Steve Perry told a room filled with hundreds of Idaho educators that teachers have an incredible opportunity because they can create a new reality for a group of children who need one.
“If you, in this room, can find a way to get a child who was born in a trailer park to see that does not have to be their reality — it doesn’t have to be where things end — then this great nation will be great,” Perry said. “If the people in this room can see a child whose parents work the field, if you can convince him to stay after school to work on his English, then this will become a great nation.
“In order to do that, we must take our own view of what we’ve seen to be true and turn the world into what we wish to see.”
Educators were in Boise this week for the biennial Elementary and Secondary Education Act federal programs conference hosted by the State Department of Education.
The event was Wednesday through Friday at the Boise Centre on the Grove and featured a number of experts discussing topics from managing grant proposals and Common Core programs, to meeting the needs of at-risk students in Idaho.
Perry was Thursday’s keynote luncheon speaker and he showed his prowess for motivational speaking.
“Establish a new reality, a new truth,” he said. “If you don’t see a child as capable because his circumstances are limiting, then you cannot teach that child.”
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Kim Bedke, a principal and federal programs director in the Cassia County School District, said Perry’s comments were “life changing. I loved where he highlighted the achievement gap vs. the believe gap.”
Bedke also bragged that the entire three-day conference was “amazing and empowering and an opportunity to change our beliefs.”
Perry is the founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., listed by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best schools in the country, despite a student-body demographic that is composed predominantly of low-income minorities. Every year since 2006 it has had more than 95 percent of its students go on to college.
Perry told Idahoans that the success of a life is determined by where you end, not where you start. It is this philosophy that inspired him to transform the lives of poor and minority children by providing them with access to education.
He leaves his house at 4:45 every morning so he can drive kids to school.
“I’m the principal and the bus driver and I pick up garbage in the halls,” he said. “Do whatever it takes.”
He told Idaho educators that teens end up in gangs not for protection but for love. So give them love in school. Tell them they matter.
“If we see these children have limits, then we have a problem,” he said.
He also encouraged educators to “be positive” every day. He got the crowd giggling when he asked: “Have you ever been to the teacher’s lounge? After eight minutes (of complaining) you want to stab yourself in the face! You can turn that around and go into the teacher’s lounge having the best day ever.”