Public Education Matters

Ohio's educators are invested in their students and in their communities, and across the state, many of them are stepping into leadership roles to lead their communities to brighter futures. Sherry Vaught, an 8th grade teacher in Mansfield City Schools, is hoping to do just that this fall. She's running for Mansfield mayor, and she believes her unique skills from her decades in the classroom would serve her well in the mayor's office.

Featured Education Matters guest: 
  • Sherry Vaught, Mansfield Education Association member
    • Sherry Vaught is a 30+ year veteran teacher who has been teaching in Mansfield City schools since 1999.  She has experience in special education, elementary and middle school teaching.  She has served on the curriculum committee, various ODE committees and is currently the secretary of Mansfield School Employee Association and a representative to NCOEA.  She teaches 8th grade Career Connections at Mansfield Middle School at this time.  She is happily married and the parent of an adult son.  When she is not teaching, she volunteers for her church and other community organizations, enjoys vintage shopping and practices yoga.  She is running for mayor of Mansfield in the November 2023 election.  
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About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May 2020, after a ten-year career as an Emmy Award winning television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded on March 15, 2023.

What is Public Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.6 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000 members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Originally launched in 2021 as Education Matters, Public Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Public Education Matters? Email us at

Intro 0:07
This is Education Matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Welcome back to Education Matters. I'm Katie Olmsted, and I'm part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association and it's 120,000 members. We're talking K-12 teachers, education support professionals, higher ed faculty and staff members, school nurses, librarians, employees who work with individuals served by their county boards of developmental disabilities, and so many other education professionals, all of them invested in their students and in their communities. And so many of them, are stepping into positions of leadership to make better futures for their students, their communities and us all. Sherry Vaught is hoping to do just that. She teaches eighth graders at Mansfield Middle School, and she's running for Mansfield mayor. She's unopposed in the Democratic primary this spring and will take on a Republican challenger on Election Day in the fall. And while each of her potential opponents has their own backgrounds that they'll be bringing into this race, Sherry Vaught has a unique set of skills from her time in the classroom that she says would empower her to lead her city well as mayor. We wanted to get to know Sherry Vaught a little better, and to find out why she threw her hat in the ring in the first place. So, we invited her to join us for this episode.

Katie Olmsted 1:45
Sherry Vaught, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. You are a Career Connections educator, working with eighth graders in Mansfield City Schools. You've been at this for quite a while is that correct?

Sherry Vaught 1:59
Yes, this is my 33rd year.

Katie Olmsted 2:01
What has changed in 33 years of education?

Unknown Speaker 2:06
Well, we don't use mimeograph machines anymore. I do miss that wonderful smell. Many things, obviously, technology, so many things. From early, you know, I started teaching, I took some time off in the 90s go to graduate school, but I started teaching in 1986 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And so I taught for about eight years in Pennsylvania before going to graduate school and doing a bunch of stuff, meeting my husband and and then moving to Ohio. So, I think that kids are the same. I think the basic idea of teaching, despite all the changes, is still the same. And I would say that I made a big change. Last year, I came from- I've been a second and third grade teacher for the last 10 plus years, and so coming to middle school has really been changed that way too. So I would say that. And and I had a wonderful experience. I had something happen today where I had a girl who had a poetry book, and she happened to drop it and I opened it up and the woman's name is Ruby Kaur - K-a-u-r. And she's a pretty good poet. But the cool thing is I opened the book up and just caught a glimpse of his poetry. And I'm like, wow, that's really cool. And I never heard of her. And then this student who I don't know very well is pretty quiet, just like poured stuff out on me. I mean, for five minutes, I, she just talked about this wonderful poet and how she has her other books and all these things. And I was like, wow, I mean - And I thanked her because that's the reason I came back to middle school is that the kids can... When you're, when the kids are little, you get things from them, but it's more like hugs and love and cute faces and you know, rushing if you drop something; eighth graders snarl and are never satisfied, but they're so interesting. They have so many, there's so much that I don't know about that culture. And it's been really fun to get to know how they're, you know, stuff about Tik Tok and that stuff about all that stuff. It's just, I feel like I'm a sponge just soaking up their stuff. So sorry, I don't mean to get off -

Katie Olmsted 4:29
It has to be so rewarding, though, when you have a shy kid to see the power of academics to help them reach their potential and to empower them to be passionate about something like that. I feel like that's a reason why a lot of people get into education in the first place.

Sherry Vaught 4:47
Yes. Well, as you know, and I know there are plenty of folks that don't do this, but I'm going to make a little plug for living in the same place that you work. And I understand the pros and cons of it. I understand that there are folks that want to drive in because they don't want to always see parents and kids and stuff like that I get that, I truly do. But I, I have always, I've made it - In my whole life. I've always lived and worked in the same district, because I think when you're a citizen, one, you can vote. So like the OEA stuff, I'll say, like, you know, you can vote your own elections, and then you get to help choose your bosses, and that's important. But more than that, then I could say to her, did you know that there's a poetry slam at Ideaworks on Friday night? So yeah, I mean, I like being able to talk about, you know, like, being a citizen and being part of where you are, so.

Katie Olmsted 5:40
Well, and that there's a two part question on that one, having lived and worked in the same district all this time, how has your community changed since you first entered education there? And I think the big question is, and what are you going to do about it? You're running for mayor, let's talk about it.

Sherry Vaught 6:01
Right! Well, I do want to talk about that. But I will say that the Mansfield community, I've lived and worked in Mansfield since 1998. And so it's been just about 25 years. And I think the biggest thing is that we're really, I'll say this for most of Ohio, I think, I think we are recognizing, and dealing with rust belt stuff a little bit more. Like just really, in the last 25 years, the biggest change in Mansfield, if you just go on the surface, has just been everything that's been knocked down. And there's more green spaces. And here in Mansfield, they're starting to urban farm. I mean, there's several greenhouses and urban farm plots that have gone up, both for community farming but also for, for business, there's agribusiness running in our town. And I like that I think it's kind of cool. So I think, you know, there's open spaces now we have to redevelop now. It's been a, it's been a season of tearing down, and we're not, and frankly, we're not done. But now it's time to get housing and do more things that way, do more services. And that's why, quite frankly, that's why I'm running for mayor. That that is a part of it. I thought about it in the fall. Actually, I kind of got a - teachers are organized and the teachers are, you know, program people. And we were going to have in, Mansfield has a Halloween parade every year, but then this year, we got the we got the note that there wasn't gonna be a Halloween parade this year. And then like five days before Halloween, they decided to do one and it made me mad because like you can't, it can't be a very good parade if people are just pulling stuff together. And, and I'm like somebody duh-duh-duh-duh. And that's when I kind of was like, you know, when I do stuff like that, then I think I have to put my money where my mouth is. And I've been, I took this job where I'm telling kids, 'Hey, you have to go for it. You have to really try. Get outside of your comfort zone. Be a citizen.' And I had to take my own advice. And we'll see what happens. I mean, I waited until January. I was hoping that someone from the political class would step up and so and put their petition in, and they didn't. And I just really felt like it was important that there was a dem - I'm running as a Democrat, and there was no, there were no Democrats running - And I just really felt like it was important that, I really feel strongly - and I'm involved in the Fair Districts Ohio fight - I really think that voters, everyone should be encouraged to vote, everyone should vote every time we're given the opportunity. It is the power that we have in this democratic country, and that we should work we should vote. And if if we're voting, it feels like we should have a choice. And so that's why, most of all, is that I really feel strongly that voting is a - it's a right, but it's also a responsibility, and it's also a privilege for me. I think it's wonderful that we get to do it. So and we have and and voting in the local level, whether it's school board or whether it's mayor, those are the things that, I mean, that's that's your roads and your water. And, you know, your and your and then your and then your kids education. Right. So those are all things that locally, everybody votes in the presidential elections. But you know, it's actually your local elections that are the most important to the the home where it's the closest.

Katie Olmsted 9:33
So so you're going to be one of the choices on the November ballot. Again, you're running unopposed for the May primary. Why should people choose you? What makes you a great potential Mayor for Mansfield, and how does your experience in the classroom prepare you for that role?

Sherry Vaught 9:52
Yeah, that's a really good question. Thank you for asking that because, see, now I'm becoming a politician already.

Katie Olmsted 9:59
It was a great politician answer.

Sherry Vaught 10:03
No, but that's part of the reason that I decided to run is that I felt like being a mayor is not that different from being a teacher, because there's lots of constituencies to bring together, there's leadership to be done. Look, kids will not do stuff unless they want to. They have to, you have to entice them. You have to, it's almost like being a pied piper in front of kids, you have to, you know, pick the right music and dance the right steps. And, and if you, if you do it, well, they do follow. And, and, and not only follow in lockstep, follow joyfully with what they're kind of improvising on the theme, right? So so that's the cool thing is that, that, that's teaching, but it feels like that's also leadership in a in a smaller, I mean, Mansfield, the city, but it's a small city. You know, getting people to sit down together and, and work out problems and work together. Another thing I want to do, and that that's very similar to being a teacher is that I want to model politeness, I want to model ethical behavior and civility, absolutely. Whoever is the Republican - there's four Republicans in the primary right now, whoever that's going to be, it's going to be a woman. They're all delightful women. I know them all, there would be no way that I would be negative or, you know, anything like that. I found out, I found out recently that at least two of the four, one of them has like $80,000, and one of them has already spent $40,000. And I'm not going to spend that kind of money. I don't have it. And not only that I'm not. And I don't mind asking people for money for a good reason. Like, my husband is a pastor. And you know what, if you're doing mission, or you're raising money for the poor, I can raise money all day. And I can ask people for all kinds of things. But you know, I'm not sure I feel real hot about asking people for money for political campaign. It's not that big of a deal. But the thing I know is that it's not about money. It's about the work you do. And I've been a teacher in our district for 25 years. And I think people are going to recognize my name. And I think they're going to recognize my character. And I hope they do. And if I don't win, I just get to come back to teaching, which is like, okay with me, way more. It's definitely in my comfort zone. So

Katie Olmsted 12:33
Alright, well, let's, let's think aspirationally, positive thoughts. Let's say you do have a successful campaign and people are throwing money to to support your campaign. You don't have to ask for a dime. And they say, Yes, I believe in you. And they vote for you and you take office. What does a Sherry Vaught administration look like in Mansfield?

Sherry Vaught 12:55
That's a good question, too. I'm not sure the one thing that I know I'm going to have to do. First of all, is good at every training and all those things. But but here's the other good news. Nobody else that's running for mayor has ever been mayor before. So they're all going to have to do the same kinds of things. This summer as I run, one of the things that I'll be doing a lot is just listening and getting to like getting into the public works department getting out to talk to the Oh, I I will tell you that's one of the things I already plan on. So I joked with my husband about this, but I'm going to do it. If I become mayor I'm taking I'm going to go get my CDL license and learn how to drive a snowplow. Because they always say they don't have enough people to drive the snowplows so I'm going to encourage the entirety of all of the people that work at the city government, that anybody who wants to, we'll figure out a way to get everybody there their correct licenses. So we can all drive snowplows so that when it when it's necessary, we have people to call on. That's one. Two, and that's the other thing, I think, if there's something that it's not specific, but something that I know will be true is that I will look at things somewhat differently. I think I am a creative problem solver. I'm an entrepreneurial teacher, which, and I don't mean that I teach kids to be entrepreneurs, I mean, that I've been a teacher long enough that I know how to do it and I try to find new ways to fund things, to do things. And, you know, and all of us, anybody who's listening to this, that's a teacher knows the teachers are like, you have to be entrepreneurial, to get field trips to, you know, get stuff for your kids, you have to be, you know, go into Kroger's and ask them for ice cream, because you want to have ice cream, you don't want to buy it. You know, you're you're used to do all those creative ways to kind of figure out how to do things. And so I'll take that. I'll take that mindset into the job.

Katie Olmsted 14:46
And I'm just about getting them ice cream or field trips. It's about the way you have to approach every single child as an individual with individual needs and looking at those needs and saying hey, I can I can craft my response to you in a way that sets you up for success.

Sherry Vaught 15:03
That's a good point. And, you know, that's so right. And I was, like, because I live at - see, because I'm a career tech teacher, I'm always looking for, like we're going to make, I've been messing around with it. But we're gonna make kites next week, okay? And I didn't, I have all this stuff. And I've been trying to figure out how to make - Well, I finally figured out I mean, I knew how to make kites. But back in the day, it would have been newspaper. Now there's not like newspapers and everywhere. So I don't have newspaper. So a lot of the things that talk about kites talk about like garbage bags, and stuff like that. And I could do that I have garbage bags, but then I had these old plastic bags from something else. And I went, Wait, that'll work. And I cut one up, and I use some straws and went up high, and it almost flew, but it started to, the the straws were too flimsy. So I'm going to use popsicle sticks behind the like the middle part of the -- I'm getting into it, I'm sorry, I don't mean to take -- but but I think that I figured out a way to make a kite out of the stuff that I had. And mostly because I didn't want to have to go buy anything. And you know, it's 100. It was different when I was teaching second grade, and it was 20, 25 kids. You know, now, it's 100. And I don't have, you know, I don't have the ability to do that. So I'm always looking for things. And and I'm looking for at my school, they're not used to going on field trips, they're not used to doing certain things. And I'm trying to bring some of that in, because in order to know what you want to do, you have to be exposed to stuff. And they have to not just talk about it in the classroom, not just watching videos about it, we need to go out and see what's going on in their communities, see what's available, both skilled and not skilled, so that they can recognize - They need to start seeing themselves as people who work and what that might look like, not that they have to know anything in eighth grade, but starting to, it's almost like you're you're pulling them into maturity a bit, that, that they're they're starting to really think about it. Because at the beginning when they start, they're not. But as the as the as the semester goes on, I can feel them coming along in a way. And I'm tugging them and, and leading them and pushing them. And you're absolutely right finding every possible way to get them to buy in. Because the truth of the matter is what I'm teaching isn't, it's not literacy, it's not math, it's all of those things. But it's, it's more to in some ways, it's the most important thing, because it's about thinking, it's about applying what you know, in real world situations. But on the flip side, if you're too young, if you're too, if you're too mature, and you're not ready to think about it, there's nothing. I'm not, I don't have anything for you today. And that's okay. I mean, it's even okay to be too immature. I have, I certainly can name a certain segment of each of my classes that are doing it because they to versus anything else. And that's okay. They're they're only in eighth grade. They're only 14.

Sherry Vaught 15:03
So, so not quite voters yet

Sherry Vaught 15:05
No. I can't talk much about it at school, but my kids do know that I'm running for mayor and they're excited about. I think that, and I have some kids that asked me about it, and I can answer them when they ask. So and that's kind of cool. And I'm happy to live into that, and to say, and win, lose, or whatever in the fall, whether I come back and as you know, in the second semester as a teacher or if I leave after first semester and I'm mayor that's an okay thing to do, win or lose, I can hold my head up. And I am getting my treasurer. I just found a treasurer and it's a former student and she is a young teacher and she's about 26 and married and lives in in the city and has a little girl and trying to get people like that involved people that are young - And once you learn how to be a treasurer for example, for you know, for a local candidate now if one of your friends wants to run for city council in a couple years, you know how to do it. You can encourage people to do stuff like that, because you already, now you have the skills. And now you know I feel like that empowering that next generation of folks is really important.

Katie Olmsted 19:24
Well, Sherry Vaught, thank you for stepping up to run and to put those teachers skills to work, and thank you for sitting down to talk with us about your thoughts.

Sherry Vaught 19:32
Thanks, Katie.

Katie Olmsted 19:36
Do you know an educator who has a story to tell on this podcast? Is there something going on in your Local that the world should know about? If you have ideas for future episodes, please send me an email at Or you can connect with OEA anytime on social media. We're @OhioEA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. New episodes of the podcast drop every Thursday morning. Until next time, stay well.

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