It’s here.  School gets back into session very soon.  For many teachers across West Virginia this week marked the beginning of a new year – at least getting prepared for it.

Sometimes I wonder if we take for granted the things we have.  Many of us take for granted the work our teachers put into their profession – work we never see or understand.  And why?  Most do it because it is a calling of sorts.

Unfortunately our educators are often characterized by the few “bad apples” in their profession.  As a society we tend to gravitate toward the negative end of the spectrum anymore and I’m not sure why.  A quick survey of the many educators who surround our children will show us that there are many more great servants than “bad apples.”  These servants, we call teachers, just want to do their job for which they were made.

During the 2016 Regular Session of the West Virginia Legislature I had the pleasure of representing the West Virginia Professional Educators.  For those who are not familiar, WVPE is an organization of educators with a bit of a different philosophy.  They provide similar benefits to their members as other teacher groups do, but do not make political endorsements and feel that a child’s mind is too precious to be bargained for.  In my experience with them I must say they are truly a teacher/member-driven organization.

Over and over again the theme from WVPE members was to let them do their job.  Translation: too many burdensome regulations with little effect on outcomes.  I witnessed this battle first-hand during the legislative session.  I do feel we are entering a new era of philosophy that matches this sentiment.  If my feel for the legislative waters is right we may see regulatory burdens to the classroom addressed in the near future.

What a novel idea it may be to escape from our philosophy of protectionism and into the world of innovation.  West Virginia has precedence for good outcomes with less regulation.  This week Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued a press release touting that for the twelfth straight year West Virginians have seen a decrease in workers’ compensation rates.  Why? Because over twelve years ago West Virginia privatized the system – transitioning from a protectionism philosophy of a state-run program that ran up massive debt.

As our educators go back to work let’s all wish them well and pray for their success.  It’s the best thing we can do for them.  Freeing up their abilities as teachers directly affects the future of our state.

While I’m at it, I’d like to shout out to some of the best teachers I had along my way:  Mr. Redman (Andres Jackson Middle School), Ms. Cox (Point Harmony Elementary), Mrs. Nesbitt (Pt. Harmony), Mrs. Dodrill and her daughter Ms. Dodrill now Mrs. Palumbo (Nitro High School), Mrs. Abernathy (Nitro), and many others.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your work and dedication.

And to three very special teachers…my step-sister Mrs. Buehler in Kentucky who fully commits herself to her profession and students.  They are lucky to have you.  To my father Mr. Beakes who’s patience, understanding, and ability to see the good in all serves his students well.

Finally, to my wife, Sarah Orrison Beakes – a teacher by trade, a shining light of love by nature.  You may not be in the classroom in this stage of your life, but you have put on a clinic in how to love your children, care for them, teach them, and nurture them.  Our children’s confidence and happiness is a testament to you.  And I am a better man because of your love.