Growing up in Hays, I was blessed to have the opportunity to learn at several very good schools, among them John F. Kennedy Middle School and Thomas More Prep. Under the direction of some truly wonderful teachers, these schools sparked my curiosity and taught me the true value of learning.
One of my most memorable teachers was my history teacher at TMP. He engaged students in his classes through active participation in the learning process. His dynamic teaching made history jump off the pages and into our minds. In return, he asked for our very best, expecting hard work and preparation, so that we would expand our horizons and practice critical thinking every day.
My history teacher at TMP was Jim McNiece, who is now a member of the Kansas State Board of Education, representing District 10. He was one of many influential educators in my life that helped point the way toward a brighter future. I would not be the man I am today, let alone the Governor of Kansas, without the efforts of men and women like Mr. McNiece.
These educators are a major reason why I recently signed an executive order to create the Governor’s Education Council. The council is comprised of education leaders and difference-makers from around the state — teachers, school board members, administrators, university representatives — who will work together to improve and advance educational opportunities for all our citizens.
While the education debate recently has focused on school funding, the Governor’s Education Council takes a different approach. The Council is tasked with exploring how we can improve outcomes in our education system, from early childhood and K-12 schools through our colleges and universities. They will focus on collaboration and how we as a state can support the role of our institutions of learning in growing the economy and cultivating a well-prepared workforce that sets us up for future success.
My education story didn’t end when the final bell rang in Mr. McNiece’s class. I went on to study economics at Georgetown University, international relations at the University of Cambridge, and medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
Even now, I know that all across Kansas we have students finishing up their first year of preschool, learning to write learning composition and arithmetic in grade schools and learning marketable skills in trade schools and colleges.
My goal for all of these students is that they are empowered to achieve their dreams by receiving a quality education. Whether they go on to earn a four-year degree, learn a trade or enter the military, I want to ensure the transition to the workforce is as smooth and seamless as possible. By achieving this, we can truly prepare the next generation of leaders for success in the rapidly-changing 21st Century workforce. I trust that the Governor’s Education Council puts all of the right leaders in the room and will be an excellent venue for these discussions, as we seek to ensure that our kids continue to receive a great education, and thus build a great future for our state.
Dr. Jeff Colyer is governor of Kansas.