Dr. Quintin Shepherd: Those who teach and those who support teachers

A word from the Superintendent of the Victoria I.S.D.

The following is from Superintendent of the Victoria I.S.D. Dr. Quintin Shepherd:

I think almost everyone who knows me has heard me say, “There are only two groups of people who work in schools… there are those who teach and those who support teachers. Heaven help you if you should find yourself in a third category.” As Superintendent, I sometimes get to teach, but often my role finds me supporting teachers. I consider myself chief supporter of teachers in VISD and take my job seriously. Part of supporting teachers means I sometimes must protect my teachers when they are being attacked.

On July 3, at Mount Rushmore during an Independence Day event, the President of the United States gave a speech. Here are the exact words from his speech: “Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but that were villains. The radical view of American history is a web of lies —all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted, and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition.”

When I first heard these words, I was certain it had been a mistake. After the event, I read and reread those words over and over. Did our President accuse schools of teaching kids to hate their own country? Over my career in education, I have had the opportunity to visit thousands of classrooms and countless lessons. Never once have I witnessed a lesson in hating our country. The phrase, “our children are taught in school to hate their own country” will likely stay with me to my final days. I paused and recognize he was speaking his opinion and perhaps, his truth. I am obliged to do the same. I asked myself if I would correct a friend had they uttered these words to me, and I would. I also decided I would correct a stranger. I would correct an elected official as well, because I think statements like this matter. In the off-chance President Trump reads the opinion pages of the Victoria Advocate, I would like for him to know the very best classroom teachers know how to turn the classroom into a marketplace of ideas (a phrase coined by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas) where students are encouraged to speak their truth, question their truth and learn from the consequences of both. In so doing, these teachers help students to not only understand what makes America great, but to live the very principles of Democracy we care so much about. It is because we encourage thoughtful discourse that we are able to preserve and protect democracy. It is through this free expression of ideas that our kids are taught to love and fight for democracy and, in turn, our country. Rest assured; our students are taught heroes come in many varieties and our history is not one of “villains”. I’m reminded of the phrase, “Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.” (Washington Irving)

Those who teach are indeed heroes. Those who support teachers must stand up for teachers when their integrity and loyalty to our country are called into question. I ask you to join me in defending our teachers and schools against baseless attacks that undermine their credibility. This is my truth.

Dr. Shepherd Headshot