual reminder of the level of training that was required to attain the position. Doctors do it, so why shouldn't we?"

Ferguson hangs her certificates and commendations in her classroom at students' eye level — a visual reminder of her professionalism and of what is attainable for themselves.

Frame your own degree, certifications or other awards related to your job and place them in a location where students, parents, administrators and community members will see them.

Toot your own horn

While many professionals may be naturally modest, Ferguson suggests they overcome that modesty.

"One step toward the public recognizing our importance is to first recognize the importance in ourselves and each other," she says.

"It's crucial that we share our successes with each other and celebrate those successes." (See for examples.)

Finally, be an advocate. "Funding education is funding for our future.

There isn't anything more important," Ferguson says. Remember that, and spread the word.