Printed in The Florida Bar News, June 1, 2012.
When Justice Teaching volunteers are asked about their sessions in the classroom, they describe the experience as fulfilling and enriching.
However, as the recent unsolicited letter to Justice Fred Lewis, Justice Teaching’s founder, from Suncoast Elementary School teacher Sky President demonstrates, Justice Teaching has the capacity to touch the hearts and minds of not just the students, but their teachers as well:
“To the Honorable Justice R. Fred Lewis,
“Speaking for myself and the entire third-grade class and teachers . . . Thank you!
“We have a wonderful social studies program at Suncoast School and some very fine teachers; however, I was blown away to hear that you, Justice Lewis, had created a program to send out volunteer lawyers to teach our Florida students about our government and our Constitution. As soon as I heard the news, I immediately called to request that a volunteer be sent to Suncoast Elementary School.
“The volunteer who was sent was Mr. J. Steele Olmstead. He was excited, enthusiastic, energetic, and extremely informative in a sincere, down-to-earth way that had my students listening to his every word. I found his honesty and his openness to answer students’ questions to be refreshing. He worked with 34 students at a time and spent over two hours covering all of the points set forth in your timely and wonderful program. When he was done, my students could recite their rights as Americans, and they could tell you all about their government and their Constitution. Your program, Justice Lewis, was a huge success!
“It must be said that politician after politician swears an oath to ‘fix’ education, and each said politician leaves education worse off than it was before they fixed it; however, you have done something that no government official, in my 54 years of recollection, has done: The program that you have created is both inspiring and masterfully genius. You have melded two worlds that would never have come together (adult lawyers and third-grade students) and formed an educational opportunity that has truly benefitted education: not by fixing it (small secret . . . it was never broken), but by supplementing and empowering education to bring ‘more’ to our students. My students learned their civics from a real world source . . . from someone with firsthand knowledge. This breathed life into the information like nothing else could have.
“You are to be commended for your work with our Florida students, as well as your service to all Floridians: I cannot express fully how thankful I am that you are giving of your valuable and precious time to promote your unique and vibrant program. I enjoyed the program as much as my students enjoyed it. All of my students made me promise to tell you, (thank you!) on their behalf.
“Please continue this tremendously wonderful program and thank those volunteers who give of their time to make this great program ‘real.’”
If you would like to impact the lives of teachers and students around Florida through Justice Teaching, visit their website here.