After a strong campaign, on November 6, 2018, Social Studies teacher John Waldron won the District 77 House seat. After spending a number of years as a teacher at Booker T. Washington, it is difficult for his students and coworkers to say goodbye. However, now he is able to fight for his students’ futures and the future of Oklahoma. To commemorate his win, student and _Taliaferro _writer and editor, Christine Do, sat down with Mr. Waldron to have a few last words before he assumes his office.
C: So, you’ve been elected as a legislator to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, is that right?
W: Yes, that’s right. District 77.
C: So, what do you hope to accomplish in this role, and why is it important to you that you were elected?
W: Well, I got into this because I… well, first of all, politics is local. I observed what was happening to Booker T. You know, we’re getting budget cuts, and our faculty was being squeezed, and classes were getting bigger, so I got involved. I started lobbying: I talked to legislatures whenever there was a funding crisis; there always seemed to be a funding crisis. The politicians would make excuses and say ‘Sorry, there’s nothing we can do about it’, and I guess I just realized that they weren’t going to listen to teachers who asked politely for more funding. They’re going to listen to people only when the people have the power to make them listen. So I started getting ready. I had been encouraged to run by my current representative, Eric Proctor. So, in October of 2015, I posted a little declaration on Facebook and I guess I’ve been running ever since.
C: Do you plan on returning to teaching after your term, or at all?
W: Well, I think I would like to teach in the fall semester. Since the legislature is only active in the spring, I do have eight months that aren’t committed to the legislature, so I’d like to find a school I can teach at. Oklahoma doesn’t let you teach in the public school system, but there are private schools where I could go.
C: What will you miss most about teaching at Booker T.?
W: I miss what Booker T. represents. You know, there’s this spirit of excellence and appreciation and it’s a really committed, purposeful place where people want to do better and want to be better. And I’ve really enjoyed the kids that have come through the classroom and all the chances we’ve had to grow and learn together. I’ll miss that most of all.
C: If you were to improve Booker T., in part or in whole, what would you change?
W: We’ve got to change the way we relate to each other. We do have a great spirit here at Booker T. and everyone is a Hornet, but we need to do more to overcome barriers and boundaries between groups of kids. We need to revive some of the old traditions and customs that have made Booker T. great and remind ourselves that we’re not here just because of the IB program or to pass standardized tests or even to get into the best colleges. Booker T. has a social purpose of overcoming barriers and bringing people from all over the city together and learning from each other. We should do more of that.
C: For anyone who doesn’t know you personally, what are three things you could say to summarize yourself?
W: Let’s see. I come from a very large family. You should always start with family. I’m the eighth of nine children. I’ve been teaching for twenty-five years, even though I originally planned to work in the foreign service to work in American embassies around the world, because I had this epiphany when I was twenty-two or so. I was preparing for a career in international affairs, but what I really loved most was volunteering at a school on Wednesday afternoons. So I became a teacher and really have enjoyed it. I guess a third thing would be that I’ve always enjoyed teaching because it’s a place to fulfill your passions. You know, I love history, and I love the materials, and I love government and politics, and I love getting to open young people’s eyes up to the possibilities and those materials and I’m very passionate about what I do. I don’t feel like it’s just a job; this is a calling. But if we’re going to have good schools in the future, if the younger brothers and sisters of current Hornets are going to have good schools too, and if every kid in Oklahoma is going to have access to good education, not just the kids that go to Booker T., then we have to be prepared to fight for that. And what I think what I’m doing now is transferring my passion for learning into a passion for advocacy, for good public schools, for better policies that serve the people of my district, for decency. A government that works for everybody.
C: What advice would you give to an aspiring teacher or politician?
W: Let’s start with teachers. Politicians are a whole other thing. For aspiring teachers it’s the most wonderful profession. Remember that it’s all about building connections with the students in the classroom. If you can do that, if you can let them know you care about them, then you can show them how to do the work that will help them learn and grow. It’s never just about the textbook or the test score: it’s always about meeting the needs of the kids in front of you, and they’re your most important resource. They’re going to teach you what they need you to do for them, and if you learn and you listen from the students, you can be a good teacher. As for a politician, you have to work hard. You have to get to know the people of your district, and at my level that means knocking twelve thousand doors in dogs and cats and rain and heat and more heat and snow occasionally and more heat. You’ve just got to get out there every day, talking to people, listening to people, and learning how to be their representative. In politics, your constituents are your most important resource. They’ll tell you what they need, and that’ll tell you what to do.
C: Finally, like the closing scene in a movie, what would be your final line as you stride into the sunset, away from Booker T. and into the future?
W: ‘I would not say do not weep, for not all tears are in evil.’
C: That’s all the questions I have. Thank you.
_On behalf of the BTW student body, _The Taliaferro Times _would like to thank Mr. Waldron for his exceptional work as a teacher and wish him luck in the future. _