Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Educators Explain Why They Joined TeachStrong in Third Installment of Story Project
Press Release

RELEASE: Educators Explain Why They Joined TeachStrong in Third Installment of Story Project

The TeachStrong campaign brings together teachers unions; teacher voice organizations; and education reform, civil rights, and education policy leaders to make modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy issue of 2016.

Washington, D.C. — In the third installment of the TeachStrong Story Project, educators from New York, the District of Columbia, and Michigan describe why they joined TeachStrong and the potential impact that they can have as ambassadors in their communities. The TeachStrong campaign is a coalition of nearly 60 leading education groups aimed at making modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy priority in 2016.

The third installment of the TeachStrong Story Project features Ciana DeBellis, New York City Department of Education’s Dean of Discipline and Culture in the Bronx, New York City; Shakera Oliver, a fourth-grade math teacher in the District of Columbia Public Schools system; and Mike Lerchenfeldt, a seventh-grade science teacher in Macomb, Michigan. In the latest video series, these ambassadors explain why they joined TeachStrong and what they hope to achieve as ambassadors.

The Story Project is a collection of short videos, longer compilations, and sharable content featuring the TeachStrong ambassadors, a group of nearly 100 educators from 27 states and Washington, D.C. As ambassadors, these exceptional educators advise the TeachStrong coalition on teacher pipeline policies and serve as activists and spokespeople for TeachStrong in their local communities. The program ranges from first-year teachers to 30-year veterans of the profession, as well as principals, deans, school librarians, union chapter leaders, innovators, school founders, and curriculum and instruction experts. Ambassadors were nominated by TeachStrong partner organizations and were selected to participate in the program based on their demonstrated commitment to the campaign’s principles and goals.

In the third set of videos, ambassador Ciana DeBellis discusses the unique opportunities to advocate and make a difference. She said, “Being an ambassador gives me the tools necessary to push policy and legislation that will make better pay a reality, that will make more time a reality, [and] diversifying the workforce a reality.”

“I like the idea of being a leader,” said ambassador Shakera Oliver. “TeachStrong offered the modern time delivery of the teachers’ message and the teachers’ story. No other organization is isolating the nuances of teaching and the demands of teaching.”

“I don’t like to just sit back,” said ambassador Mike Lerchenfeldt, discussing his involvement in changing the education policy conversation. “Schools should be a place that kids want to go to, parents want to send their kids to, and teachers should want to go and work there.”

“These incredible educators are critical to TeachStrong’s mission to make modernizing and elevating the teaching profession a national priority,” said Catherine Brown, Vice President of Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. “The ambassadors bring a diversity of experiences both in and outside the classroom to the campaign, and we are fortunate to have them at the table as the campaign moves forward.”

About the TeachStrong Ambassador Program

The TeachStrong initiative was launched based on a shared understanding among its partners that the expectations for students, teachers, and schools have never been higher, but the systems to prepare, support, and compensate teachers have not been elevated commensurately. The coalition aims to elevate the prominence of this issue among thought leaders, the public, and especially parents and teachers to offer concrete policy solutions about how to elevate and modernize the teaching profession. This effort will not be successful without educators. They know firsthand the challenges that they face every day in their classrooms, and they have unique insights into the likely efficacy of potential solutions.

The TeachStrong Ambassador Program is an opportunity for educators from across the United States to enrich this important effort with their experiences and expertise. Ultimately, ambassadors will have a critical role in shaping TeachStrong’s policy positions, engaging others in this effort through traditional and social media, and calling on political leaders to take up this agenda.

More information about the TeachStrong campaign can be found at

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact [email protected].