IEA Helps Teachers and Administrators Improve Education
Even though he had been a teacher for several years, it wasn’t until Ben Hardcastle became an administrator that he fully recognized the value and effectiveness of the Idaho Education Association. The Gooding High School principal had an extremely positive experience working with local and regional association leaders on improving instruction and teacher growth in his building. That interaction was one of the primary factors that led Hardcastle to join the IEA and set out on a collaborative path toward improving education.
“We all value what is best for students,” Hardcastle says. “The Association is helping to make that happen.” He is also a member of the Idaho School Administrators Association (IASA), which gives him a glimpse into the mission and motivations of both organizations. “I’m proud to be a member of both, because everyone involved with the public school system needs to be doing whatever they can to advocate for education,” he says.
Hardcastle grew up in rural Southeast Idaho, attending school in the Bear Lake district. His wife, Laney, hails from Montpelier, Idaho. He started college studying pharmacy at Idaho State University, but it was the experience of a two year mission in Spain that fueled his interest in education. “I taught English in the community and helped find work and clothes for Nigerian immigrants. I encountered some pretty heart-wrenching stories,” he says. “That was a big turning point as far as deciding what I wanted to do with my life and career. What I really wanted was to help people access the American dream.” Upon returning to the United States, he transferred to BYU and graduated with a teaching degree. Then, he and his young family found themselves at another crossroads.
Hardcastle had a job offer in Bear Lake, but the low salary prompted him to look at other options. He chose a teaching opportunity in the Aldine Independent School District near Houston, Texas, where he began his classroom experience as a middle school teacher. He also coached football, tennis, track and soccer. “It was a tough area with a large portion of the students coming from government housing,” Hardcastle says. “I enjoyed teaching there and still visit with a number of friends and former students.” He spent five years in the Lone Star State, and picked up his Master’s Degree in education administration from Lamar University.
In 2010 the Hardcastles started to look at coming back to Idaho, and within a few days, Ben had teaching offers in Heber City, Utah and Gooding, Idaho, along with the option of staying in Texas. He decided to return home, but the move came with a financial hit. The former district Teacher of the Year in Texas with six years of experience and a Master’s degree dropped down to a $31,500 salary—a far cry from Texas, where the starting teacher pay even in 2006 had been $40,000. Hardcastle landed the middle school principal job in Gooding when it came open in 2011, and then moved to Gooding High School in 2104.
“I hadn’t joined the Association as a teacher because I thought you only needed it if you needed help in a crisis,” Hardcastle says. That mindset changed, partly as a result of his interaction with Association representatives like Linda Jones and Sally Toone, who helped him set attainable benchmarks and improve instruction in his Gooding schools.
Hardcastle was even more impressed with the IEA when the Association set about advocating for a fair and reasonable version of the Career Ladder legislation this fall. He became more involved himself, joining fellow IEA members in testifying in front of the House Education Committee and taking part in discussions with legislators. “It is imperative that we interact with legislators, and also take our message about education to our communities,” Hardcastle says.
Coming into the IEA with both a teacher’s and an administrator’s viewpoint gives Hardcastle a fairly unique perspective on the difference that the Association can (and does) make. “The IEA helps make me a better administrator, which leads to an environment that fosters better teachers and better education.”