We Need Good Teachers by Desmond K, Blackburn, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, NTC

Dear Grandma & Grandpa,

I took your advice and became a teacher. I went further to become a leader of teachers. Now, I am working on developing an infinite stream of “good” teachers, support leaders, and systems that supplement their efforts. Thank you for the push!!!!!

Your Grandson,


A Tale of Two Students

More than 100 years ago on the small island of Jamaica, there was a little girl who absolutely adored school. She enjoyed the social interactions with her peers, as well as subject matters that broadened her perspective and understanding of the world. Yet, she struggled. Her numbers rarely added up to the expected sum. Her reading often lacked comprehension. She was unable to recall historical facts. Yet, her struggles and subsequent ridicule from peers were not enough to extinguish her internal bright light for learning. 

During the same time, on the same small island, there was a little boy who also enjoyed going to school. His experiences were quite different. He excelled. He could solve mathematical problems far beyond his grade-level expectations. He had an innate attraction to entrepreneurialism. He had initiative. Using this initiative and the advanced math and critical thinking skills he had learned, he applied these skills to pursue a career in carpentry. 

So, why is it worth mentioning and comparing these two students with contrasting educational skills? 

  1. They both, despite their varied levels of achievement, understood the value of an education.
  2. They both discontinued their education at an early age, third and eighth grade respectively, yet still maintained this perspective of valuing education throughout their lives.
  3. They both met, got married, had four children and eight grandchildren. 
  4. They are my grandparents. 

We Need Good Teachers

I was fortunate enough to spend a significant amount of time with my grandparents during my childhood. Among the rearing, guidance, love, and mentorship, they encouraged me to “do well in school” and study to become a teacher because “we need more good teachers.” They repeated this phrase over, and over, and over. 

It amazed me that despite the hardships they faced in school, despite the alternative education routes that they pursued, they still found value in education and teachers. 

Their efforts paid off, for I worked hard throughout school to earn a seat at one of the top public universities in the country, and spend 22 years as a public school educator which culminated as the first African-American Superintendent of the 10th largest school district in the state of Florida. 

My grandparents guided me into a career that seemed to fit me perfectly. I did well and felt that I was making a difference in the lives of educators and students I worked with every day. But during my time as an educator – at every level of service – my grandparents’ words rang true: “we need more good teachers.”

Fast forward more than one hundred years, no longer on a small Caribbean island, but in the greatest, most sophisticated country on the face of the planet, and we are still severely punishing children for no other crime than being skill-deficient. And this punishment isn’t just limited to struggling students. Children, really smart children, are at times even more disengaged than their skill-deficient peers. 

We’ve not figured out to meet the individual needs of our diverse learners so that we can ensure that each and every student has the opportunity to succeed in the classroom and beyond.  

This is why, “we need more good teachers.” And not just teachers who have been able to effectively command a classroom, but those who are truly able to reach their diverse student learners. 

Teachers Need Support

Not only do “we need more good teachers,” teachers need adequate systems of support.

Teachers are often at a disadvantage to be able to effectively fulfill such a role without the proper professional supports. In addition to basic classroom management and instruction, teachers’ roles have been exacerbated by rapid shifts in academic standards; limited resources; insufficient salaries; rapidly increased diversity in student populations; and safety, social, and emotional concerns that must be addressed. 

The supports that move the needle for teachers have never been more critical than they are right now. Professional learning opportunities help educators address these many variables, while still being able to effectively deliver quality instruction. 

It’s this understanding of the impact and significance of professional learning that brought me to New Teacher Center. 

For 20 years, NTC has proven that our investment in novice and veteran teachers yield significant growth in student learning. Along the way, NTC has also shown that investments in early learning and school leadership are essential in our quest to create such opportunities for educators. 

Now, we will spend the next 20 years deepening the impact of our proven models of support, leveraging our expertise to be responsive to all educator needs, and building scalable systems of support for districts, states, and charter networks.

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