2015 Friend of Education Award Winner Paula Kerger’s Speech at the 94th Representative Assembly

Orange County Convention Center – Orlando, Florida
Sunday, July 5, 2015


Wow. If you could see the view from up here. I am so proud to be here. I come from a family of educators. This is an amazing moment. On behalf of Pat Harrison of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and on behalf of all of our member stations who work every day to help PBS meet the needs of today’s teachers and learners, I want to say thank you.

It is indeed an honor to be here, and to join the ranks of others who have won this prize, from Nobel Prize winners to Supreme Court Justices. But I don’t want to just thank you for this award. I want to say thank you to all of you for the work that you do every day: educating the next generation of Americans to be informed, engaged participants in our democracy.

As a nation, this is our most pressing task, and you are all on the front lines of this challenge, working with students day in and day out to create a dynamic, engaging, supportive educational environment. Please give yourselves a round of applause.

Now, before I talk about PBS, I just want to take a moment to recognize someone who passed away last week, someone who I believe many of you knew and worked with, and that’s Ron Thorpe, who was the President and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. I had the great privilege to bring Ron into public broadcasting when he was leaving the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and he worked at our station in New York, WNET, for a number of years, and began something that was important to both of us–the celebration of teaching and learning.The whole idea behind it was to bring educators together in celebration of their great work, and I know that all of us mourn his loss greatly. And it seemed appropriate today when I had this stage to recognize him and the many contributions that he made to education.

Now, education is at the heart of our mission at PBS. Working alongside my good colleague, Alicia Levi, who is with me today, who is our Vice President of Education, we were created in order to use the power of media to educate, engage, and inspire all Americans. We take our mission very seriously at PBS. For decades, we’ve used our on-air content to get children ready for success in school. We realize that because we’re accessible in every home across the country, we have a tremendous responsibility to use our airwaves to prepare children for success in school and in life. From social emotional “grit” to literacy to STEM skills, we’ve worked hard to make sure that our content does more than entertain, it also inspires and teaches.

And as the media landscape has evolved, we’ve evolved right along with it. Today we’re working across platforms to use all kinds of media to reach kids. At PBS, we believe that we can’t focus on just one element of learning– that in order to best serve kids and teens, we must provide exploratory opportunities across all possible areas, whether they are cognitive, social-emotional, physical, or like most of our series, a seamless, integrated combination. And we must do this not only in front of the television–but also on mobile devices, games, streaming video, and, of course, in the classroom.

Many of you are probably familiar with PBS LearningMedia, a free service for all teachers, students, and home-schooling families nationwide. The service includes classroom-ready curriculum-based digital resources, including videos and interactives, audio, documents, and in-depth lesson plans. These resources are available for free to PreK-12 classrooms all across the country in membership with our PBS member stations. Nationally we’ve partnered with organizations like NASA, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress. And across the country, our stations have added local content to help connect students to the unique history of their area and align content to state standards.

But our reach and our ambition extend far beyond the classroom walls. Working together across public radio and public television, we are trying to bring communities together, to engage everyone, not just parents and teachers, in the cause of educating our next generation.

One of the best examples of this is CPB’s (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) American Graduate Initiative, a multi-year campaign designed to start a dialogue about the issue of high school graduation rates. Working together with partners across public media, we are doing more than just shining a spotlight on the problem. We’re trying to shine a spotlight on possible solutions, to help show parents, teachers, community members, and business leaders what is working when it comes to addressing the drop out crisis.

It’s clear that it takes a village when it comes to education. Even with the most advanced digital tools, parents can’t do it alone. Neither can teachers, or business leaders. But working together, I believe we can measurably improve education in this country. And that’s why I’m especially proud to be here today, to be recognized as a partner in the great work that you do to further education in this country.

President Lyndon Johnson once said: “We have always believed that our people can stand on no higher ground than the school ground, or can enter any more hopeful room than the classroom. We blend time and faith and knowledge in our schools–not only to create educated citizens, but also to shape the destiny of this great Republic.”

Together, let’s remind our nation of the great importance of education. Let’s keep that hope alive in our classrooms. And together let’s shape the destiny of this great republic. Thank you very much.