I have a confession. When I first started teaching I had no idea who the state superintendent was. In fact, for my first several years of teaching I had no idea who they state superintendent was. I was only aware of my school and my school administration. I had no idea there was a whole hierarchy of educational leadership. My first baby steps into understanding educational roles in the state was getting to know the staff at the Utah State Office of Education. I would see them at various state meetings, and made a point of introducing myself and beginning to form relationships. I quickly learned that the state staff were incredibly nice and always willing to help when I had questions.
At my first convening in Washington DC as a National Teaching Fellow for Hope Street Group, all of the DC natives kept asking me if I knew Syd. Everyone kept telling me I was lucky to be an educator in Utah because Syd was so great to work with. Syd? Who was Syd? Of course I immediately began researching. I couldn’t be “caught” not knowing all the big names in Utah education. At that time Syd Dickson was the Utah State Deputy Superintendent. I did know who the state Superintendent was, so that was good, but I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know there was a Deputy Superintendent. Now that I am learning more about education policy and teacher advocacy, I make sure I know who all of my bosses are…and their bosses…and their bosses bosses. If I want my voice to be heard, I need to know who all the key stakeholders are.
If Sydnee was even remotely as great as everyone was telling me, I knew she was someone I wanted to work with. I sent her an email and a tweet, and guess what? She immediately got back to me. I am fortunate to know teachers all across the nation and I know that this sort of relationship with a state deputy or superintendent is rare. Sydnee is kind, professional, and she immediately put me to work! She put me in touch with several state education committees where I could act as a representative for teachers across the state.
Since my first virtual meeting with Syd and several in person run ins since then, Sydnee was made State Acting Superintendent, and then State Interim Superintendent. This month, Sydnee Dickson was appointed the official Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Congratulations, Superintendent Dickson!
As a state public education official there are MANY stakeholders to collaborate with. Parents, policy makers, teachers, administrators, community members; all while making sure the best interest of students are being met. In my experience in working with Sydnee, she is a true advocate for teachers, and has mastered the art of working with all stakeholders. I reached out to Superintendent Dickson and asked her if there is anything that teachers specifically should know about her. This was her response:
“I am an educator and therefor, understand the complexities of being a teacher. I want to hear their voices. Teachers need to be better about telling their stories; both the challenges and the successes. Knowing local and state Board members as well as their legislators, and engaging with them in ways that lead to positive outcomes, can make all the differences in education policy.”
Well said superintendent.