In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, consider all the ways that teachers have impacted your life. It is hard to quantify how much or how well someone inspires a child, but the proof is all around us: the American public education system has helped propel the United States to its position as a world leader and will help it stay there.
We need to remember the importance of public education to society and the importance of society to public education. We need to support our public schools, because all children deserve the benefit of a well-rounded, comprehensive education that creates life-long learners.
Some years ago, I taught in the Toledo Public School system. The Revolutionary War period was always my favorite thing to teach, and one year I integrated every other subject into a year-long study of the Revolutionary War. I am also a veteran, so to me it seemed natural to connect social studies and civics. I remember that year so well because the kids were so engaged – they were so intent on reading, they forgot when it was time to go to gym. I wanted to pass that love of American history and civic responsibility to my students, because my teachers instilled it in me – and that changed the course of my life.
After 12 years in the Toledo Public Schools, I moved on to elected office and served as a legislator to the citizens of Northwest Ohio. I have been both a State Senator and a State Representative, and in my years in the legislature, I have noticed that respect for teachers has significantly eroded. I was shocked last year to hear people criticize teachers as the bane of society, when everything teachers do props society up. The reality of the obstacles teachers face every day just to do their jobs is sobering – and it is all happening with larger and larger classrooms and smaller and smaller budgets.
When teachers are negotiating to do our jobs, we are advocating for our children. Politicians think we’re separate from the children we serve, advocating only for ourselves as teachers, but we are advocating for the children we are working to inspire. As an adult, I can look back at the teachers from my youth – the women and men who shaped me intellectually – and know that they had my best interests in mind, they worked hard, and they only made it look easy. This week, show your teacher you appreciate the effort!