May 03, 2016
A Well-educated Workforce Is A Strong Workforce
The Amarillo community is brimming with generous volunteers, influential leaders and successful businesspeople. The people of Amarillo are what make our city unlike any other. With the AEDC guest blog posts, we hope to educate readers on our community as well as share valuable messages from Amarillo's key thinkers. This is a guest post by Representative Four Price.
Early last year, I remember receiving a telephone call from former AISD Superintendent Rod Schroder who was excited to let me in on a secret: One of Amarillo’s own, Shanna Peeples (an AP English teacher at Palo Duro High School), would be named the 2015 National Teacher of the Year.
Of course I was excited, but knowing the caliber of our local educators, I was not surprised. I was amazed to learn, however, that no other Texan had won that award since the mid-1950s. Even then, that Texas recipient shared the honor with another teacher from a different state. Thus, Ms. Peeples stands alone as the only Texan to win the honor outright — ever. Given the size of our state, I had initially assumed there had been other Texas honorees. The fact that there had not been others further underscored the significance of the honor itself.
Shanna is an amazing and inspirational educator. Like so many teachers in our Texas Panhandle community, she strives to not only instruct her students, but to also make education personally meaningful to them. She treats her students with respect.
I enjoyed the opportunity to personally host Shanna, Rod Schroder, Palo Duro High’s Principal, Sandy Whitlow, and others at the state Capitol when Shanna was recognized in the Texas House Chamber for her accomplishments.
We had the opportunity to discuss some of her experiences and philosophies. It was encouraging to hear that innovative and dedicated teaching methods are truly making a difference in the lives of our local students — especially for those facing extreme challenges or suffering from poverty.
Locally, and statewide, we are seeing positive trends in graduation rates and achievements. Just recently, two Amarillo-metro schools received the National Blue Ribbon Award. Only 27 Texas public schools received the award that year.
Our community's emphasis on quality education will translate into a better prepared and more educated local workforce. Further, the community’s collaboration with area institutions of higher education has never been stronger. Working with West Texas A&M University, Amarillo College, Frank Phillips College and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo (to name a few) has absolutely solidified that belief. These institutions have identified areas of need and adapted curriculums to meet anticipated demands.
For instance, one of the area’s largest employers, Bell Helicopter, collaborated with Amarillo College to help ensure that a pipeline of educated students would be available to fill needs at the local manufacturing plant.
Additionally, Amarillo College worked with the aerospace industry to develop a sophisticated curriculum that includes: Aircraft Composites, Aircraft Electrical and Electronic Systems, Blueprint Reading, Fasteners and Statistical Process Control. There are plenty of other examples I could share; however, this one illustrates the cooperative environment that presently exists and has proven successful.
Anecdotally, I believe that those students being educated here are more likely to remain in the Texas Panhandle following graduation. That cycle is good for our area and will produce beneficial results for years to come.
I deeply appreciate the many dedicated educators here, like Shanna Peeples, who are investing in the future of the Texas Panhandle by improving the educational opportunities necessary to strengthen our future workforce. Our community is full of dedicated individuals, and it’s been an absolute privilege to get to know them.
Four Price has been the State Representative for Texas House District 87 since 2010. He is a fourth generation Texan with deep roots in the Texas Panhandle.
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