Q & A with Renee Zellweger
1. It was such a great surprise to see you at the National Teacher of the Year Induction Meetings! What sparked your interest to participate? What are you curious about?
It was enlightening to be in the mix among so many brilliant, creative and talented educators. Heroes! I believe a great education is fundamental to sustained personal happiness and is a non-negotiable cornerstone of prosperous societies, of social equality and of our democracy. Because of its irrefutable importance – not only in fostering individual success, but the success of a nation – I’ve long wondered why, as a society, we haven’t prioritized doing whatever is necessary to bolster the effectiveness of our educational system and to ensure that teachers have the resources and support circles they require in order to achieve their vital goal of seeing every student succeed, and to compensate them accordingly.
I was eager to hear first-hand what challenges teachers face within the current system, what issues they believe must be addressed and what solutions they might suggest as effective to fortify our public school system. Teachers deserve and must have our complete attention and support; federally, regionally and socially.
What was your big “take away?”
I was interested to learn about the challenge of recruiting and retaining teachers and was piqued by the conversation among teachers about public education having a PR problem; focus on the challenges detracts from highlighting that so much good is happening. The team of teachers unified through this organization are a force. It’s going to be exciting to watch as their efforts materialize.
2. I believe in the power of solving for your why – knowing what motivates you and how that’s driven you to be extraordinary. What’s your WHY?
W – What have been some risks you’ve been willing to take to reach your goals?
I’m not sure I think in terms of risk. Maybe like everyone, I’ve risked failure, pain or disappointment…but if failure is learning, then is it failure? I’d rather risk disappointment than risk the failure of not trying.
H – What’s your heart’s passion and how have you used this during adversity?
Justice, empathy, joy and love are great motivators. Belief in the necessity of something is a great motivator. If the motivation for doing something is rooted in purpose, giving up is never really a consideration, and challenging times seem worthwhile.
Y – What goal are you still working towards? What’s next?
There are several projects in various stages of development, and meanwhile, I’m working on developing new skills and understanding and learning as much as I can, to grow as a person.
3. Who was your most influential teacher and what impact did he/she have on your life?
Mr. Ward, 2nd grade English teacher and Mr. Mattson, 5th grade home room, taught great life lessons about character which resonate. Coach Bauer believed and made me see no reason not to.. and high school English teacher, Mrs. Exley, encouraged that I write.
4. I’m a 3rd grade math teacher. If you were able to visit my class, what message would you convey?
I’d love to ask questions! I’d love to hear what each of them wishes for their futures! Maybe we could talk about how they each have the power to create any life they choose for themselves, without awaiting permission or an invitation from anyone, and that learning things is like collecting treasure! Get RICH, ya’ll!!
5. It can be a challenge for adults to change course and pursue additional education. What was your motivation and what advice would you give to others who are in similar situations?
Personal situations are so varied, I’d be uncomfortable to offer advice, but I’d encourage anyone who’s been considering school to go for it! I’ve found appreciation for learning is so different as a mature person, and it’s so much fun to explore a subject that genuinely sparks curiosity and expands understanding. The experience of being in an academic environment has opened my mind and life in unexpected ways. I figure you live once, why not know as much as you’d like to?