Love Asheville

Dear Asheville,

At the risk of sounding gushy, I want you to know that you’re amazing. Gorgeous, smart, lovable: in short, everything I could ever ask for in a town.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. But while some may love you for your beauty (and your incredible food), I love you for brains and your passion. You're a place of action, and you're always just a little bit ahead of the curve. We may not have everything in common, but you care about kids, and that is by far my favorite thing about you.

To help you appreciate just how cutting-edge you are, I want to share with you that in December, the National Education Association released “Transforming Teaching: Connecting Professional Responsibility with Student Learning.” The report is groundbreaking, to say the least. It proposes a radical shift in the role teachers play in decision-making, demanding authentic approaches to professional development. It also urges that curriculum design be centered on student learning and real measures of success.

What is particularly incredible, yet not really surprising, is that you already knew this and have been working to make this shift a reality for more than three years. During that time, you've contributed more than a quarter of a million dollars toward authentic reform of our public schools. You've developed after-school collaboratives and pulled together a corps of more than 100 mentors. You've fostered 40 teachers who've considered ways they could enhance their classroom performance, conducted research and collaborated — all to the ultimate benefit of the students they serve.

It wasn't hard to find teachers who wanted to engage with new research and help solve the big-picture problems they see every day.

But it’s not just the teachers: Each year, more than 30 performing and visual artists share their time and talents with our students through the TAPAS program, which brings teaching artists into the classroom, helping to deliver curriculum in creative ways that are proven to improve student learning. This year, more than 3,000 students will have a meaningful interaction with an artist through the more than 100 artist’s residencies. These experiences will help many of those students find their own creative spark.

So on their behalf, I want to thank you, Asheville, for believing in the promise of our children and this community. Because you care, project-based learning is becoming the new normal. And now you're even going the extra mile and connecting the business community to our schools with the Go Local card, a partnership with the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, because you understand that community-based solutions are the most sustainable. With this little card, you can support the city schools and the buy local campaign while saving money at more than 100 locally owned and operated businesses. You are so smart!

With some 4,000 students and 400 faculty, the Asheville City Schools are an engine of change. Asheville, you stand among the leaders in education reform, and while this comes as no surprise, it's a very good thing.

I remember our last conversation, when you shared your New Year’s resolutions with me. Among them were these: honoring a teacher in your life; shifting as much of your shopping as you can to our local businesses; and figuring out one way you can positively impact the life of a child who’s not your own.

You've taught me that our futures are bound up together, and for that I am entirely grateful — because I’m bound up with you.

Seriously in love,

Leah

— Leah Ferguson is co-director of the Asheville City Schools Foundation. Go Local cards ($15) are available at Hip Replacements and Nourish & Flourish in Asheville, or online at http://acsf.org and http://ashevillegrown.com.

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