Cactus Valley’s Bankey joins state teacher cabinet
Garfield Re-2 Director of Communications
Cactus Valley Elementary music teacher Justin Bankey is passionate about educating students about music. Students learning about rhythm, instruments, notes, and composers fill his music room with joyful noise.
Justin’s most recent adventure, however, is providing a bit of an education for him. Justin was recently selected to be one of 20 educators for Colorado’s new Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet. The group provides input to officials at the Colorado Department of Education on the impact of education policies in the classroom.
“I think there was a realization by the people at the State Board of Education and in the Legislature that there are always a lot of bills and initiatives being passed that impact educators, but educators didn’t always get the opportunity to weigh in before the decisions were made,” said Bankey of the cabinet. “This is a great opportunity to share ideas from the educator perspective about how to solve our collective issues.”
Bankey serves with teachers from around the state that represent rural and city districts, elementary, middle and high schools, charter schools, voucher schools, new and veteran teachers.
Justin, who has served on several committees specific to the arts, is a member of the Garfield Re-2 negotiating body Collaborative Solutions as well as a member of Western Garfield Education Association. He says the experience of being on the Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet has added more depth to his understanding of issues facing education in general.
“You realize pretty quickly that across the state, everyone is having the same challenges — not just our district. Teacher retention and recruitment is a challenge everywhere — teachers stay for just a few years and move on. People try out teaching for a few years, realize it isn’t what they want and change careers even though they are very good at it. It’s nice to see that everyone is in the same boat and we are working to find solutions together.”
Justin brings a unique perspective to the cabinet as he didn’t go to college for education, but rather double-majored in music and psychology in hopes of going into music therapy. He has twice been named Cactus Valley’s “Teacher of the Year” by colleagues.
“Being on Collaborative Solutions, I find this stuff very interesting, so being able to go to the next level, and work on state level issues, it give me the 30,000 foot view and that is really cool,” Bankey explained. “It also helps me to put our issues into perspective when you talk to other districts around the state.”
Justin expects that they will be taking on topics including the state-wide teacher shortage, the revamping of the state’s teacher evaluation system as well as the updating of content area standards in addition to the topics the State Board would like to solicit feedback on.
“We’ve only had one meeting, but we have had a lot of great conversations and float a lot of ideas, but of course, we can’t really discuss them until there is consensus and we are able to bring a complete recommendation forward,” Bankey said. “Being with a group of people that believe in and are so passionate about the teaching profession is amazing and I think we can bring a great perspective for the State Board.”