It’s more than a week, if it’s done right. Teacher appreciation is a way of life.
I’m biased, of course, having taught for more than a dozen years myself, and now finishing my twenty-first year in public school education, but that doesn’t make it less true that teachers hold one of the most important positions in the world.
As a middle school principal, I have the pleasure of getting to visit classrooms every day. I see passionate teachers and engaged students, and my sense of hope is continually renewed.
I also see a tough job being done with a smile. Teachers watch thirty or so adolescents walk in through their doors, eyes darting to one another as they prepare to spend more than an hour with the peers that make up such an important part of their lives. It’s these peers, the same students they’ll play alongside in sports, act with in theater class, and maybe even take to the prom who make up their world. History, English, math, science… these are simply subjects; peers are life.
And without hesitation the best teachers inspire these teens and tweens to transcend their age and maturity and engage in learning. Teachers bring their subject matter to life while at the same time understanding that it’s not that they teach Spanish or Coding or Drama, but that they teach kids Spanish and Coding and Drama.
Today, as my school celebrates Teacher Appreciation Day, doughnuts in the staff room and handwritten notes tucked in every mailbox, I see not only the amazing teachers I work with currently at Diegueño, but a lifetime of educators I’ve had the privilege to work with.
I see Eric Sorenson, a music teacher with the presence of a Greek god, and a beard to match, who pushed kids to achieve their best, his firmness balanced perfectly with the heart of an angel. As a first year assistant principal, I knew that when Eric walked into my office and sat down it was time for me to listen, and that with the same patience he brought to teaching the oboe, he was about to teach me how to be my own best self. I miss Eric, who passed away not long after he retired from teaching, and not a year goes by when I don’t appreciate the lives he changed, including mine, through his work as a teacher.
I see Jennifer Little, a teacher of English Learners, whose heart was the size of California, and whose passion for kids and fearlessness in advocating for what was right not only helped students thrive, but helped all of us who worked with her become more reflective about what we did in our classrooms and in our lives.
I see Jim Teague, a Spanish teacher and kindred spirit, who wedded the intellect of a professor and a Depeche Mode sensibility to become a rock star of an educator. His ability to be real with students, while still maintaining professionalism and sense of humor made students more thoughtful about their studies and their choices. Over and over, he made a difference.
…and I see scores of faces more, veterans and rookies, young and old, from all disciplines and backgrounds. I sometimes hear folks be critical of education and of teachers, and when I do I stay grounded in the reality that so very, very, very many of the professionals who work with our kids are gifted, caring, and passionate about what they do.
Teaching isn’t easy. It isn’t for everyone. It isn’t understood or appreciated as often as it should be by most. But today, during Teacher Appreciation Week, I’m thankful the world takes a moment to say thanks to those superheroes in the classroom, the teachers.