First lady Teresa Parson, wife of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, shared words of encouragement about education and the start of a new school year to St. Clair R-XIII District administration, teachers and staff at a back-to-school workshop Monday morning, Aug. 12.
Parson stepped in for the governor as he was attending a funeral for Missouri Rep. Rebecca Roeber, who died unexpectedly Tuesday, July 30. Roeber was a teacher for 17 years for the Raytown School District, served five years as a representative and was chair of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
The first lady began her address by honoring the former representative.
“Rep. Roeber was a champion for Missouri students,” she said. “As a member of the Missouri House, she always fought for our children to have all of the educational tools that they needed to succeed in life.”
Parson commended the district for overcoming financial hardships over the past 10 years, for upgrading facilities and for implementing new kindergarten through eighth-grade math and English curriculums.
She also recognized Superintendent Dr. Kyle Kruse and the school board for providing training for the safety and protection of teachers, staff and students.
“For all of these accomplishments and more, you should be very proud,” Parson said. “To you teachers, I want to thank you for choosing a profession that impacts our young people’s lives, people who will shape the future of Missouri and the world.”
Being an educator in today’s world is not easy, she said, as students, families and education are different.
“Your profession is complex one,” she said. “Young students must be transported and educated. Multimillion dollar budgets must be balanced. Thousands of students must be provided food and a safe learning environment on a daily basis.
“Discipline must always be given with love and throughout all of this, you must keep your focus on playing a key role in the future for shaping our future,” she added.
Being a teacher is a serious career, according to Parson, and teachers must always stay on the cutting edge of education as there are technology innovations at a student’s disposal outside the classroom.
“To move Missouri forward, our schools should be dedicated to keeping students interested and involved in their studies,” she said. “Applying new educational techniques in the classroom will also introduce them to the changing face of technology in the workplace.”
Parson added that her commitment to education is 100 percent and said she wants to do her part in keeping students on the right track. She said it was her fourth-grade teacher who inspired her to work hard, do her best and offered words of encouragement.
“She was the teacher who made me realize the importance of studying and learning,” she said. “I know firsthand that hundreds of other children in the Bolivar School District, where she taught, also was inspired and encouraged by her.”
Parson noted that she is very proud of her daughter Stephanie, who chose a teaching career path. She has been a teacher for more than fives years for Springfield public schools.
“We believe that everyone has the capability to reach their potential through education,” she said.
Parson also congratulated St. Clair School District for recently adopting the Jobs for America’s Graduates program (JAG), which is one of governor’s initiatives. She and the governor serve as co-chairs for Missouri JAG program.
The national nonprofit program is “dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who have serious barriers to graduation and/or employment,” according to jag.org.
At a May meeting, the St. Clair School Board adopted the program for juniors and seniors who will start this school year. The program will serve 30 to 35 juniors and seniors who are at risk.
The JAG program will accommodate students’ specific needs for those in certain circumstances, including poverty, those who have low attendance records, low grades, challenging personal situations and other criteria.
An instructor will teach classes focused on workforce development, such as employee and employer expectations, how to prepare for an interview, how to fill out job applications and other related topics.
Through JAG, funding would provide half of the teacher’s salary up to $30,000. In addition to structured classes, the teacher will help students obtain work experience by partnering with local businesses and organizations.
For part of a school day, students will have the chance to either attend internships, the Four Rivers Vocational School or work at a part-time job after school.
During the first year after graduation, the teacher will conduct a follow-up with students and with their employers. This is a way for the teacher to address any issues that could arise such as understanding employer expectations, attendance issues and/or having the skill set for that particular position.
Parson said since the national program was established more than 40 years ago, JAG has served more than 1.3 million students in 35 states.
“JAG helps break negative cycles and changes the dynamic between families and schools,” she said.
With the upcoming school year, Missouri will have 83 JAG programs at 59 schools. Graduation rates within the JAG program have been at 97 percent with last year being at its highest at 98 percent.
“One of the most impressive stats about JAG Missouri was just released in June. Seventy-three students from the Class of 2019 have earned more than $950,000 in academic scholarships to further careers,” Parson said. “Thanks to JAG Missouri, they are well on their way to becoming productive, educated citizens in our workplace.”
Parson also is a dedicated advocate for special education students.
“Teachers throughout Missouri should be as well equipped as possible to work with these children and to provide the education that they need to enter the workplace,” she said. “Every day, barriers are being brought down that have kept these children from reaching their full potential.
“Many of these individuals can be productive citizens in our society with just a little opportunity and guidance.”
Parson said both she and the governor appreciate the hard work teachers do, which shows that they care about Missouri’s next generation.
She concluded with a favorite quote about teachers: A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart.
“I wish you the best in the upcoming school year and afterward as you continue to make an impact on the state of Missouri’s next generation,” she said.