Colleen Wood, parent leader in Florida, active in 50th No More, and board member of the Network for Public Education, here remembers a true champion of children and public education, Terry Stetson Wilson, who died suddenly a few days ago. Colleen asks that we all Tweet a comment to honor Terry’s good life and work for others. Write your words on Twitter, marked #ForTerry. For her dedication to our children and our society, I add her to our honor roll of heroes of American education.
“Relentless, persistent, and dedicated. That is what comes to mind when I think of Terry Stetson Wilson, a friend and fierce advocate for public school children in Florida. Terry unexpectedly passed away Monday evening leaving behind her husband, Tom, two adult children, Christopher and Linzy, dear friends, and countless beneficiaries of her advocacy.
Terry’s work began like many of us when she was first concerned with her own child’s school experience, and grew over time into what is now the Florida Gifted Network. If your child received gifted services in Florida, you can thank Terry Wilson.
When her own children graduated, Terry didn’t leave public education behind. The day she died a group of us were sitting together working on building a statewide coalition. We talked about needing to expand our group, and attract new supporters to public education when someone said we needed more people like Terry. People who stayed even after their own children were gone. She was a role model and inspiration to each of us.
Through her 30 years of advocacy, Terry fought for a high quality public education for every child, and became a staunch defender of teachers. She saw the onslaught against our public school teachers and knew it was not a battle they could win alone. When teacher merit pay was first proposed in Florida in a bill known as SB6, and many of us were upset, Terry wanted action. She always prodded us to do something.
And she did. Terry and a few others formed a Facebook group called Stop SB6. Within a month there were over 60,000 members. That group was a driving force behind the push for our Governor to veto the bill, but many people didn’t know Terry was behind it. She often flew under the radar, but her impact was far-reaching.
And if she met you, if she knew you cared about public education you were hooked. A day didn’t go by without an email, text or call about something you needed to do, and you needed to do it now. Funny thing is that after her death, we’re all learning that’s how Terry was in her whole life: from her family, to her friends, to her love of Florida and fishing. She wanted you to support you, help you, and get you to do something. Now.
In every fight in Florida, from parent trigger to school grades, her first question was, “What are we going to DO?”
We’ve been struggling with how to honor Terry, and then it occurred to us – what are we going to DO? What action are we going to take today to honor Terry and defend public education?
So that’s what we’re asking of you. #ForTerry what are you going to do today to support and defend public education? Share with all of us and #ForTerry who inspired you to this work.
In the words of our colleague, Ray Seaman, “That is perhaps one of the many things Terry taught all of us who had the pleasure of knowing and working with her. Tireless, impatient persistence is oftentimes the only way you get things done, and you never know who you’ll inspire by it.”
We will all have to be tireless, impatient, and persistent if we are to save our schools and our children. Terry inspired all of us to be just that, and we know she’ll inspire you to do something too. #ForTerry.
- Colleen Doherty Wood, parent advocate, 50thNoMore.org