Senator Brings State Government Unit to Life

Senator Coley Brings Fourth Grade State Government Unit to Life
Posted on 05/05/2020
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statehouse collage“Teachers know a lot, but the senator has actually experienced it,” said Endeavor Elementary fourth-grader Patrick Bramlage, reflecting on his recent lesson about how a bill becomes a law. He and his classmates went straight to the source: Senator Bill Coley. “No offense, Mrs. Veneman,” he added with a laugh. 

This reasoning was exactly why Endeavor teacher Julie Veneman, in collaboration with a handful of other fourth grade teachers across the district, invited a special guest into their virtual classroom last week. 

“Getting kids to hear a different perspective is so important. You can just see their attentiveness and engagement skyrocket when you bring an expert into the room,” said Veneman, joking that to her students, she turns into the monotonous voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher once Spring Break hits every year. “Plus, he can answer questions I don’t necessarily know the answers to. That’s real world learning.” 

When her fourth-graders’ optional trip to the Ohio Statehouse over Spring Break got canceled due to COVID-19, Veneman and her colleagues turned to Coley, a longtime supporter of their state government unit. Coley and his wife, Carolyn, have traditionally visited many of Lakota’s fourth grade classrooms around this time every year and hosted a tour of the Statehouse for students who opt to make the trip to Columbus. 

But this year, they took it a step further, producing a virtual tour of the space for students and their families to enjoy - this year and for many years to come, noted Independence Elementary teacher Staci Becker. His follow-up visit with the students - in the form of five back-to-back Zoom sessions for about 17 different classes - had students listening, but mostly interacting with the Coleys. 

“Having him with us virtually was awesome,” said Independence fourth-grader Carmen Hoening. “I’m glad we have the technology to make it possible.” 

Students logged their questions using Zoom’s chat feature. What is the longest time you’ve spent on a bill? What’s been your favorite bill? Do you live in the Statehouse? If you were to make a bill right now, what would it be? Why did you want to be a senator? 

To the last question, Coley shared a favorite story about his second grade teacher who hosted a mock election that literally laid the groundwork for his public service career. That memory has also fueled his passion for working with the schools to inspire youth. 

“Take a look at our legislature,” he challenged one group of fourth-graders. “You don’t want them all to be political science majors. It has to be filled with a broad range of people with different depths of experiences who can look at issues from all different angles.” 

He went on to share that the most important trait of any legislator is their character, emphasizing that they have to be HIP, short for honesty, integrity and passion. “When you live your life that way, and you’re HIP,” he said, “one of these days, I’ll get to vote for you.” 

“The whole experience is another example of what it looks like these days for everyone to come together,” said Becker, noting the Coleys, her students’ parents and even teachers working across building and district lines (they worked with a Monroe teacher as well.) “More than anything, we wanted to break up the monotony and create something memorable for our kids.”