Over the past four years, I have learned that meaningful education reform begins with teachers. There are so many voices with an opinion about education–policy makers, parents, administrators, and community members–but none of these stakeholders has the ability to transform learning for students like teachers. If we want sustainable change that benefits the students, we need to first support teachers in their classrooms.

In schools, teachers are often stuck in their classrooms and work in isolation. They get very little time to collaborate with their peers and must use up their personal time to get better at their jobs. That leaves teachers no time to voice their opinions on the challenges that they face in the classroom every day. Still, new policies imposed on teachers only limit a teacher’s creative freedom and ability to help students learn. This is what leads to burnout and teachers quickly leaving the profession.

If people want to improve education, more must be done to work with teachers to empower them as the professionals they are. Outsiders need to listen to what educators need and value their opinions in the conversation on education reform. Teachers need choice just as their students do, but more importantly teachers need time to grow and adapt in the fast-paced technological era.

At the same time, teachers need to support organizations that already advocate on their behalf. Social media is helping to bridge the gap that separates teachers in their classrooms from the community at large, but teachers need time to connect in person to the resources around them as well. After all, teachers are the ones who have the true impact on students. Not policies, not standardized tests, and not new technology.

If we want lasting and meaningful reform, it’s time to listen to teachers and let them drive the change.