Michigan Teacher of the Year defends Detroit sickouts

Feb 25, 2016

Host Lester Graham with Rick Joseph (right).
Credit Mercedes Mejia

Rick Joseph is the Michigan Teacher of the Year for 2016. Joseph recently wrote a piece for Bridge Magazine that asks, “Who am I to judge Detroit teacher sickouts?”

As Michigan Teacher of the Year, Joseph tells us he considers his role “to be an ambassador for teachers, to be a servant leader, to be an advocate for education throughout the state.”

“I’ve obviously thought a lot about the sickouts in Detroit and the systemic inequities that exist in public education, and so I borrowed Pope Francis’ famous phrase. And what I meant of course is that I am in absolutely no position to judge the actions of teachers in Detroit, in the sense that I really do believe that their actions reflect desperation, anger, frustration, fear over the future of Detroit Public Schools and public education in Detroit in general,” Joseph says.

“Of course the teachers in Detroit care deeply and passionately about the students that they serve, and of course, no one cares for those students more than the teachers in Detroit Public Schools, and they felt that they had to act. They felt that they had to engage in some kind of action to get attention, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Rick Joseph tells us more about Detroit Public Schools and the conditions that lead the district’s teachers to stage sickouts in our conversation above.