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May 8-12, 2017 has been designated as National Teacher Appreciation Week. It is fitting as we approach the end of another school year that we take a moment and appreciate our teachers. Legendary basketball coach and motivational expert John Wooden said, “I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession". This sentiment is echoed by almost every successful person in our society as they consistently identify one or more influential teachers who made the difference for them and inspired them to reach their potential. This has taken on more significant import to me as I contemplate concluding a 46 year career in education. Were it not for the many inspirational teachers I had from elementary school through college I would not have had this opportunity of being a part of what I consider to be the greatest profession in the world. Few of us cannot think of at least one teacher who really made a difference for us. Today’s teachers are some of the best in history! Most of them average over 50 hours of work each week and we all know that the compensation for teaching, particularly in Utah, is significantly less than comparable professions. That makes it even more imperative that we all do what we can to let teachers know of our great appreciation for them and our admiration for their great contribution to our communities. I hope that many will join me during this designated week for teacher appreciation and take time to thank a teacher who has been or is currently making a difference in your life or the life of someone close to you. Teachers are not only those who carry the official title of “Teacher”. Administrators, aides, secretaries, cooks, custodians, bus drivers, and other support staff often serves as a teacher and are the one who makes a difference. Let us not neglect them. Sometimes folks ask me for ideas on ways to thank teachers or others who have made a difference. I can suggest a few.
1. Teachers want to hear how their teaching connects with their students’ lives. They want to hear that they are making a difference.
Whether it was today or yesterday and you think of a time when they really helped a student have a “light bulb” moment at the dinner table, or driving home from soccer practice? Teachers would love to know what they students tell others about their class and their learning - it would really make a teacher smile.
2. Teachers want to have former students contact them.
This week as I was sitting at my desk, one of my former students telephoned me and then followed it up with an email later that day. He is now a grown man successfully raising a great family and contributing to his community. He told me that many years ago I had been influential and inspirational to him. I could hardly hold back the tears. For him to contact me decades later made my heart swell. It made all the work of planning, preparing, and spending extra time so worth it. For teachers, seeing our students growing up and turning into happy humans is the appreciation we need.
3. Teachers want to know they matter.
Above all, Teachers love to know that they are appreciated. Most teachers went into education because they wanted to make a difference in our society and serve children. Teachers are service-oriented professionals who, for the most part, want to earn enough money to support their family, live in their community, send their own children to college and at the end of the day, know that their tired brains and stacks of papers to grade are worth it because they matter in the life of a child.
I challenge all to take a moment and during this week thank a teacher who has or is making a difference in your life or someone close to you. There are many creative ways to do just that and teachers will appreciate anything you do. Just knowing that someone recognizes the work they do and took the time to drop a note, make a call, or do something else is the biggest thrill a teacher can have. DO IT NOW!