Who was your third-grade teacher?
Of course, I can remember the names of all my teachers from K-8. That’s the answer most adults across America give to that question. We remember our teachers, the good and the not so good.
My seventh-grade teacher, Mrs. Beck, changed my life. She convinced me, the daughter of a coal miner living in one of the poorest parts of America, that I could end up being somebody if I worked hard, got a good education and dreamed big dreams.
This week and in the next few weeks, as we see those yellow school buses rolling down our streets, there are more than 3.5 million teachers beginning a new school year. Those teachers in public, private, charter and faith-based schools will educate more than 60 million of our children from PreK-12.
Think about the responsibility our teachers face—for more than nine months they have a generation of America’s future workers in their classrooms. And, it is up to them to deliver results. The kids they educate across America are all very different. Some of those kids wake up every morning in loving and supportive homes while others come from homes filled with fear or rage or sickness or poverty and some come from shelters—they have no home. Some kids come to school healthy and ready to learn while others come who can’t see or hear or have tremendous behavioral or emotional challenges.
In America, for the most part, our teachers do not get to pick and choose which kids walk through their classroom doors on that first day of school. It is their responsibility to take a classroom of children as they are, and teach them, support them and yes, inspire them. Because our children, all our children, under our fifty states’ constitutions are guaranteed a shot at an education.
I urge you to take time to think about America’s teachers during these early days of a new school year. Thank them and celebrate them, respect them by giving them the resources they need to help our kids be successful, and yes, pay them like the professionals they are.