Representative Turner took a picture with my Melissa and me at the speaker's podium beneath the great seal of Indiana. We then sat to the side for a few moments as the chamber began to fill for the day's session.
After the session was brought to order by Speaker Brian Bosma, Representative Turner read the resolution, the essence of which was captured in this press release.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, February 10, 2014
Rep. Turner honors 2014 Indiana Teacher of the Year
STATEHOUSE –The House on Monday unanimously approved a resolution authored by State Representative P. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) honoring Steven Perkins for being named the 2014 Teacher of the Year by the Indiana Department of Education (DOE).
Perkins, a Latin teacher at North Central High School in Indianapolis since 1998, was announced as the 2014 Teacher of the Year in October for his passion for teaching and commitment to student success.
“In hearing from students, faculty and other administrative staff, Mr. Perkins’ love and dedication to educating and empowering his students is remarkable,” said Rep. Turner. “He is someone that inspires students to think and dream bigger and provides them with the tools to realize such ideas. It is with great pleasure that I recognize Steven’s devotion to Indiana’s education system and the positive impact he has made on countless lives throughout his tenure.”
Perkins has accumulated a number of awards and honors over the course of his career. In January, Gov. Mike Pence awarded him with the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, an award established in the 1950s that allows the Indiana governor to recognize outstanding Hoosiers for their efforts and accomplishments. Other awards Perkins has received include the Dr. Elizabeth Watkins Latin Teacher Award from the American Classical League and the Blazing Torch Award from Butler University.
“Steven serves as a model for not just all teachers to follow, but for all of us to follow in making a difference in our community, state and country,” Rep. Turner said. “His enthusiasm and energy spreads to everyone around him, and I know that he will represent Indiana well at the national level.”
The Indiana Teacher of the Year program began in 1957 and is the oldest state honors program for excellence in teaching. The Indiana Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the Indiana District Teachers of the Year who submit a portfolio to the DOE’s Teacher of the Year Coordinator. Perkins will represent Indiana in the National Teacher of the Year contest and will spend the year collaborating with the DOE to develop educational initiatives for state schools.
More information about the Indiana Teacher of the Year program can be found on the Indiana Department of Education’s website at www.doe.in.gov.
After the reading of the resolution, I had the opportunity to offer a few words to the House of Representatives. The text of my remarks follows.
I want to thank the Honorable Eric Turner, Speaker Pro Tempore and House Member for the 32nd district, along with all the members of the Indiana House of Representatives for the opportunity to be with you today. When I was a senior in high school twenty-seven years ago, I could not have imagined returning to this chamber to speak to this body. In 1987 during my last year at New Albany High School in Floyd County, Indiana, we had the opportunity to take a regular government class or one called “TV-Government.” I chose the latter and was able to travel to Indianapolis to film a program that involved my interviewing members of the Senate and House of Representatives and State Superintendent of Public Instruction H. Dean Evans. My friend, Rick Wilson, was the cameraman and took footage of our handsome statehouse, and I remember returning home to New Albany inspired to run for office. Now, nearly thirty years later, I teach at North Central High School in Indianapolis. Our administration building is named for H. Dean Evans, who was our district’s superintendent before leading the state, and I am once again in a chamber that inspires me.
It is often said that obtaining a good education has never been more important than it is right now. This is only true because obtaining a good education is just as important now as it has ever been. Around 380 B.C. Plato wrote his famous Republic, a philosophical dialogue that tries to explore the ideal state. For Plato it was only natural to devote two chapters to the topic of education, for as he observed, matters of education are linked to matters of justice and injustice. He goes on to lay out a program of study that addresses the three parts of a human being, the body, the mind, and the soul. Plato knew that any curriculum that fails to address the complete person must fall short not only in preparing that person for all he or she could become, but in laying the foundation for a just state.
Hoosiers have known this as well. Our first constitution of 1816 listed as our primary purpose the establishment of justice. Article 9, Section 1 of that original constitution followed more than two thousand years of shared human understanding linking education and justice by proclaiming, “Knowledge and learning generally diffused, through a community, being essential to the preservation of a free Government, and spreading the opportunities, and advantages of education through the various parts of the Country, being highly conductive to this end, it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to provide, by law, for the improvement of such lands...for the use of schools, and to apply any funds which may be raised...to the accomplishment of the grand object for which they are or may be intended.” In Article 8, Section 1 of the current Indiana Constitution, we read, “[I]t shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement....”
Times change, but truth does not. From 4th century B.C. Athens to 21st century Indiana, human beings have known that a just state is rooted in and supported by education, which, as Plato described, must be nothing less than the development of the whole person.
At North Central High School I teach Latin, which is a microcosm of a complete liberal arts education, for in it we teach the whole child by including math, art, geography, history, English, and performing arts. Whether we are marching drills as the Roman soldiers did or creating wax tablets and scrolls as we explore ancient handwriting, the study of Latin opens the door to a world of endless fascination and discovery, and we connect the exciting world of education with issues of justice from the beginning. We take as our foundation a statement by the great Roman orator Cicero. “Let others be ashamed," he said, "if they have so hidden themselves in literature that they can offer nothing from their reading for the public benefit nor can bring forth anything into the light to be seen.” This has led us to two annual projects, one to fight poverty in Indianapolis and another to help children at Riley Hospital. It has also inspired a new effort this year to build a literacy garden at a local elementary school.My 7th grade English teacher, Dale Richmer, had a poster in his room that said, “The road to success is marked with many tempting parking places.” We must resist the temptation to reduce education to nothing more than skills training. We must resist the temptation to see education as merely a ticket to a high-paying job. Education, of course, includes preparation for a career, but those who founded the state of Indiana knew and codified the idea that education is much more, a grand object, as they called it. I encourage each member of this House of Representatives and indeed all Hoosiers to remember the high ideal of what a well-rounded education can be, one that addresses the bodies, minds, and souls of our citizens. It is the type of education that led me to this chamber nearly thirty years ago when I was a student, and it is the kind of education that continues to flourish in many schools across our state, as indeed it must if we are to remain true to our original charter of establishing justice. All Hoosiers must work to promote this deep and broad understanding of education, which is nothing less than the most humane and human of enterprises. Thank you.
 Then we have found the desired natures; and now that we have found them, how are they to be reared and educated? Is not this an enquiry which may be expected to throw light on the greater enquiry which is our final end—How do justice and injustice grow up in States? (II.376)
 http://www.in.gov/history/2874.htm. "Knowledge and learning generally diffused, through a community, being essential to the preservation of a free Government, and spreading the opportunities, and advantages of education through the various parts of the Country, being highly conductive to this end, it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to provide, by law, for the improvement of such lands as are, or hereafter may be granted, by the united States to this state, for the use of schools, and to apply any funds which may be raised from such lands, or from any other quarters to the accomplishment of the grand object for which they are or may be intended.”
 http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/const/art8.html. "Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all."
 Pro Archia 12, translation mine
We were then taken to the Senate chamber where the resolution was read and passed again.
I was supported in all this by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, 2013 Indiana Teacher of the Year Suzanne Whitton, and our school district's incomparable PR person, Ellen Rogers. As I told Suzanne and Ellen when it was over, it felt like having ridden on a favorite roller coaster at Kings Island amusement park. I wanted to get right back in line and go again!
UPDATE: The video of my remarks is now available from the Indiana Department of Education.
UPDATE: The video of my remarks is now available from the Indiana Department of Education.