By Deborah Mersino
Make no mistake about it. Education is at a crossroads in the United States. Wherever you stand on Common Core, graduation rates, budget cuts, poverty’s impact on outcomes, teacher unions, coaches, public versus private, teacher evaluations, Gates and other corporate education influences and/or digital learning, you’ll find a slew of opponents to your opinion. What is clear, though, is that we have hundreds of thousands of individuals who have chosen to serve learners with their time, talents, and passion.
Today, I applaud you.
I applaud you for waking up extra early, so you can fine-tune that lesson plan on the trajectories of hurricanes or grade the last batch of persuasive essays on whether O. Henry should be pardoned. I applaud you for spending your evening at Michael’s and using your extra time and sadly even your own money to ensure your first-grade turkey art projects bring joy to your students.
I commend Algebra teachers who are compacting curriculum in nearly impossible ways because of furlough days and budget cuts. I applaud administrators working with new and old teachers alike to ensure they feel valued for their own creativity and impact.
I applaud language arts teachers and librarians who help bring words to life and connect stories to emotion and humanity. Here’s to the social studies teachers and curriculum masters who challenge students to think about Columbus, Kent State, and the Boston Massacre in a new light and the physics instructors inspiring future engineers and problem solvers.
To the educators and counselors who not only know students’ sometimes tragic back stories, but do what they can to let these students know they matter and provide support, I’d like to give you a standing ovation.
Today, I salute professors who hold high expectations and hopes for their students. More and more of you are being paid far less than you should, yet we demand and command that you ready the next generation to lead and prosper. Here’s to you.
To the tireless board members, district leaders, and education advocates who spend their days and/or evenings trying to make sense of it all, I tip my hat to you. Here’s to the staffs of education associations and foundations who work day in and out to fulfill vital missions. And to the PTO volunteers, janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, music teachers, and robotics and sports coaches, as well as after-school care and office workers who go of your way to make students feel seen and valued, I thank you.
Wherever you are located and whatever role you’re playing, I hope the gifts and passion that you have been sharing so freely are reflected back to you in spades today – and in the years ahead. You deserve it big time.