On Wednesday (2/20), as a part of the EnACT LEAD program for sophomores, IMSA invited four Illinois elected officials to hold a Q&A session. Congressman Randy Hultgren and Senators Linda Holmes, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, and John Cullerton, the latter two visiting IMSA for the first time, came to speak to EnACT’s students and provide some advice on creating their own bills. After a short introduction from Dr. McGee and the four speakers, the students went straight into their questions on topics concerning general legislation, school funding, and equality in the education system.
One of the questions asked was: With politicians putting so much effort into ameliorating societal issues, what can students do that could help as well?
Each speaker focused on the point that students are the ones that are actually a part of the community that the elected officials are trying to improve. Thus, students have a very good idea of the changes that they feel will make their community a better place. Having students present their thoughts to the seasoned congressman and senators allows them to gain a better understanding about how citizens feel about certain issues. Such knowledge will surely aid them in bill development. In addition, with the massive number of students out there, there are many different perspectives on certain topics which also helps legislation look at different sides of the matter and have an easier time deciding how to approach it. Senator Cullerton also added that it is very helpful for students to get involved in things like city council or to simply educate themselves on societal issues or how legislation works.
Another interesting question was: How do you make sure that teachers are qualified to help students?
Senator Bertino-Tarrant brought up the point that teachers are very significant figures in deciding whether or not a student will go on to like a certain subject. She also offers her opinion that one of the most important skills a good teacher needs is the ability to work with students: it’s not just about knowing how to convey the information. Also, Senator Holmes brought up the application of Senate Bill 7 which attempted helped filter good teachers from the not-so-good ones. Congressman Hultgren mentioned that good teachers should have a passion to teach and that it is important to find a way to have teachers develop this and maintain it throughout their career. One possible method of this, he said, could be to start early internship programs to have prospective teachers “test the water” well before jumping in. Senator Cullerton concluded the question by bringing up that it may not be a problem with the teachers intrinsically, but with the pressure that the government is putting on educators by constantly deciding on policies that can determine the safety of teachers’ jobs.
After the collective Q&A, each EnACT group broke off, each with a different speaker to answer more specific questions relating to each group’s particular area of interest (education, health, or society). The panel was an informative meeting that helped give EnACT students preparation for designing their own bill to present to US politicians.