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What should the teaching profession look like in the future? How can teaching be transformed into a profession respected on par with medicine and engineering?

These and related questions were posed to administrators and principals from throughout the Fox Valley region, as well as to University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services students and faculty by Leah Lechleiter-Luke ’92, Department of Education Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow, as part of the Department’s newly created RESPECT project.

RESPECT stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching and the program was launched by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in February. Its purpose is to directly engage with educators all across America in a national conversation about transforming the teaching profession.

“The Department of Education is looking to engage educators at all levels in the discussion about ways to transform the profession and identify strategies elevate the teacher voice in federal, state and local education policy,” said Lechleiter-Luke, who is also a Spanish and English teacher at Mauston High School. “Everything is on the table — from classroom structure and teacher preparation programs to recruitment, tenure and work rules.”

Points discussed during Lechleiter-Luke’s roundtables at UW Oshkosh included availability of technology in students’ homes, the point at which federal requirements and state laws intersect, the impending shortage of and increased competition for workers as baby boomers retire, improving training of student teachers, compensation structures for high-demand subject areas and balancing instructional needs of gifted and talented students with those who are performing below average.

“The concepts and ideas from the UW Oshkosh discussions, along with hundreds of similar meetings across the country, are submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. They’ll be reviewed and analyzed for possible incorporation into a document that will become the basis for a proposed competitive grant program,” Lechleiter-Luke said.

The proposed $5 billion grant, part of President Obama’s 2013 education budget, challenges states and districts to work with their teachers, unions, colleges of education and other stakeholders to comprehensively transform the teaching profession. If Congress approves the budget, states and school districts will then have the chance to compete for these funds.

Educators are invited to join the conversation. For more information, send an email to

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