2021 Letter from Kentucky Teachers

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Dear Fellow Kentuckians:

When we became teachers, we dedicated ourselves to the growth and happiness of our students. At the start of our careers, this commitment felt uncomplicated and straightforward. As our skills and understanding grew, our commitment became richer and more nuanced. With each new season and challenge, we recognized the increasing complexity of our calling. In response, we’ve pushed ourselves to learn more, work harder, and become the most effective educators we can be. With our students, our families, and our communities in our hearts and at the front of our minds, we’ve created this second Letter From Kentucky Teachers. In it, we re-articulate our vision, add our voices, and invite all of you to an ongoing conversation that seeks to improve teaching and learning for Kentucky’s youth.

Last year, our colleagues published the first Letter from Kentucky Teachers, in which we identified five critical priorities for teaching and learning during the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice. The inaugural cohort of Prichard Fellows acknowledged that the last school year was a time of growth and learning as they sought to advocate for students and colleagues at the local level while gaining a greater understanding of the challenges facing all of us.

With this second letter, we continue to reflect on what we have learned and are learning during this time of massive social disruption and urgent exploration of the deep-rooted inequities that this disruption continues to reveal. We wish to articulate our aspirations for teaching and learning in Kentucky intended to nurture the systems best suited to support our students.

Education and the teaching profession cannot remain static in a dynamic world. How we improve teaching and learning today will reverberate long into our future. It is incumbent upon us to shift our thinking thoughtfully and rationally to meet the needs of this moment.  Convened in the summer of 2021 with support from The Prichard Committee, we bring wide-ranging experiences across grades and subjects and from rural to urban communities. We believe that every student deserves our best every single day. To that end, we came together to pool our diverse perspectives to establish a shared vision for teaching and learning for the Commonwealth and to identify actions teachers, families, and communities might take to reach this vision.

The Prichard Committee Teacher Fellows believe in our students and our public schools. We understand that school improvement takes time and persistence. And, no sustainable change is possible without exploring the beliefs about teaching and learning upon which all actions rest.  By examining these questions together, school teams, including students, parents, and community members, can make those beliefs visible and begin to confront and tear down the barriers to improvement. We also believe that teachers and the expertise and experience are vital in shifting cultures and practices to meet our current and best understanding of how kids learn and flourish. We commit to making sense of the fundamental issues facing our teaching and learning systems. We seek to understand how best to support our students and our community and try new approaches at the local level.

During times of uncertainty, we must come together across our various roles and responsibilities to build the community we want in the present to ensure the creation of the one we hope emerges.

We intend to lead, and we invite you to join us.

Click on the images of each Teacher Fellow to learn more about their areas of focus in the Fellowship Program.

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Our Priorities for Teaching and Learning

  • Determine what high-quality, effective instruction and assessment look like in Kentucky classrooms

  • Focus sustained attention on the mental health, wellbeing, and safety of students and educators.

  • Reimagine how our use of time and support for the autonomy of students and educators might best support student learning

  • Create a multidimensional, mutually beneficial partnership of families, community businesses and organizations, and educators in service of students

  • Redesign professional learning to meet the demands implied by the four priorities above

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We believe that every student has unique academic and personal needs that, when met, empower them to learn and grow at an extraordinary level. To understand and then meet those needs, we must ask ourselves, our students, and our communities the right questions. The priorities above guided our thinking as we developed the questions below and the actions we committed to leading locally this school year.

The 2021-22 Prichard Committee Teacher Fellows will address the questions identified within the letter with our colleagues and communities. We urge school communities to use these questions to begin conversations that drive meaningful actions and mindsets our students need to be their best. 

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