At 12-years-old, Maeve Lloyd will serve as a voice for her peers on the first Arizona Department of Education Student Advisory Council.
The Highland Junior High School seventh-grader is one of 20 students from around the state selected to give their perspective on education issues.
The 2019-20 committee of 5th-12th graders is tasked with advising the state public education superintendent and her department about the agency’s policies and offer analyses.
“Out of more than 300 applications, the 20 finalists stood out for their leadership, passion and curiosity,” Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said. “It’s vitally important to elevate student voices as we implement policies that affect their lives.
“I look forward to hearing the perspectives of these young leaders on topics like school safety, technology, arts education, testing and more.”
Maeve in her application stated she had always put education as her top priority and detailed her academic accomplishments.
Those achievements include second place last year in Gilbert Public Schools’ Oratorical Contest for writing and presenting a speech on immigration.
She said if chosen to serve, she could bring a wealth of insight to the committee. She said through her extracurricular activities of horse riding and musical theater, she got the chance to meet many students.
“Through those activities, I get to meet a lot of kids from all around the Valley and I have been asking them what they think of their schools so I have many perspectives and can definitely represent my peers,” she wrote.
An issue she saw with students was the need for engagement in the classroom.
She personally experienced it when she became bored in her classes until the 4th grade at Towne Meadows Elementary School when she transitioned to the Self Contained Gifted Program, which has helped her grow as a person.
“It engaged me, I had lots of fun the hands-on learning,” she said. “But I looked back at my peers who did not make it into the program and they were, quite frankly, suffering.
“They were still bored, and they did not want to take notes while the teachers lectured, they wanted to be engaged,” she continued, adding:
“I believe that students getting bored and unengaged is the biggest problem facing Arizona students today. If they are not included and working with the material they are learning, they won’t remember as well as they could, and they would not enjoy it.”
For example, she said if a teacher was to present a slide show and lecture on Roman civilization, a student might lose interest and not be engaged.
“If the student is not interested in the topic their mind will wander, they will stop listening and they generally won’t get the information,” she said.
“On the other hand, if the teacher had this student get into a group and gave them a rubric and told them to write a newspaper and get creative with it.
“They could come up with clever names, add dramatic gladiator fights while including factual information, accurate descriptions of this or that. Because the students would learn the material and apply to something that uses their imagination and creativity, they would remember it better.”
Of course, there would still be time for the teacher to lecture and the students to follow along but that should not be all of the curricula, she added.
In turn, Maeve said she would gain valuable experience by serving.
“Just getting the experience of attempting to get on the council will introduce me to key life experiences and help me grow as a person,” she wrote.
The council was created in an effort to lift up the voices and perspectives of students and teachers in Arizona while supporting the superintendent’s work to improve education throughout the state, explained department spokesman Stefan Swiat.
“The idea behind all of this is that she [Hoffman] felt that students can inform education better than almost anyone because they’re the ones that are actually experiencing it,” Swiat said.
“She wanted to have that voice at the table as she proceeds forward in developing policy for the state, in particular, she was very interested in hearing their thoughts in regard to technology, arts, school safety and things of that nature.”
The students are scheduled to meet with Hoffman three times and have already met once with the next meeting set for Jan. 29.
To be eligible for the position, students must be enrolled full-time and maintain a “solid academic standing,” according to the Department’s website.
Students from all backgrounds, including home-school, are invited to apply. The application process consisted of submitting an application form and one to two letters of recommendation from a teacher, employer, mentor, parent/guardian or community leader.
After initial reviews by department employees and community members, qualified candidates were then asked to participate in a brief interview.