Educational equality a goal for renowned teacher

Theresa Montgomery

Jason Kamras is a middle school mathematics teacher in Washington, D.C.

Last April, President Bush named Kamras the 2005 National Teacher of the Year.

Kent State is one of the few universities with the annual opportunity to host the National Teacher of the Year, said Bette Brooks, director of Partnership Initiatives and Administrative Services for the College and Graduate School of Education, Health and Human Services.

Kamras will be on the Kent State campus tomorrow speaking about educational equity for all children.

A graduate of Princeton with a master’s degree from Harvard, Kamras is committed to addressing prejudice in educational funding.

“It’s (his goal is) very simple,” Kamras said. “It’s that every student – and I mean every student – have access to a good education.”

He is motivated by a sense of urgency to call attention to these inequities and the resulting gaps in achievement.

“Every American politician should be waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night in a panic about the injustices that still grip our nation,” he said.

It’s about extending opportunity, of which education is the cornerstone, he said.

At John Phillip Sousa, the urban public school where he teaches, Kamras created two programs. In the Early Bird Program, Kamras and his students gathered before school started for mathematics lessons. Last spring, he focused on teaching eighth graders algebra, a subject being offered for the first time. Kamras’ efforts have been effective in raising standardized test scores of his students.

In the EXPOSE Program, Kamras brings his love of photography to Sousa students. Kamras drives students around the Washington area in a series of field trips. By exploring their city with digital cameras, students find and use their individual voices to create autobiographical photo-essays.

“Students are acutely aware of the world around them,” Kamras said. “It is important to get them to be questioners – to develop their own sense of the world.”

Because of this work, Kamras received the 2001 Mayor’s Art Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education, the highest arts honor given by the District of Columbia.

Kamras, who said teaching is about more than sharing knowledge, went into the classroom believing he could impact his students.

“They want to be pushed to higher standards, and inevitably meet them,” Kamras said of his students. He has seen them accomplish things they didn’t expect from themselves. “They are creative, resilient, inspiring.”

As National Teacher of the Year, Kamras has become a full-time spokesman for education and is away from John Phillip Sousa Middle School for this one-year period.

The past few months have confirmed in Kamras a sense of optimism, he said. He is encouraged by the passion and commitment to justice he sees in people he meets.

“That is how society changes,” Kamras said. “It happens when a whole lot of individuals take responsibility, personally, to advance society. Then, one day, they’ll turn around and see a thousand people standing behind and next to them.”

Kamras will speak at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Kiva followed by a reception. Both are free and open to the public.

Contact College and Graduate School of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Theresa Montgomery at [email protected].