The View from the Top

Jason Kamras and Kimberly Oliver have 14 years experience in the classroom between them. Both are at the age and place in life -- late 20s to early 30s, a few years removed from college, thinking about families of their own -- where it would be easy to chuck ideology and walk into a high-paying private sector job.

That would be the easy route, but Oliver and Kamras have never taken that path. They believe teaching can, and should, be a good career choice for professionals like them. They also believe children -- all children, but especially those who come from high-need, high-risk schools -- deserve the best public education has to offer. That all children have a chance.

And, like many of their younger, push-the-envelope colleagues, they have opinions about how to make it work.

“If you do not put quality adults into school buildings, don’t be surprised when achievement doesn’t change,” Kamras says. “You can buy all new textbooks, provide professional development, refine the curriculum and the standards. You can even build brand-new school buildings. But it’s not going to change anything unless you go out and get the best people to serve as school leaders, teachers, nurses, custodians -- everyone in every position in that school.”

Kamras and Oliver, the 2005 and 2006 National Teachers of the Year, work in schools less than 20 miles from each other -- the first time that has happened in the 55-year history of the program. He has spent eight years teaching math at John Philip Sousa Middle School, developing methods and programs that raised achievement in one of Washington, D.C.’s most historic -- and historically low-performing -- schools. She has worked for six years as a kindergarten teacher at Broad Acres Elementary in Montgomery County, Md.; the school, which was faced with reconstitution when she arrived, has turned itself around. 

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