As we celebrate America’s great teachers we must also recognize the professors and practitioners who prepared them for the classroom. We know what comes first in producing great teachers – great teacher educators. During this Teacher’s Appreciation Week, I gathered with both.
In a roundtable discussion to kick off the week, teachers and teacher educators shared memorable moments in their training. In the words of one educator, “To this day, student teaching is the hardest thing I have ever done. I thank Mr. Turner for reminding me to focus not on the perfect lesson plan, but on the learning process for students. It’s all about the students.”
They shared the importance of having pre-service and novice teachers understand the social context in which they teach. We discussed the necessity of having both the desire and skills needed to connect with hard to reach students. And we all agreed that loving the work and children is non-negotiable in teaching.
The educators also shared their challenges: understanding why a 4 year old child was chronically absent only to find that her family was homeless; addressing internal biases that impact instruction; recruiting highly trained staff in rural communities, and finding student teaching placements for deaf and hearing impaired teacher candidates. As they shared barriers and struggles, I also heard resounding pride – a celebration of learning, transforming, and growth — the rewards of teaching.
Teaching makes all other professions possible so our teachers deserve our deepest appreciation and respect. To recruit and retain outstanding teachers we must value and support their work – recognizing that training teachers must be an on-going process of professional development and continuous learning. To develop an effective and diverse teaching corp, we must elevate the profession and encourage our best and most passionate to teach.
In short, appreciating teachers must be a daily and continuous goal, and here at the Department, it is. Elevating the teaching profession – by seeking input from teachers and teacher educators, calling on Congress and communities to invest in the teaching profession, and shining a light on their good work—is at the heart of what we do.
Celebrating great teachers is personal for me. My grandmother taught English in Brusly, Louisiana for 30 years and was fully committed to the academic success of her students and each member of our family. I also fondly remember teachers like Mrs. LaFleur in elementary school and Mr. Methvin in high school who challenged me and caused me to stretch and grow.
America’s students must experience the transformative growth that comes from great teaching and I am grateful for those who are on a mission to educate students. I appreciate the teachers and teacher educators who are committed to our nation’s children and especially those who have taught me and now teach my daughter every day. It’s true — great teachers do more than educate they inspire. That’s why I thank a teacher. How about you?
Dr. Kim Hunter-Reed is the Deputy Under Secretary