by Len Feldman
Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva
CTA member Sharon Quirk-Silva represents California’s 65th Assembly District, which includes her hometown of Fullerton, Anaheim, and neighboring communities. A 27-year classroom teacher, she graduated from Fullerton College and UCLA and earned her teaching credential at CSU Fullerton. She currently serves on the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), an advisory body to the California State Board of Education (SBE) on matters related to curriculum, instructional materials and content.
What did you do before becoming a lawmaker?
I have been a Title I specialist, a Healthy Start coordinator and a classroom teacher for 27 years in my hometown of Fullerton. The next step in my career was to serve on the Fullerton City Council in 2004. I served two terms as Fullerton City mayor, in 2007 and 2011.
What led you to run for office?
My evolving role as a teacher, parent, and community leader led me to run for office. It started when I was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Experiencing these new ways to serve the community and seeing the direct impact of my work inspired me to run for office. Working as an educator and within our local government gave me a unique perspective on how to navigate Sacramento.
Who was the teacher who had the greatest impact on you?
My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Davis, made education come alive. She captivated us by incorporating active participation. I remember her teaching us how to square-dance and play the harmonica. She went beyond her responsibilities and curriculum as a teacher and drew out the artist in me. Mrs. Davis has been a constant role model and reminder that as teachers, we pass on not only the school curriculum but also the love of education.
What are your hopes or goals for public education?
I hope public education engages students — that it helps us see and believe in our students’ potential and push them to accomplish more than they think they are capable of. We need to invest in our schools so that our students receive the quality education they deserve. My goal for this state is the same: to move up from one of the lowest-ranked states in education funding. Education helps us meet our state’s potential.
What steps should the Legislature take to help schools succeed?
Our primary role should be to invest in our youth in early education, K-12, and higher education. When our public schools succeed, our communities benefit. As a member of the Higher Education Committee, I have sought legislation to expand access to Cal Grants, and supported the Middle Class Scholarship, which will reduce student fees at the California State University and University of California by up to 40 percent.
What advice would you give educators about working with the legislators?
Teachers need to know that they are part of the equation and that we want their voices heard. I understand educators are primarily focused on their classrooms and students. They are juggling curriculum, behavior, parents, testing, and most of all, showing results. State legislators may seem far off and disconnected. Legislators need to visit classrooms, talk to teachers, and get familiar with their local legislative district. Invite them to your school and build relationships with your elected legislators. Help them hear your voice in any way you can.
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