COLUMN: Learning is in the classroom!

Published 8:47 pm Thursday, August 17, 2023

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The issues related to public kindergarten through high school graduation have appeared on the pages of newspapers literally daily over the last few years. There are many opinions expressed by a variety of writers, be they parents, students, professional educators or simply interested persons who care about the future of education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The overwhelming majority of these comments relate to the battle between those in the Virginia General Assembly and those in the Governor’s Office. The Virginia Department of Education seems to be in the middle like a ping pong ball bouncing in whichever direction it is hit.

As a member of my local school board, I see everyday the multitude of challenges facing public K – 12 education in Virginia. Among them are school safety, gender identification issues, weapons, social media distractions and influences, standardized testing, teacher shortages, mental health issues, and learning loss from COVID closures.

Here is the essence of the problem: student learning does not take place in the chambers of the General Assembly in Richmond, nor does it take place in the offices of the Governor. True education does not take place in the school board conference rooms or in the central offices. It certainly does not take place in the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate in Washington, D.C.

Student learning takes place in the local school classroom under the supervision of a well-trained and dedicated teacher face-to-face with students. These teachers know that every student is unique in terms of their abilities, skills, aptitudes, attitudes, expectations, and motivations. Only teachers, working with parents, can accurately diagnose the needs of each student and develop a plan to allow that student to be successful. Teachers have a support network of colleagues who work with them. These include principals, assistant principals, counselors, psychologists, nurses, and other specialists who provide needed teacher support to fill identified gaps in student learning. 

The role of the local school board, superintendent, and central office staff is first and foremost to support classroom teachers who are on the front lines of student achievement everyday and know the specific actions to take to give students their best way forward.

The plan for student success must focus on classroom teachers and local needs and authority and far less intervention from those in Richmond and Washington who have, in many cases, done more harm than good. Decision-makers in Richmond and Washington pass laws with a “one size fits all” approach, but local schools know that this approach does not work due to the uniqueness of every student. Addressing that diversity of student needs can only effectively be done by a trained teacher in a classroom setting.

Robert N. “Bob” Holt, a Franklin native, is a retired professor of business management and real estate at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina. He holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies degrees from Virginia Tech and was a member of the university’s Corps of Cadets. His email address is