New IEA president visits

Kari Overall (center) poses for a photo after meeting with Central Elementary School teachers Barbara Blair (left) and Fay Harris (right). Both Blair and Harris are co-presidents of the Sugar-Salem Education Association.

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The new president of the Idaho Education Association recently visited schools in Madison School District and Sugar-Salem School District.

Earlier this year IEA members voted in Kari Overall as president of the teacher’s advocate organization.

Overall, a Boise high school history teacher with 13 years experience, has been an IEA member and part of the state’s IEA Board of Directors for nearly her entire teaching career. She attended Ricks College and graduated from University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree. She also earned a Master of Arts in education from Lesley University.

Overall said she came to visit with local teachers to see what needs to be improved at the ground level of the state’s education system.

“One of my goals as president is to visit as many school districts as possible, to visit our members and to see what conditions are like there, what their needs are and what they’re struggling with,” she said. “The more we can tell the stories of the people who are in our classrooms every day, the better we’re enabled to share and advocate for public education.”

Overall met with teachers on Nov. 14 and 15 at Madison Middle School and Central Elementary School. She said that her visit was productive and that she learned a lot about what teachers need to do their job most effectively.

“We spent some time in the middle school with teachers there and talked about some of their frustrations, such as career ladders,” Overall said. “Some veteran teachers haven’t had raises in a few years because the legislature hasn’t passed spending for that.”

Teachers at Central Middle School expressed concerns that students’ test scores were getting in the way of actual teaching.

“There are a lot of requirements for teachers to evaluate their students,” Overall said. “Teachers are frustrated that they’re doing more paperwork than actual teaching. They feel like they’re not valued, and they feel like people don’t understand their job while being told by those people how to do their job.”

Overall says she understands the dilemma local teachers face. Having taught ninth graders at a low-income school for over a decade, Overall said she was regularly faced with problems that weren’t as common at other Idaho schools.

“I want to learn about how conditions vary across the state,” she said. “It’s really about knowing what’s really going on in our classrooms. The best news for me is that we have fabulous educators in our schools across the state. They believe in their jobs in public education. When they’re frustrated, it’s only because they want to do their job better. Our educators want to be the best in what they do, and they want to be treated as the professionals that they are.”

The next part of Overall’s job is to go back to Boise and discuss her findings with lawmakers in the state legislature and the state board of education. She said her purpose in meeting with Idaho teachers was to better represent them and their needs and to bring that information to the table when new rules and regulations affecting public education are decided.

“We know that people want to live on this side of the state, so we need to make sure that the students that move here continue to receive that high-quality education that others have been receiving here,” she said.

This won’t be her sole visit to the area as IEA president. Overall plans on returning to visit Upper Valley schools again and said she’ll continue to find ways to improve teaching in the classroom.

“This is a listening and learning tour,” she said. “Just one visit to this area will not be enough to inform me about everything that’s happening. My goal is to visit every single region at least twice this year. Every time I come back, I want to learn more. It’s teaching, and you always have to be learning something to be a good teacher. You have to do the same to be a good president.”

Overall said her mission in Idaho has only begun.

“As we continue to grow as a state, we’ll continue to advocate for quality teachers and livable salaries, and for more resources for students so public education can continue to improve and expand across the state,” she said.